CARACCIOLO, Giovanni Battista
(b. 1578, Napoli, d. 1635, Napoli)

St Onophrius

c. 1625
Oil on canvas, 180 x 116 cm
Galleria Nazionale d'Arte Antica, Rome

The attribution of this painting to Caracciolo is supported by most scholars. It is variously dated between 1610 and 1625. More recently, a possible connection was proposed between this painting and Cosimo Fanzago's statue of Isaiah in the church of the Gesù Vecchio in Naples which Battistello seems to have used as a compositional source.

The monumental figure of the saint, in spite of his apparently unstable pose, is perfectly balanced in the space of the picture. Standing in the centre of the painting, Onofrius's pose is a study in contrapposto movements. Caracciolo's use of light no longer annuls the details of anatomy, as it had in his work of the 1610's; but instead ably underlines the pictorial three-dimensionality with which the artist has sculpted the body of the saint. A beautiful passage, this nude is described with a pleasing formal forcefulness, without the characteristic indulgence of Ribera. The face, intense and vibrant, is rendered with rapid brushstrokes and with no attempt to hide the signs of old age. Instead, the face is transformed with a noble expressivity that is only accentuated by the severe, almost monochromatic handling of colour.