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Harbour scene

Salvator Rosa (Naples 1615 - Rome 1673)

Room of Venus
Oil on canvas
233 x 399 cm
1912 no. 4

Salvator Rosa's large view entitled Harbour scene was painted by Salvator Rosa at the very beginning of his long stay in Florence as a pendant to the other seascape subject entitled Harbour with lighthouse and ships. Both views were commissioned by Prince Giovan Carlo de' Medici, who used them to decorate the ground floor hall of his residence in Via della Scala. Salvator Rosa signed both this painting and its pendant, but he did so unobtrusively and on objects of precarious consistency: in the painting in question, his signature was applied to a scrap of cloth floating near the left bank, and in the other on a floating keg adrift on the water.

The large canvas is also known by the title Marina al tramonto (Marina at Sunset), a definition that is well suited to a work strongly characterised by a broad spatial layout defined mainly by the lights of a dazzling sunset. Salvator Rosa shows, in this skilful use of lighting effects, what he had learned in Rome from the works of French landscape painter Claude Lorrain, and particularly his work Port scene with the Medici Villa, now in the Uffizi and painted for Leopold de' Medici, Giovan Carlo's brother.

Another element derived from his experiences in Rome is the way the episodes of seafaring life along the shores and near the boats are narrated in the painting; these are in fact influenced by the Bamboccianti school of painting, which developed in the papal city in the first half of the 17th century following the example of the works of Pieter van Laer, known as Bamboccio, whose subjects were scenes of working-class life.

The realism with which Rosa depicts the activities that took place in the ports was certainly not unrelated to the Neapolitan painter's brief stay in Livorno in March 1641, when he was able to admire at first hand the pulsating life that unfolded in Tuscany's largest port. The most lively scenes in the painting include those on the left, which show the workers busy constructing the galleon, propped up on the ground and covered with a white tarpaulin under the ruins of a fortress overlooked by a tower, and, those on the right, portraying a group of bathers enjoying the last rays of sunlight.

Text by
Silvia Mascalchi
Related artworks

Harbour with lighthouse and ships

Salvator Rosa (Naples 1615 - Rome 1673)

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