After an apprenticeship in Rome in the school of Giovanni Paolo Panini and in Venice with Canaletto and Bellotto, Antonio Joli worked in Italy and Europe (Modena, Perugia, Venice, Naples, Germany, London and Madrid) as a stage designer and as a landscape painter in the clear, objective style of representation of nature which had been started up by Gaspar van Wittel in the early 18th century. In Naples, as from mid-century, Joli worked both on stage design for the Teatro San Carlo and for the Teatrino in the Reggia of Caserta, and on setting up celebrations and displays for court ceremonies. He was especially a brilliant and successful painter of scenes of the city and of the surrounding countryside (he was the first to produce “bird’s eye” views of the plain with the temples of Paestum), at the service of the Bourbon kings and of the many foreign aristocrats who came to the city along the traditional itinerary of the Grand Tour in Italy.
The painting on display here is one of these works: it depicts the royal procession along the coast of Naples towards the church of Piedigrotta during the popular celebrations for the birth of the Madonna, which were traditionally held there. In the painting, which was a model for a larger composition and of which a number of autograph replicas or studio copies are known, the natural and architectural elements (such as the figurative episodes which, unlike similar works by Pietro Fabris, make no attempt at a folklore rendering) are all closely examined and reproduced with considerable optical precision and bright chromatic luminosity.