Francesco de Mura, (Italian, 1696–1782), The Visitation (detail), ca. 1752, Oil on canvas, 37 x 46 1/2, Gift of George H. Sullivan in memory of his parents
September 17–December 18, 2016

In the Light of Naples: The Art of Francesco de Mura

In the Light of Naples: The Art of Francesco de Mura is the first-ever exhibition of the art of Francesco de Mura (1696–1782)—arguably the greatest painter of the Golden Age of Naples. The Cornell Museum owns a major painting by De Mura, The Visitation, which is the impetus for this show.

Francesco de Mura, the indisputable leader in his day of the Neapolitan School and the favorite of the reigning Bourbon King Charles VII, was the chief painter of decorative cycles to emerge from the studio of Francesco Solimena (1657–1747), the celebrated Baroque artist. De Mura’s refined and elegant compositions, with their exquisite, light, and airy colors, heralded the rococo in Naples, and his later classicistic style led to Neo-Classicism. De Mura’s ceiling frescoes rivaled those of his celebrated Venetian contemporary, Giambattista Tiepolo (1696–1770). Yet, today, he lacks his proper place in the history of art. This show seeks to answer why this is so: If he was so celebrated and admired in his lifetime, why is De Mura so little known today?

The exhibition—which, in 2017, will travel to the Chazen Museum at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and the Loeb Art Center at Vassar College—features more than 40 works by De Mura from such collections as Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts, the Metropolitan Museum in New York, the Art Institute of Chicago, the Minneapolis Art Institute, the National Gallery of Art in Washington, and other public and private collections. In addition, there are loans from Naples, Paris, and London.

Included is the Cornell Museum’s recently acquired Solimena painting, as well as the Cornell’s newly identified oil by a follower of Solimena. Dr. Arthur Blumenthal, Director Emeritus of the Cornell, is the Guest Curator of the show, which has a scholarly catalogue with essays by such art historians as Nicola Spinosa, former Superintendent of the National Museums in Naples and foremost expert on De Mura.

Please find here the complete essay contributed by Loredana Gazzara, curator of the Picture Gallery (Quadreria) at Pio Monte, in which she reveals much about the dispersal of De Mura's works.

Through De Mura’s original creations in the exhibition, the Cornell is giving this richly deserving Neapolitan artist—the last Baroque artist—his due.

Francesco de Mura, (Italian, 1657–1747), Allegory of Charity or Allegory of Maternal Love, 1734–44, Oil on Canvas, 54 15/16 x 53 in., The Art Institute of Chicago, Preston O. Morton Memorial Fund, acc. no. 1971.429
Francesco de Mura, (Italian, 1657–1747), The Glory of the Princes or Allegory of the Virtues of King Carlo di Borbone, ca. 1763, Oil on Canvas, 28 3/4 x 38 1/2 in., Pio Monte della Misericordia, inv. no. 104

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