Giacomo Nani

(1698, Porto Ercole – 1755, Naples)

Still Lives. Set of Four: Hawk attacking a Hare, Still-Life with Hunting Trophies, Still-Life with Hunting Trophies and Basket, Still-Life with Figs and Sausage

Each 52 cm x 66 cm
Oil on canvas
One signed 'Giacomo Nani f'.

Provenance:

Sale Chartres (Galerie de Chartres), 23 October 2011, lot no. 36

Bibliography:

  1. Della Ragione, Edizioni Napoli Arte, ed. ‘Pittori Napoletani del Settecento, Aggiornamenti ed inediti’ (PDF) (in italian). Centro Guide Turistiche Campania (Italia). pp. 43–53. Archived from the original on 22 October 2013. Retrieved 7 December 2013.
  2. Willette, ‘Dominici, Bernardo de.’ Grove Art OnlineOxford Art Online. Oxford University Press, accessed February 18, 2014, http://www.oxfordartonline.com/subscriber/article/grove/art/T023230.
  3. Meagher, “Still-Life Painting in Southern Europe, 1600–1800”. In Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2000–. http://www.metmuseum.org/toah/hd/sstl/hd_sstl.htm (June 2008)
  4. Voorhies,”Art of the Seventeenth and Eighteenth Centuries in Naples”. In Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2000–. http://www.metmuseum.org/toah/hd/npls/hd_npls.htm (October 2003)

 

 

 

Catalogue Entry

Giacomo Nani (1698-1755) was born in Porto Ercole in 1698. Working during the Baroque period in Naples, Nani is noted for his work as a still-life painter. This includes the present series of works, Hawk attacking a Hare, Still-Life with Hunting Trophies, Still-Life with Hunting Trophies and Basket and Still-Life with Figs and Sausage, which are united in their subject, dimensions and their rich and earthy colour palette.

 

Some of our knowledge of the life and art of Nani is gathered from the eighteenth century Italian art historian and painter Bernardo de Dominici (1683-1759). Between 1742 and 1745 Dominici published a major three volume treatise entitled Vite dei Pittori, Scultori, ed Architetti Napolitani. Written in the tradition of Giorgio Vasari (1511-1574), the work presented a history of the development of art in Naples.

 

De Dominici’s writing offers a valuable, but somewhat subjective account of the lives and careers of Neapolitan artists, including Caravaggio (1571-1610), Giuseppe di Ribera (1591-1652) and briefly Nani. According to de Dominici the young artist received his training under the guidance of the still-life painters Gasparo Lopez (c. 1677-1732) and Andrea Belvedere (1646-1732).

 

Documentary evidence enhances our understanding of the painter and reveals that Nani’s still-life works were collected by some of the most important members of Neapolitan society. An inventory of 1723 indicates that his pieces were in the possession of the Duchess of Terranova, while records of 1725 show that examples of Nani’s still-life flower painting featured in the collection of the Duke of Limatola.

 

Nani also seems to have found favour with Spanish royalty and he was commissioned to create a great number of works for royal residences. These works were produced for the newly reinstated Spanish Crown, which had recaptured the Kingdom of Naples and Sicily in 1734. Spanish rule dramatically changed the artistic landscape of Naples, bringing royal patronage to its inhabitants. Indeed, shortly after regaining power of these lands, King Philip V of Spain (1683-1746) commissioned numerous works from artists in the region, a tradition that was continued by his successors.

 

Works by Nani that were obtained and commissioned by Spanish royalty include, Still-Life with Flowers and Fruit (Royal Palace, Caserta), Still-Life with Spaghetti, Meat, Wine and Fruit (Royal Palace, Naples) and Vegetable Seller with Donkey, (Royal Palace, Caserta). The Royal Palace of Riofrío also possesses a series of twenty-four paintings by Nani, which were given by Charles III of Spain (1716-1788) to his mother Elisabetta Farnese (1692-1766). Furthermore, an inventory of 1746 suggests that Nani’s work was present at the Royal Palace of La Granja of San Ildefonso.

 

Nani’s paintings also currently feature in a number of Italian and international collections, in addition to the museums of Capodimonte and San Martino. Moreover, the museum in San Martino holds works from Nani’s time at the Capodimonte porcelain factory, which was established in Naples in 1743. At the factory Nani utilised his skills as a still-life artist to hand-paint a number of porcelain vases and dishes. He decorated these objects with a variety of images that also appear in his paintings, including fruit, vegetables, rural scenes and animals.

 

When examining Nani’s oeuvre it is very difficult to track the artist’s development, as he did not date the majority of his works. However, one still-life painting with flowers, sold at Christie’s in London November 10, 1967 (lot 56), is dated to 1725. This may suggest that during this time Nani concentrated on depicting flowers, a form of still-life painting that was very popular during the period in both Naples and Spain.

 

Throughout his career, Nani also produced a significant number of works that focus on hunting. This is evidenced in such works as Hunting Still-life (Private Collection, Madrid, see Della Ragione, 2003 p.46). A. Della Ragione suggests that Nani’s adoption of this subject matter was likely to have been influenced by the tastes of Charles III, who was extremely passionate about the sport (see Della Ragione, 2003 p. 45).

 

The theme of hunting and the gathering of food is the dominant subject of the present collection of works. The paintings Hawk attacking a Hare, Still-Life with Hunting Trophies and Still-Life with Hunting Trophies and Basket are all set within a rural landscape, with trees and a blue sky flecked with clouds in the backdrop. Nani has paid great care in his depiction of the animals in these pieces, seen in his precise rendering of the birds’ feathers and the fur of the hare. Furthermore, in Still-Life with Hunting Trophies Nani’s signature ‘Giacomo Nani f’ is visible in the lower right hand side of the image, as if inscribed on the surface of the rock.

 

Still life with Figs and Sausage, the fourth piece in this series of artworks, is the only painting set inside an interior space. The selection of food includes figs in a basket, slices of sausage delicately laid out on a plate, pears and apples. The composition of the work, in addition to Nani’s delicate craftsmanship, gives the objects on display a tactile quality.

 

These paintings are united not only by their use of colour and dimensions, but also in their linear presentation of a particular narrative. Indeed, Hawk attacking a Hare is characterised by the action of the hunt, in which a bird is seen aggressively stalking and killing its prey. Still-Life with Hunting Trophies and Still-Life with Hunting Trophies and Basket follow this work and depict the aftermath of the hunt. In the former work Nani has focused on displaying the spoils of the hunt, while in the latter the dead game is collected and gathered in a basket. The series reaches its conclusion in the calm interior space of the kitchen in Still life with Figs and Sausage, where the freshly collected food is arranged and ordered in preparation for a meal.

Related Works