Aniello Falcone (1607-1656) is one of the greatest Neapolitan painters of the first half of the seventeenth century; and yet an exhibition has never been dedicated to him up to now, nor a monographic study. The biographer of southern artists Bernardo De Dominici baptized him in his Lives (1742-45) "the Oracle of Battles" and said he was a pupil of the Spaniard Jusepe de Ribera, a great specialist in "genre" painting - precisely battles, but also nature death and other small-figure subjects intended for private collectors - and in turn a master of painters such as Salvator Rosa, Micco Spadaro, Andrea de Leone or Paolo Porpora.
His first known works, the School Teacher today at the Capodimonte Museum and the Battle of the Louvre Museum in Paris, dated 1631, show him at that date the protagonist of a purely naturalist painting, capable of recovering the lesson of Caravaggio and applying it - perhaps on the basis of contacts with the Flemish “bamboccianti” painters active in Rome - to “genre” painting; but they also demonstrate it capable of weaving relationships with the more open and colorful naturalism of the other great Spaniard Diego Velázquez, who in those years between 1630 and 1631 was staying for the first time in Italy, between Rome and the capital of the Spanish Viceroyalty of Naples. Later in his short but intense career Falcone will enrich even more and make his painting more complex and modern by absorbing the influence of neo-Venetian and classicist painting and paying attention, always between Naples and Rome, to the lesson of Nicolas Poussin, of the Genoese Castiglione and sculptors such as François Duquesnoy.
His mature works, from the splendid Rest from the Flight into Egypt painted for Gaspare Roomer (1641) to the frescoes made for Roomer himself in the villa then Bisignano a Barra (1640-43) and to the many Battles now dispersed among the museums and collections private in Europe and America, they are the best testimony of this extraordinary balance and ability to synthesize naturalism, classicism and pictorial openings that make Falcone one of the most original artists of the Naples of the seventeenth century, the true “Velázquez of Naples”. Taking its cue from the recently completed restoration of his masterpiece, the aforementioned Rest of the Diocesan Museum of Naples, today's exhibition - curated by Pierluigi Leone de Castris - aims to bring together over 20 works by this protagonist of the "golden age" of 'Neapolitan art, from canvases of sacred subjects to battles and still lifes, and also to propose an extended itinerary to the churches of Naples which still retain - unknown to most - frescoes by Falcone, from San Giorgio Maggiore to San Paolo Maggiore to Jesus New one.