(Rome, 1720 - Rome, 1779)
Known as a painter of genre scenes, landscapes and religious subjects, Paolo Monaldi still lacks a biographical framework: his dates of his birth and death remain unknown, and he escaped the notice of his contemporary biographers. An ardent admirer and no doubt a pupil Andrea Locatelli, Monaldi became a loyal interpreter of the older painter’s style while distancing himself in his representation of figures, which acquire a greater prominence with regard to landscape. Monaldi’s best-known paintings are animated rustic scenes set in an arcadian-pastoral world people by sweetened figures of peasants. Such pictures have appeared on the art market – and do so now much more rarely – with a correct attribution because of the occasional appearance of the artist’s monogram “P.M.”, usually painted on a clay pitcher.
In addition to being influenced by Locatelli’s oeuvre, Monaldi was open, especially in his earlier years, to that Bamboccianti painters of the seventeenth century, and in particular by Theodor Dirk Helmbrecker.
Among Monaldi’s earliest works are a pair of Peasant Scenes monogrammed and dated 1753 formerly with Agnew’s in London, and A Portrait of Aquilino, a famous thoroughbred horse (signed and dated 1757; Rome, Museo di Roma), set against a Locatelli-inspired landscape.
Monaldi’s most important commission was the decoration of the villa of Cardinal Flavio Chigi, outside the Porta Salaria in Rome, executed between 1765 and 1767 in collaboration with the landscape artist Paolo Anesi; the paintings are now divided between the Alemagna collection in Milan and a private collection in Naples. The modern reappraisal of Monaldi is due to Andrea Busiri Vici (1). More recently Giancarlo Sestieri has provided an account of his religious and mythological pictures, excluding from discussion the purely rustic and landscape scenes (2).
1 - A. Busiri Vici, Trittico paesistico romano del ’700: Paolo Anesi, Paolo Monaldi, Alessio De Marchis, Rome, 1976, pp. 73-156
2 - G.C. Sestieri, Repertorio della pittura romana della fine del Seicento e del Settecento, Torino 1994, I, pp. 130-131, III, figg. 774-779.