Mattia Preti (1613-1699)
Crucifixion of St. Peter
Mattia Preti c. 1656-1660.
Oil on canvas.
Comissioned by Ferdinand van den Einden, now in Barber Institute of Fine Arts, Birmingham.
This painting was one of three commissioned by the Flemish merchant Ferdinand van den Einden in Naples. It shows the martyrdom of Saint Peter, a popular subject of the time. Inspired by Caravaggio and Ribera’s naturalism and Venetian taste for landscape, Preti presents this gruesome scene front and center in an actual setting. The upside down Peter is similar to Caravaggio’s, yet Preti has opened up his background to show onlookers and landscape, as opposed to the former’s dark background with only four figures.
Although Caravaggio pushed coextensive space in his numerous compositions, he had not quite forced the subjects on the viewer at Preti has. Especially in the two artists’ Crucifixions, Preti’s Peter invades the viewer’s space far more disturbingly than Caravaggio’s Peter who recedes away from the viewer.
Preti’s Caravaggesque chiaroscuro cannot be ignored, however. Besides the theatrical lighting, the thunderstorm in the background and the emotions of the characters intensify the drama of this scene.
John T. Spike. “Preti, Mattia.” Grove Art Online. Oxford Art Online. 16 Mar. 2011 <http://www.oxfordartonline.com.libproxy.temple.edu/subscriber/article/grove/art/T069523>.
Sarah Brown. “Picture of the Month 2008.” Barber Institute of Fine Arts. 16 Mar 2011. <http://www.barber.org.uk/pompreti.html>