SPINELLI, Giovanni Battista
(active in Naples from ca. 1630; d. ca. 1660)


Italian painter and draughtsman. He painted altarpieces and history paintings, in a highly original style that united the ambiguous and refined sensuality of late Mannerism with the naturalistic light and more balanced compositions of 17th-century painters. His family settled in Chieti, and Spinelli was active in the Abruzzi and in Naples; his biography was written by Bernardo de Dominici, who records that he was a pupil of Massimo Stanzione, that he gave up painting for alchemy, and died in 1647 during an alchemical experiment. It seems, however, that Spinelli received his early training in the late 1620s in the workshop of a Bergamese painter, Domenico Carpinoni (1566-1658), who throughout his life was dedicated to the study of prints by artists from northern Europe.

A group of 17 drawings (Florence, Uffizi), once in the collection of Leopoldo de' Medici, reveal Spinelli's interest in 16th-century northern prints; the Salome with the Head of John the Baptist, for example, is deeply influenced by the fantastic costumes depicted in prints by Lucas van Leyden. An early painting, St Stephen (c. 1630; private collection), in its chiaroscuro, its bronze flesh tones and its clearcut contours, is influenced by the late works of Giovanni Battista Caracciolo, although the brilliant colour looks back to the art of Carlo Saraceni. The foreshortened still-life in this picture recurs in a similar form in Lot and his Daughters (c. 1630; private collection).