Oil painting on canvas
The enigmatic painting, one of the most important of the turbulent painter, fleeing from Rome after the conviction for murder, depicts with great realism, in an intertwining of characters taken from the street, the charity activities of the Entity, inspired by the Works of Mercy corporal. It is the first commission for the decoration of the Chiesa del Monte, paid 400 ducats. In a complex and revolutionary composition, the Madonna of Mercy with the Child is depicted above, supported by angels, while, below, the interlocking of figures, with their complex gestures, symbolically alludes to the Works of Mercy. In the scene, which seems to take place right in a dark Neapolitan crossroads, we recognize: on the right Cimone in prison suckled by his daughter Pero (feeding the hungry and visiting the prisoners); behind the prison wall advances a gravedigger carrying a corpse, of which only the feet can be seen, followed by a priest with a torch (burying the dead); on the left, in the foreground, a knight with a feather (S. Martino), sharing the cloak with the poor man, depicted from behind, and next to a sick man with joined hands (dressing the naked and visiting the sick); further back, a man with an emaciated face, with a shell on his hat (S. Giacomo), is welcomed by the man in front (hosting the pilgrims); on the far left, in the back, there is Samson drinking from the jaw of an ass (giving drink to the thirsty).
The work expresses, through a strong contrast of lights, a direct vision of reality, becoming a reference point for local painters, linked to a devout and late-mannerist painting, thus opening the new seventeenth-century season of naturalism in Naples. A picture that manifests, with the reality of actions, the feeling of understanding and compassion that makes you participate in the sufferings of others, in a totality of love and pain.