Frescoes in San Paolo Maggiore, Naples (1689-90)
by Francesco SOLIMENA

San Paolo Maggiore was the first Theatine church in Naples. Members of the Theatine Order modeled themselves after the apostles. to whose lives they ascribed the virtues that formed the spiritual framework of life within the order. The Theatines were presented with their first church in Naples in 1538, the medieval San Paolo Maggiore. During the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries they gave the structure a modern appearance and enriched it with lavish decoration.

Francesco Solimena was commissioned for the decoration of the sacristy in 1689, and he completed the work in 1690. This was the commission with which Solimena made his breakthrough, and at precisely the right time to put him into contention as the successor to Luca Giordano.

The four bays of the vault contain three groupings of picture panels: the centre row, in which octagons alternate with lobed rectangles; the surrounding triangles filled with putti; and the caps of the vault above the windows, which are bracketed to the panels along the centre axis by cartouches. The centre panels contain female personifications of virtues, while the female figures in the caps above the windows are personifications of the eight Beatitudes from the Sermon on the Mount.

Thanks to their large format and their multitude of figures, the scenes on the end walls are largely responsible for the magnificent effect of the space. On the north wall the Conversion of St Paul is depicted, on the opposite south wall the Fall of Simon Magus can be seen.

The phase of Solimena's career, which can be characterized by "nobilità", began with the work in the sacristy of San Paolo Maggiore in Naples, and reached its culmination in the sacristy of San Domenico Maggiore. The Expulsion of Heliodorus from the Temple on the entrance wall of the Chiesa del Gesù Nuovo, Naples is perhaps the most spectacular of Solimena's wall paintings. Solimena was celebrated through the whole of Europe and became one of the wealthiest painters of the eighteenth century.

Preview Picture Data Info
General view of the sacristy
1689-90
Fresco
San Paolo Maggiore, Naples


Fall of Simon Magus
1689-90
Fresco
San Paolo Maggiore, Naples


Fall of Simon Magus (detail)
1689-90
Fresco
San Paolo Maggiore, Naples


The Conversion of St Paul
1689-90
Fresco
San Paolo Maggiore, Naples


The Conversion of St Paul (detail)
1689-90
Fresco
San Paolo Maggiore, Naples


Frieze (detail)
1689-90
Fresco
San Paolo Maggiore, Naples


Frieze (detail)
1689-90
Fresco
San Paolo Maggiore, Naples


Vault decoration
1689-90
Fresco
San Paolo Maggiore, Naples


Saint Cajetan Appeasing Divine Anger
-
Fresco
San Paolo Maggiore, Naples


Ceiling painting
1709
Fresco
Sacristy, San Domenico Maggiore, Naples


Expulsion of Heliodorus from the Temple
1725
Fresco
Chiesa del Gesù Nuovo, Naples



Paintings by Francesco SOLIMENA
Oil paintings
Frescoes in San Paolo Maggiore, Naples



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