The Dallas Museum of Art buys a Luca Giordano

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7/3/23 - Acquisition - Dallas, Museum of Art - Sitting in the center of Galerie Colnaghi’s beautiful stand at the last edition (see article) of the Maastricht fair, this grandiose Triumph of Galatea by Luca Giordano (ill. 1) already seemed destined to be snapped up by a major American museum. The Dallas Museum of Art (DMA) announced its acquisition in early December, financed by the Marguerite and Robert Hoffman Fund for European Art Before 1700. Established by Marguerite Steed Hoffman in 2013, in memory of her husband who passed away in 2006, the fund provided the Texas institution with seventeen million dollars for new acquisitions and to support the DMA’s cultural programming and exhibitions (see news item of 3/27/13).

1. Luca Giordano (1634-1705)
The Triumph of Galatea, c. 1675
Oil on canvas - 251 x 302 cm
Dallas Museum of Art
Photo: Colnaghi
See the image in its page

Until then, the Dallas Museum of Art surprisingly had no paintings by this virtuoso and prolific artist, logically present in almost every major museum in the world. We had to make do with a modest sheet by Luca Giordano, donated in 1965, but we can still say without insulting him that he was not the greatest draftsman of his century, contrary to what clumsily attempted to assert one of the sections of the recent retrospective exhibition organized in Paris and Naples (see article). On the contrary, this great Triumph of Galatea rediscovered by the Colnaghi Gallery immediately stands out as a work as seductive as it is emblematic, perfectly enhanced by the superb Venetian frame from the second half of the 17th century, in which it was presented at TEFAF and which the American museum has quite logically preserved.

2. Luca Giordano (1634-1705)
The Triumph of Galatea, before 1677
Oil on canvas - 262 x 305 cm
Florence, Palazzo Pitti, Galleria Palatina
Photo: Sailko
See the image in its page

Coming from a Venetian collection, this Triumph of Galatea was certainly unpublished until now, but the theme is not foreign to the artist, who delivered several variations of it, the most famous of which (ill. 2) is certainly the one kept in the Palazzo Pitti in Florence, painted in Naples for the Florentine senator Ascanio Samminiati, whose house it was inventoried in 1677, thus providing an indisputable terminus ante quem for the painting. This version, which entered the Galleria Palatina in 1928, is also known by a smaller replica, dated around 1675/1677, purchased by the Worcester Art Museum (Massachusetts) in 1961. On the other hand, the Hermitage Museum in Saint Petersburg has kept since the end of the 18th century a third version (ill. 3) for which it would be interesting to have a better photograph, even if the painting seems to be mostly yellowed.

3. Luca Giordano (1634-1705)
The Triumph of Galatea, c. 1675
Oil on canvas - 206 x 306 cm
Saint Petersburg, Hermitage Museum
Photo: Hermitage Museum
See the image in its page

Oreste Ferrari and Giuseppe Scavizzi, authors of Luca Giordano’s catalog raisonné, also list a later version dated around 1682 and now hanging in the State Music Room of Chatsworth House, residence of the Dukes of Devonshire. All these paintings represent the nymph in love with the shepherd Acis, for whom she declined the advances of the Cyclops Polyphemus, with his panpipes. Luca Giordano began to treat the subject by representing the heroine alone, in a relatively simple composition bought in 1829 for the Musée des Beaux-Arts in Bordeaux. The shepherd Acis appears only later, in the version probably made for Andrea d’Avalos, now in Naples. Reputed to represent Galatea and Polyphemus, the painting (ill. 4) in Capodimonte is likely to show the nymph and the shepherd Acis - as the notice of the Colnaghi Gallery rightly points out - since the male figure on the right, accompanied by his flock of sheep, seems to be equipped with his two eyes. The exchange of glances between the protagonists leaves little doubt as to the nature of the ties that bind them, while Galatea clearly ignores the gaze of the Cyclops Polyphemus in the painting now visible to all in Texas.

4. Luca Giordano (1634-1705)
The Triumph of Galatea, c. 1670-1675
Oil on canvas - 127 x 250 cm
Naples, Museo e Real Bosco di Capodimonte
Photo: Studio Speranza
See the image in its page

The chronology established by Ferrari and Scavizzi thus retains its relevance, placing the Bordeaux painting before the Neapolitan one, which itself precedes the group formed by the paintings kept at the Hermitage, the Palazzo Pitti, Chatsworth House and thus, now, in Dallas. In the exhibition at the Petit Palais, the Capodimonte painting was presented not far from Aeneas made immortal by Venus, a little-known masterpiece kept at the Palazzo Chiericati in Vicenza, in which the painter skilfully reuses the figure of Acis present on the paintings in Florence and Saint Petersburg. Abundantly treated since the Renaissance, made famous by the fresco painted by Raphael in the Villa Farnesina, the theme of Galatea’s Triumph is a classic of Italian Baroque painting and this new version is an undeniable contribution to the rich collections of the Texas museum. Luca Giordano is well represented in American public collections, from the Metropolitan Museum of Art to the Getty Museum, which continue to regularly add works by the Neapolitan artist: thus, let us mention The Deliverance of St. Peter, which was acquired by Toledo in 2014 (see the news item of 10/31/14) or, more recently, Christ Among the Doctors, which was acquired by Minneapolis (see the news item of 2/17/22).

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