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The Archangel Gabriel appearing to St Zachary
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17th Century
Born 13-10-1634 Italy, Died 3-1-1705
The Archangel Gabriel appearing to St Zachary
[L'Arcangelo Gabriele appare a Zaccaria]
c 1650
oil on canvas
133 x 91 cm  [HxW]
Museo e Gallerie Nazionali di Capodimonte, Napoli

The painting shows the archangel Gabriel appearing to Zachary to announce the birth of his child, John the Baptist: a miraculous announcement, considering the age of his wife Elizabeth, and one which Zachary does not believe, thus striking him dumb until the birth of the child.

The painting was returned to Capodimonte from the Italian Senate, to which it had been transferred in 1929, and can be dated to the 1650s, at the time when Giordano was making great altar paintings for the most important churches in Naples: these included Santa Brigida, the church of the Ascensione a Chiaja and Sant’Agostino degli Scalzi. These were all works in which Luca Giordano, who had trained in the naturalist circles of Jusepe de Ribera, shows how he was able to keep up to date, thanks to a series of trips to Rome, Florence and Venice, with the works of Lanfranco, Pietro da Cortona, Rubens, Titian and Paolo Veronese. Indeed, some of the characteristics of this painting are typical of the figurative tradition of Cinquecento Venice: the splendour of the architectural setting, the brilliance of the colours — from the white of the columns to the precious shades of the fabrics — the faces of the old men and of the young altar boys with their candles, as well as the way in which he softens the figures in the background in a glowing, gilded light.

Maia Confalone

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