Campania Felix?

Reframing the Neapolitan Still Life

in Nuncius
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Neapolitan still life painting, even though Italy’s most prolific “school” of the genre, has attracted little theoretical analysis. Where scholars have considered the genre almost exclusively in terms of stylistic developments and questions of attribution, this paper, alternatively, draws inspiration from insights formulated largely outside the field of art history: Umberto Eco’s characterization of still life paintings as “visual lists” and Michele Rak’s characterization of seventeenth-century literature in the Neapolitan dialect as “literary still lifes.” Building on these insights, this paper aims to explore the ways in which Neapolitan still life painting was anchored in local literary traditions and how, moreover, these literary traditions help us to understand the way in which these paintings resonate with the specific social and political situation that characterized Spanish Naples.

Campania Felix?

Reframing the Neapolitan Still Life

in Nuncius




Riccardo Lattuada“Luca Giordano e i maestri napoletani di natura morta nelle tele per la festa del Corpus Domini del 1684,” in Capolavori in festa: Effimero barocco a largo di palazzo (1683–1759) (Napoli: Electa Napoli 1997) pp. 150–161: 150. The paintings come from the collection of the Marquis of Carpio in the inventory of 1687 no. 1407–1410. Our figure 1 was sold at Christie’s London 9/7/1993 lot no. 86 (as by Abraham Breughel).


Michel FoucaultThe Order of Things: An Archaeology of the Human Sciences (London-New York: Routledge2002) pp. 60–61.


Norman BrysonLooking at the Overlooked: Four Essays on Still Life Painting (London: Reaktion1990) p. 106 with a reference to Foucault; cf. Johnson N+2 (cit. note 11) pp. 1117–1118.


For a recent overview see Sean Cocco“Locating the Natural Sciences in Early Modern Naples,” in A Companion to Early Modern Naplesedited by Tommaso Astarita (Leiden-Boston: Brill 2013) pp. 453–475.


On Imperato see Enrica StendardoFerrante Imperato: Collezionismo e studio della natura a Napoli tra Cinque e Seicento (Napoli: Accademia Pontaniana2001).


Federico Tognoni“Nature Described: Fabio Colonna and Natural History Illustration,” Nuncius2005 20/2:347–370.


For Valletta see Vittor Ivo ComparatoGiuseppe Valletta: Un intellettuale napoletano della fine del Seicento (Napoli: Istituto italiano per gli studi storici1970).


See Maria E. CadedduIl tesoro messicano: Libri e saperi tra Europa e Nuovo mondo (Firenze: Olschki2013).


Annamaria Ciarallo“Le scienze botaniche a Napoli tra ’500 e ’700,” in Napoli viceregno spagnolo: Una capitale della cultura alle origine dell’Europea moderna2 vols. edited by Monika Bosse André Stoll (Napoli: Vivarium 2001) Vol. I pp. 293–310: 301.


Johannes HenigerHendrik Adriaan van Reede tot Drakenstein (1636–1691) and Hortus Malabaricus: A Contribution to the History of Dutch Colonial Botany (Rotterdam: A.A. Balkema1986).


Giuseppe Olmi“Lavorare per i libri degli altri: Padre Matteo di S. Giuseppe, medico, botanico e disegnatore di piante, ‘qui nomine suo nihil edidit’,” in Belle le contrade della memoria: Studi su documenti e libri in onore di Maria Gioia Tavoniedited by Federica Rossi Paolo Tinti (Bologna: Pàtron Editore 2009) pp. 53–79.


Jennifer D. SelwynA Paradise Inhabited by Devils: The Jesuits’ Civilizing Mission in Early Modern Naples (Aldershot: Ashgate2004) pp. 96–97.


Ibid. p. 222.


Pietro GiannoneDell’istoria civile del Regno di Napoli (Napoli: Niccolò Naso1723) Vol. III p. 545 (= book 30 ch. 2); translation (slightly modernized spelling) from Pietro Giannone The Civil History of the Kingdom of Naples translated by James Ogilvie (London: s.n. 1729–1731) Vol. II pp. 475–476.


John A. Marino“Economic Idylls and Pastoral Realities: The ‘Trickster Economy’ in the Kingdom of Naples,” Comparative Studies in Society and History1982 24:211–234 p. 212.


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    Figure 1

    Luca Giordano (?), Paolo de’ Matteis (?), Abraham Breughel and Giovan Battista Ruoppolo, Summer: In a Garden, a Girl and a Putto Hang a Garland between Two Herms, while Three Children Play among Flowers and Baskets with Fruit, 1684. Oil on canvas, 244 × 348 cm.Netherlands, private collection

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    Figure 2

    Giuseppe Recco, Still Life with Fruit and Flowers, ca. 1670. Oil on canvas, 250 × 301 cm.Museo di Capodimonte, Naples. Image: Fototeca del Polo museale della Campania

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    Figure 3

    Andrea Belvedere, Still Life with Morning Glory and Guelder-Roses, ca. 1690. Oil on canvas, 99 × 74 cm.Museo di Capodimonte, Naples. Image: Fototeca del Polo museale della Campania.

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    Figure 4

    Coconut (Cocos nucifera L., as Ténga), 1682. Engraving. From Hendrik Adriaan van Rheede tot Drakenstein (ed.), Hortus Malabaricus (Amsterdam: Joannis van Someren et Joannis van Dyck, 1682), fig. 3.Image:

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    Figure 5

    Theodor de Bry, after Joost van Winghe, Cruelties of the Spanish, 1598. Engraving. From Bartholomé de las Casas, Narratio regionum indicarum per Hispanos quosdam devastatarum verissima (Frankfurt: Sumptibus Theodori de Bry, & Ioannis Saurii typis, 1598), p. 10.Image: Library of Congress, Washington, DC

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    Figure 6

    Michelangelo Cerquozzi, The Masaniello Revolt, 1648. Oil on canvas, 184 × 186 cm.Galleria Spada, Rome. Under license from the Italian Ministero per i Beni e le Attività Culturali

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    Figure 7

    Aniello Ascione, Fruit Still Life, late seventeenth-century. Oil on canvas, 117 × 136 cm.Museo Civico di Castello Ursino, Catania. © Comune di Catania – Museo civico Castello Ursino

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