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King Solomon praying before the Temple of Jerusalem
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18th Century
King Solomon praying before the Temple of Jerusalem
[Dedicazione del tempio di Salomone]
Oil on canvas
72 x 128 cm  [HxW]
Museo e Gallerie Nazionali di Capodimonte, Napoli

In a daring upward perspective, the painting depicts King Solomon and a host of people kneeling in prayer on the steep steps up to the Temple of Jerusalem, which is illuminated by the flames rising up from a sacrificial altar. This is a study for the third bay of the vault of the Neapolitan basilica of Santa Chiara, frescoed by Bonito in 1752 and destroyed, with all the 18th-century decorations, in a fire caused by bombing in August 1943.

The rich impasto of colour, the atmosphere lit up by blazes of red and gold, and the daring perspective of the entire composition bear ample witness to the way the artist took up the luminous and sophisticated pursuit of the picturesque which was the hallmark of Luca Giordano’s work. For this was the period when Bonito, who had studied in the circle of Francesco Solimena and had become one of Naples’ leading artists in the mid-18th century — mainly as a result of his work as a court portraitist, genre painter and later as a creator of cartoons for tapestries — turned towards Neo-Baroque solutions similar to those adopted by Mattia Preti in Naples, and those of the later works of Giordano.

Maia Confalone

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