The Virgin and Child
Francesco de Mura
( Napoli, 1696 - Turin, 1782 )
Oil on copper (oval) 10.3 x 8.6 cm Attribution approved by Prof. Nicolas Spinosa.
T. Zennaro and N. Spinosa in La Pittura Eloquente, exh. cat., Maison d’Art, Monte-Carlo 2010, n. 24, pp. 127 - 129, illus. p. 129.
The painting presented here was made for devotional purposes, and as is clear from its reduced dimensions and copper support, it would have been used privately, following a custom that was widespread in Naples (and elsewhere) between the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries.
The Virgin looks heavenward, suggesting to any beholder that they should have faith in divine protection, while the Christ Child seeks an explicit dialogue with the person on this side of the image, directing his index finger and lively gaze outwards.
This is undoubtedly a work by Francesco De Mura, painted during his maturity in the middle years of the eighteenth century, yet still clearly echoing his youthful admiration for similar works painted by his master, Francesco Solimena.
With respect to the latter, however, De Mura’s art is made of colours that are brighter, more transparent and precious. This came about through his contacts with the circle of French painters in Rome and Turin between the end of the 1730s and early 1740s (Pierre Subleyras in particular), and with Corrado Giaquinto during the 1740s. Furthermore – again compared with Solimena – the expressive content also appears more sweetened, with a tone of greater intimacy and familiarity.
The delicate oval of the Virgin’s face, the clear palette and composed naturalism of the figures also indicate contact with the latest classicising trends that were emerging in Naples during the middle of the Settecento.