Battistello Caracciolo
Neapolitan Painter, Follower of Caravaggio.

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The Liberation of St Peter (c.1615)
Church of Pio Monte della Misericordia.
Now in the Museo di Capodimonte.
Battistello's emotive masterpiece, it
shows Peter being led from prison by
an angel.

Battistello Caracciolo (1578-1635)


Early Life and Works
Influence of Caravaggio
Mature Paintings
Influence of Ribera and Vouet
Later Paintings
Neapolitan School of Painting

For a general guide to the origin and evolution of Neapolitan art during the 17th century, see: Painting in Naples (c.1600-1700).

For top creative practitioners, see:
Best Artists of All Time.

For an overall guide, see:
Fine Art Painting.
For a guide to oils, see:
Oil Painting.


One of the more influential of Old Masters in Naples, and an important early member of the Neapolitan School of Painting (1600-56), which grew up in the aftermath of Caravaggio (1571-1610) - for details, see Caravaggio in Naples (1607, 1609-10) - Battistello Caracciolo is best known as Caravaggio's most faithful Italian follower. Unlike Carlo Sellitto (1581-1614), the other early exponent of Caravaggism, Battistello Caracciolo was a pupil of the master himself, from whom he absorbed the method of painting directly from life withou preparatory sketching. He also learned how to use live models to capture expression and intensify the emotional content of the canvas. As well as his painterly skills, Caracciolo's interpretation of sacred scenes also lends his religious art a distinctly caravaggesque flavour. His masterpiece is probably The Liberation of St Peter (1615, Church of the Pio Monte della Misericordia, now in the Capodimonte Museum), while other important religious paintings include: Trinitas Terrestris (1617, Pieta dei Turchini); Rest on the Flight to Egypt (1618, Pitti Palace); and Washing of Feet (1622, Church of St Martino). See also: Classicism and Naturalism in Italian 17th Century Painting.



Early Life and Works

Born in December 1578 into a family described in the sources as noble, although this is not proven, in 1598 Caracciolo married Beatrice di Mario da Gaeta (Stoughton 1978). By this date he was probably already in the workshop of Belisario Corenzio, together with Luigi Rodriguez. The earliest surviving document, dated 1601, which concerns some putti painted on the facade of the Monte di Pieta (now ruined), refers to him in conjunction with these artists. After nearly ten years working in the mannerist tradition of Cavaliere d'Arpino, from which period no works survive apart from a controversial fresco painting of putti and drapery around the organ of the church of Monteoliveto (c.1606-7), the arrival of Caravaggio in Naples marked a turning-point in his career.

Influence of Caravaggio

The Immaculate Conception in S. Maria della Stella, which a recently-published document shows was commissioned in 1607, is witness to Caracciolo's enthusiastic conversion to Caravaggesque naturalism, though this naturalism does not yet completely obscure his mannerism. But from 1607-14 he assimilated Caravaggio's style of chiaroscuro and dramatic tenebrism completely, while imitating his compositions and subject matter.

At this time he established links with the Pio Monte della Misericordia, (the most active devotional institution in Naples at the beginning of the century), and with the Society of Jesus, who were to be his principal patrons. He enjoyed the close friendship of Giovanni Battista Manso, Marchese di Villa, who was a man of letters, a friend of the poet Marino and was himself something of a poet according to De Dominici. Through this circle he came to know Basile, who dedicated a poem to him in the Madrigali e Ode of 1617, and painted his portrait (lost, but known through an engraving).

In his early period, following Caravaggio's example, he painted religious pictures on a small scale: the Ecce Homo (versions in Hermitage, Leningrad, Capodimonte, Paola), the Madonna and Child (S. Martino), the St. Joseph (Lausanne), the Baptism for the Girolamini and the Way to Calvary (Turin). In 1610 Marcantonio Doria, Caravaggio's patron for the Martyrdom of St. Ursula (1610, Banca Commerciale Italiana) commissioned a St. Lawrence from Caracciolo, which is perhaps the picture now at S. Martino and for which there is a preparatory drawing in Stockholm. His presence in Naples is documented from 1602-12, during which time his wife bore him five children.

