Baroque art in comparison: Mattia Preti and Guercino in Taverna

When we talk about Taverna, a beautiful village in the province of Catanzaro just outside of Sila Piccola, the thought immediately runs to its most illustrious citizen, Mattia Preti (Taverna 1613 – Valletta 1699), known by all as the Calabrian Knight for the appointment a Knight of the Order of Malta by Pope Urban VIII.

Preti, in his vast pictorial productions, as Vittorio Sgarbi recalls, “begins from Caravaggio in the moment in which the Caravaggio parabola declines and ends the fever that had infected all the of European painting.”  In fact, the caravaggism of Mattia Preti, always sustains Sgarbi, “has always acted, never taken from reality, but transferred to the theater scene with all the special effects required, preferring the nocturnal settings and the streaked lights that also dramatize the look.”

In reality, after the first stylistic influences and the first artistic journey, Preti, from the exponent of the last Caravaggeschi, began a second aesthetic journey more closely linked to the Guercino manner. Precisely for this reason, on the occasion of the twenty-fifth anniversary of its foundation, the Municipal Museum of Taverna, together with the Municipality of Taverna, the Municipality of Cento and the International Study Center “Il Guercino,” intended to promote the preparation of the 1st stage of an exhibition – an exploratory path that winds its way through the Museum and the Churches of San Domenico and Santa Barbara, which will then move to the second stage in Cento, the birthplace of Guercino – titled “Guercino and Mattia Preti in comparison. The new line of Baroque art,” that will end November 16th.

This exhibition aims to parallel the pretian work with fifteen paintings and drawings of the other great master of seventeenth century Italy, precisely, Il Guercino (Cento 1591 – Bologna 1666), remarks Giovan Francesco Barbieri.

In particular, the exhibition aims to increase the knowledge of Guercino’s work by making a comparative study between the great Tavernese canvas of the “Patrocinio di Santa Barbara” (circa 1688) and the “Burial of Santa Petronilla” (1623), underlining the close link between the two painters, during the first artistic formation of Preti. It is documented, in fact, that Preti, who fell in love with Guercino’s works during his first Roman stay as a student in the workshop of his elder brother Gregorio, decided to go to Cento to meet him in person and that he was welcomed into his home and his workshop, recognizing him as a great designer and painter.

In fact, it was Guercino who called Preti in Modena, where, between 1651 and 1652, he frescoed the dome of the Church of San Biagio as he could not satisfy the commission from the Carmelite friars. From Guercino, Preti preserves some specific traits recognizable in the contrasts of light, in the ample shadings and in the velvety outlines. In the specifics of the two compared works, there are also elements of commonality in the composition, in particular the division of the painting into an upper and a lower part and for the figures of Christ and the kneeling Saint.

A magnificent initiative that sees, in addition to comparing two of the greatest masters of Italian Baroque art, the encounter between two territories that, interacting with each other in cultural, tourism, social and economic terms lead to the enhancement and promotion of their excellent artistic heritage.

Definitely an event to mark on the calendar.