Paolo Domenico Finoglio
(Paulus Finolius neapolitanus)
Considered for a long time by the world of art criticism as a lesser painter; after the recent studies and the important anthological show of Conversano (April 2000), Finoglio is now revalued and relocated to his appropriate role as a first rate artist in the period of the 16th century, critical investigation and study based on restaurations performed by the technicians of Puglia, have made timely knowledge of the work of Finoglio and have helped elevate him to the position of a principal painter of 16th century Naples.
It was not by chance that he was among the first to be called to the important assignment of frescoing the lunettes of the capitular room and the chapel devoted to St. Martin in the famous Neapolitan Carthusian Monastery. And as in so many Neapolitan churches, in Pozzuoli and in the province of Salerno was produced, within the 20’s and 30’s of the 16th century, valuable and admired paintings.
As a painter it could be said that, withdrawn into the province, away from the glory of the capital, Finoglio enjoyed less, in comparison to his contemporaries Foal, Caracciolo, Stanzione, etc., the official celebrations.
Additionally the scarce biographical documentation does little justice to his legacy. With certainty, however, is known that after his apprenticeship in the shop of Battistello Caracciolo, around 1610, when he would have been approximately twenty years old, Finoglio was in Apulia, in Salento, where he produced four pieces with the Histories of Abramo, today preserved in the church of the Lecce Rosario.
Recent restaurations have brought to light on one of the four pieces the painter’s signature and a date, that due to the wear of time has made illegible, but accordingly should read 1620. With a long relationship with the religious orders, perhaps with their mediation, Finoglio retains contact with Giangirolamo II Acquaviva of Aragon, count of Conversano.
The powerful feudal lord, whose reach extended far to Otranto, immediately entrusts work to the neapolitano painter . On the occasion of his wedding to the noblewoman Isabella Filomarino dei Principi della Rocca, in 1622, the count commissions frescos for the room in the alcove of the castle.
Painted within are scenes of the Histories of Giacobbe as told in Genesis, along with a preference to focus on to the matrimony of Lia and Rachel. An explicit intent of the depiction of the matrimony is to convey a wish of prosperity to the noble Conversanese.
Subsequently Finoglio is transferred to Naples, where he produces the frescos in the Carthusian Monastery. And so follows a period of intense work, but above all a time for acquiring knowledge of contemporary authors, from which Finoglio learns and with which he is measured. Of notable impact, with Artemisia Gentileschi, are the frequent results from which he conceives a new sense of color and subject.
In 1634 he returns to Conversano.
The count confers upon Finoglio the charge to perform ten great scenes taken from the work “Jerusalem Delivered” by Torquato Tasso, a very beloved author of conversanese lineage. The poem tassesco inspires representation of militarily heroic protagonists in which the count patron is recognized, boasting for his ancestors the legendary hero Tancredi of Lecce the founder of the Conversanese house, and the Count Giulio Anthony, heroically famous for giving his life in the battle of Otrantina against the Turks in 1481.
Other themes represented in the pictorial series is that of love sensually lived and suffered, as it appears in scenes with the characters Tancredi and Clorinda, Rinaldo and Armida. In short, wihin this courtly reading of the work Tassesca and in the Baroque interpretation given by Finoglio, is realized an important pictorial series of profane subject matter greatly reflecting the artistic work of 16th century Italy.
In Conversano Finoglio produced many other paintings; and splendid are those done to adorn the altars of the church of the SSs. Cosma and Damiano, in which the painter perhaps gives perhaps his best performances, uniting post-Caravaggian with naturalistic experience, displaying a monumental construction of figures, as was fashionable in the Rome of this period.
Other works created in Monopoli, in the centers of the Salento, and naturally in Conversano (the very beautiful S. Benedetto and S. Biagio have some of the greatest altars seen in the Benedictine church) confound the premature departure of Finoglio from legendary status.
In fact, Finoglio died in 1645, after completion of the project of decorating the church of the SSs. Medici, in Conversano.