CFAM to Host First-Ever Show of Major Baroque Artist

An exhibition of Francesco de Mura’s work will show at the Cornell Fine Arts Museum from September 17 – December 18, 2016.

Francesco de Mura, The Visitation, ca. 1752, oil on canvas. Cornell Fine Arts Museum, gift of George H. Sullivan in memory of his parents.
Francesco de Mura, The Visitation, ca. 1752, oil on canvas. Cornell Fine Arts Museum, gift of George H. Sullivan in memory of his parents.

The Cornell Fine Arts Museum will host the first-ever show of Francesco de Mura’s (1696–1782) work, In the Light of Naples: The Art of Francesco de Mura

In Naples, De Mura’s refined and elegant compositions, with their exquisite light and color, heralded the late Baroque style called Rococo, while his later classicist style led to the simplicity and sculptural quality of Neoclassicism. In the Light of Naples reveals the power of De Mura’s work through more than 40 paintings and drawings, including oil sketches of his great frescoes and many of his key paintings.

The exhibition, the product of a decade of research, features religious and classical subjects, and portraits. The works are on loan from thirty major American and European museums and private collections, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Art Institute of Chicago, the Minneapolis Institute of Art, and the Museo di Capodimonte in Naples. The show not only explores the art of De Mura and his contemporaries, but also traces the role of Pio Monte della Misericordia, a charitable institution to which the artist bequeathed 192 artworks, four of which will be in the exhibition.

Francesco de Mura, Allegory of Charity or Allegory of Maternal Love, 1743-44, oil on canvas. The Art Institute of Chicago, Preston O. Morton Memorial Fund. 
Francesco de Mura, Allegory of Charity or Allegory of Maternal Love, 1743-44, oil on canvas. The Art Institute of Chicago, Preston O. Morton Memorial Fund.

The indisputable leader in his day of the Neapolitan School and the favorite of the Bourbon King Charles VII (r. 1735 – 59), De Mura was the chief painter of decorative cycles to emerge from the studio of Francesco Solimena (1657–1747), the great Baroque artist. Outstanding works in the exhibit include large oil studies for the frescoes of The Adoration of the Magi (1732) in the apse of the church of the Nunziatella and oil paintings related to the fresco The Assumption of the Virgin (1751) on the ceiling of the same church. Nearly a third of De Mura’s works were destroyed in the American and British bombing of Naples during World War II, including, most tragically, his series of frescoes at the abbey of Monte Cassino; fortunately, the Cornell show will include beautiful oil sketches of these lost works. Featured from the collection of the Cornell Museum are De Mura’s Visitation (ca.1750), the raison d’être for the project, and Solimena’s St. Francis Xavier Baptizing Indians (ca.1685), which was purchased specifically for this exhibit.

The exhibition was curated by Arthur Blumenthal, director emeritus of the Cornell and the author of its accompanying catalogue, which features essays by leading De Mura scholars. “De Mura’s art demonstrates a sensitivity and spiritual restraint very different from the previous generation of Baroque artists; through this show, we’ll finally be giving this richly deserving artist his due,” Blumenthal said. 

“In the Light of Naples fits eminently well within our mission,” said Ena Heller, the Bruce A. Beal Director of the Cornell. “As a college art museum, we are particularly interested in looking at the continuum of art history, and how to teach it; I am grateful to Dr. Blumenthal for fitting the pieces of the De Mura puzzle back together for the art of 18th century in Naples and, in general, for Italian Baroque art.”  

Francesco de Mura, The Glory of the Prince or Allegory of the Virtues of King Carlo of Borbone, ca. 1763, oil on canvas. Pio Monte della Misericordia.
Francesco de Mura, The Glory of the Prince or Allegory of the Virtues of King Carlo of Borbone, ca. 1763, oil on canvas. Pio Monte della Misericordia.

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