MAFFEI, Francesco
(b. ca. 1600, Vicenza, d. 1660, Vicenza)

Perseus Beheading Medusa

c. 1650
Oil on canvas, 130 x 161 cm
Gallerie dell'Accademia, Venice

After studying in Vicenza under Maganza, a late Mannerist painter of limited importance, Francesco Maffei turned to the paintings of Tintoretto, Paolo Veronese and Jacopo Bassano and soon achieved a personal style based on a Baroque reworking of the lessons taught by the great artists of the sixteenth century. Maffei moved to Venice in 1638, was attracted by the painters Liss, Fetti and Strozzi and developed his own version of their free and fanciful modern painting with a gifted, exuberant dreamlike quality. Amongst the most significant examples of this period is the painting of Perseus cutting the head off the Medusa.

The figures, painted with impetuous, disdainful passion, crowd on the surface of the picture and are completely lacking in perspective relationship and in precise setting in their surroundings. The bright tones seem to swell as if as the result of some internal pressure, offering themselves as incandescent magma to the light which breaks them up into iridescent chromatic ornamental units. The sensual brightness of the colours underlines the emphatic strain on the links between the figures, lending the whole an emotional theatricality which was amongst the most visionary and unbiased of the Baroque age in Venice.