Italian art: Carella's forgotten canvases

Oct 24, 2020 149

From Apulia comes some good news in the field of artistic discoveries. In the last months, in the Spanish Hall of the Aragonese Castle in Taranto, the technicians of the Superintendence have carefully examined the state of conservation of nine artworks painted in the eighteenth century by Domenico Carella that in the eighties of the twentieth century had been removed from the ceilings of the Fornero and De Bellis Palaces in a state of decay.

The canvases, one of which is 32 feet long and depicts "The Judgement of Paris", have remained rolled up and forgotten for decades in the ancient Palazzo di Città with consequent detachment of painted parts and corrosion of supporting materials. Under the eyes of the public, the restorers tried to identify which techniques to adopt for the clearly visible gaps in the works before proceeding with the actual restoration, which started a few weeks ago.

For the Regional Superintendence, "These are works of great value but almost unknown as all the artistic heritage of our city", that with the technical and scientific support of the Polytechnic of Bari is realizing through photogrammetry the reconstruction of the paintings and supports and the virtual re-proposition of the two noble palaces that have preserved for centuries the canvases, preliminary operations necessary to proceed to the total recovery of the paintings by 2021.

For now the restorers of the Superintendence have digitally reconstructed the composition of the canvases with the help of photographic documentation that has allowed to test possible techniques of removal of old veils applied on the paintings that were originally fixed with nails to the wooden fairings of the vaults.

At the end of the work the canvases should be exhibited in the new Art Gallery Section in Palazzo Archita, but the recovery work on the enormous late eighteenth century building and the square in front of it, already financed with 25 million euros, is greatly delayed.

Domenico Carella, bornin 1721 in Francavilla, a town in central Apulia, moved to Martina Franca in the Taranto province around the seventies of the 18th century when Duke Francesco III Caracciolo commissioned him to paint the frescoes in his palace. Here in Martina Franca was opened the great baroque season of Carella who, to satisfy the growing demand of private and religious commissions, gave life to a school led by the firstborn Francesco. There are various contrasting theses on his cultural formation: according to some historians he was formed in Naples under the guidance of Francesco Solimena, for others it seems that his ancestry is linked to the Roman environments of Pompeo Batoni.

Even if the pictorial initiation of the artist remains suspended, surely Carella was endowed with a great eclecticism and a great ductility. In many of his works there are citations to the great masters of Italian painting, such as Raphael and Caravaggio, but also to Apulian painters of a certain size such as Giaquinto and De Matteis. His painting is animated by a nuanced chiaroscuro that gives the compositions a suffused and rarefied atmosphere, but above all it stands out for its great ability to define very complex scenographic spaces in which to insert various subjects of historical-mythological or biblical character. He died in Martina Franca in 1813.

His works, some still unpublished, are scattered in churches and palaces in central-southern Apulia and Basilicata. This impressive corpus would need a scientific catalog reasoned to understand definitively the artistic formation and sources of inspiration of this prolific artist and his school.

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