Luca Giordano Biography
Luca Giordano was born Oct. 18, 1632, Naples
died Jan. 3, 1705, Naples
Luca Giordano was the most celebrated and prolific Neapolitan painter of the late 17th century. His nickname Luca fa presto (“Luca, work quickly”) is said to derive from his painter-copyist father’s admonitions, which were certainly heeded. His other nickname, Proteus, was acquired as a result of his reputed skill in producing pastiches in the style of almost any artist. Because Luca Giordano is said to have painted a large altarpiec painting in one day, it is no wonder that his output, both in oil and in fresco, was enormous. Luca Giordano's range of subject matter was equally great, although most of his paintings deal with religious or mythological themes.
Giordano’s earliest dated oil painting is of 1651. Luca Giordano was influenced at the beginning of his career by the paintings of José de Ribera. His style underwent a profound change as a result of journeys to Rome, Florence, and Venice. The lightness and brightness of Veronese’s decorative paintings in Venice and the recent paintings of Pietro da Cortona in Rome and Florence induced him to abandon sober drama in favour of a more decorative approach. The influence of da Cortona’s fresco paintings in the Pitti Palace, Florence, is particularly evident in Giordano’s huge ceiling fresco painting in the ballroom of the Palazzo Medici-Riccardi, Florence, begun in 1682 and completed in the following year.
Luca Giordano went to Spain in 1692 as court painter to Charles II, returning via Genoa to Naples in 1702. The fresco paintings in El Escorial are often held to be his best works, but nearly 50 oil paintings in the Prado, Madrid, all painted in Spain, testify to his unflagging energy. Luca Giordano's last great painting in Naples was the ceiling of the Cappella del Tesoro in S. Martino, begun on his return in 1702 and completed in April 1704. Many of his fresco paintings in Naples were destroyed or damaged during World War II. The great St. Benedict cycle of 1677 in the abbey of Monte Cassino was entirely destroyed, but the “Christ Expelling the Traders from the Temple” (1684) in the Gerolomini (S. Filippo Neri) in Naples survived.