Mature Paintings

In 1614 Caracciolo visited Rome, where he came into contact with Orazio Gentileschi (1563-1639). Returning to Naples he painted two large altarpieces between 1615 and 1617: The Liberation of St. Peter of 1615 and the Trinitas Terrestris in the Pieta dei Turchini (1617). He also frescoed the chapel of St. Simon Stock in S. Teresa agli Studi (after 1616). He then went to Rome, where he registered in the St. Luke's Guild, saw the Farnese Gallery frescoes by Annibale Carracci (1560-1609) and his Bolognese School, and was associated with the group of artists working at the Quirinal Palace (Lanfranco, the disreptable quadraturista Tassi, Saraceni and Spadarino). Next he travelled to Florence, where he painted the Rest on the Flight to Egypt (1618) and studied early Seicento Florentine painting. He probably met Bilivert, Allori and Artemesia Gentileschi (1593-1654). Finally he went on to Genoa, where in 1618 he frescoed in the casino of Marcantonio Doria at Sanpierdarena on which both Gentileschi and Simon Vouet (1590-1649) later worked. Having returned to Naples by the end of 1618, he despatched the Madonna d'Ognissanti to Stilo for his doctor Carnevale.

Influence of Ribera and Vouet

Caracciolo was also somewhat influenced by the early works of caravaggist Jose Ribera (1591-1652), but his Caravaggism was superseded by a more classicizing style derived from further visits to Rome and from Vouet's Neapolitan paintings. The artistic relationship between Caracciolo and Simon Vouet strengthened during the 1620s and acted as a counter-balance to the style of Ribera and his followers. Vouet's style - exemplified by St Bruno Receiving the Rule of the Carthusian Order (1620, Certosa di S. Martino) and The Circumcision (1622, Capodimonte Museum), both of which were sent to Naples in the 1620s, were highly influential on Caracciolo and his large Washing of Feet in S. Martino (1622).

In the following years his fresco murals are painted in very light colours (eg. the chapel of S. Severino in S. Maria la Nova 1623; the chapel of the Assunta, 1623—26; the chapel of S. Gennaro in S. Martino 1631-33 and the chapel of Mary in S. Diego all' Ospedaletto). In 1623 he also painted a pendentive in the Cappella del Tesoro in Naples Cathedral, which formed part of the prestigious commission given to Santafede. Later these frescoes were destroyed to make way for those of Domenichino (1581-1641).

Later Paintings

After 1625 Caracciolo's work displays a hybrid quality; increasingly he suggested movement through linear contortions, possibly a survival from his early mannerist painting. His Caravaggesque chiaroscuro is reinforced, but the drawing is given more prominence and the forms are distorted in a manner reminiscent of Giovanni Lanfranco (1582-1647). The Adoration of the Magi (c.1626) and the other paintings in the Sala del Capitolo at S. Mattino, the S. Luigi Gonzaga in the Gesu Vecchio (1627), the bozzetto for the altarpiece of the church of the Carminiello al Mercato, and the Assumption of the Virgin in the chapel of the Assunta in S. Martino (1631) provide points of reference for the development of Caracciolo's painting at this time.

In his final years, he was increasingly aware of the art of Domenichino and Lanfranco, who were in Naples at the time; he accentuated rhetorical and stage-like effects in a manner that verges on Baroque painting. Apart from the pictures at S. Diego and S. Martino, this last phase also includes the frescoes in the Oratorio dei Nobili at the Gesu Nuovo and at the Palazzo Reale, and paintings such as the S. Anna (Vienna) and the Judgement of Solomon (Serlupi Collection). For the successors to Battistello Caracciolo, see: Neapolitan Baroque Painting (c.1650-1700).

Neapolitan School of Painting

In addition to those Old Masters cited above, other Italian Baroque artists who belonged to or influenced the Neapolitan School, include:

- Guercino (1591-1666)
- Mattia Preti (1613-99)
- Luca Giordano (1634-1705)
- Andrea Pozzo (1642-1709)
- Francesco Solimena (1657-1747)

Paintings by Battistello Caracciolo can be seen in many of the best art museums throughout the world.


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