Luca Giordano    Italian         1634-1705
SN 157    Oil on Canvas        c. 1696

by Robert Anderson

   Luca Giordano was the most important decorative artist of the second half of the 17th century. He succeeded Jusepe Ribera as the preeminent artist of Naples and then inherited the mantle of Pietro da Cortona as the leading painter of decorative cycles in Italy. Giordano was nicknamed Luca Fa Presto because of his speed of execution and his prodigious output. He also had a particular talent for imitating almost any painter's technique.

     While he was at first influenced by Ribera when living and working in Naples, he later drew on the ideas of other artists, Murillo, Rubens and above all the Venetians and Pietro da Cortona. He introduced a new sense of light and glowing color, of movement and dramatic action. The warmth in the faces of many of his figures indicates a lasting influence of Rubens.
   Giordano was a prolific draughtsman and prepared his works in drawings and oil sketches. He controlled a large workshop in which his pupils made copies of his sketches
as well as p;aying a role in some of his fresco cycles.

        This subject is based upon the New Testament Gospel of Matthew 2: 13-15. Warned in a dream that Herod the King was searching for the infant Jesus to kill him, Joseph took him and his mother away to safety in Egypt where they remained until after Herod's death.
    The bare statement given by Matthew was greatly amplified in various New Testament apocryphal texts which are the source of the themes found in art.
    The rest on the flight was a popular theme in the art of the Counter Reformation and was more often of a devotional than a narrative character. In it the Virgin and Child
ride a donkey while Joseph walks beside them. The angels direct, and guide the group and assist in leading the donkey.
    The Biblical account of the sojourn in Egypt is so brief that such an episode as the rest is not mentioned. The flight into Egypt was, in fact, the invention of Christian mythologists who were eager to expand on the few references to Jesus' early life.

    This Ringling Flight into Egypt is considered a particularly strong painting from this the final period of Giordano's activity. To convey the effect of night, he adopted Murillo's brown tonality instead of the colorful palette he normally used. The poses of both Joseph and the Angel are derived from Murillo compositions which Giordano had had an opportunity to study during his time in Spain (1692-1702).
    The vigorous brushwork and gathering clouds with angels lend an animation to the picture that serves to heighten the sense of urgency of the Holy Family's flight. The horizontal format and large scale of the painting place the viewer close to the scene as if the entourage were passing directly in front of him.

    Although his art was not universally understood or appreciated during his lifetime, his fame was nevertheless enormous. in Venice his fame spread rapidly. Venetian artists were attracted by the warmth and color of his paintings, by his Baroque sense of space and by the contrasts of light and dark inspired by Ribera. Patrons included Cosimo III de' Medici, Charles II and King Louis XIV of France.