Solimene, Francis

, called LAbate Ciccio, from his mode of dressing like an abbot, an illustrious Italian painter, was descended of a good family, and born at Nocera de’ Pagani near Naples in 1657. His father Angelo, who had been a scholar of Massimo, and was a good painter and a man of learning, discerned an uncommon genius in his son; who is said to have spent whole nights in the studies of poetry and philosophy. He designed also so judiciously in chiaro obscure, tiiat his performances surprised all who saw them. Angelo intended him for the Jaw, and did not alter his purpose, though he was informed of his other extraordinary talents, till cardinal Orsini advised him. This cardinal, afterwards Benedict Xiji. at a visit happened to examine the youth in philosophy, and, although satisfied with his answers, observed, that he would do better, if he did not waste so much of his time in drawing; but when these drawings were produced, he was so surprised, that he told the father how unjust he would be both to his son and to the art, if he attempted to check a genius so manifestly displayed. Ou this, Solimene had full liberty given him to follow his inclination. Two years passed on, while he studied under his lather, after which, in 1674, he went to Naples, and put himself under the direction of Francesco di Maria. Thinking, however, that this artist laid too great a stress on design, he soon left | him, and guided himself by the works of Lanfranc and Calabrese in composition and chiaro obscuro, while those of Pietro Cortona and Luca Jordano were his standards for colouring, and Guido and Carlo Maratti for drapery. By an accurate and well-managed study of these masters, he formed to himself an excellent style, and soon distinguished himself as a painter. Hearing that the Jesuits intended to paint the chapel of St. Anne in the church Jesu Nuovo, he sent them a sketch by an architecture painter; not daring to carry it himself, lest a prejudice against his youth might exclude him. His design was nevertheless accepted, and, while he was employed on this chapel, the best painters of Naples visited him, astonished to h’nd themselves surpassed by a mere boy. This was his first moment of distinction, and his reputation increased so fast, that great works were offered him from every quarter. His fame extending to other countries, the kings of France and Spain made him very advantageous proposals to engage him in their service, all which he declined. Philip V. arriving at Naples, commanded him to paint his portrait, and allowed him to sit in his presence: and the emperor Charles VI. knighted him on account of a picture he sent him. In 1701, he resided at Rome during the holy year: when the pope and cardinals took great notice of him. This painter is also known by his sonnets, which have been often printed in collections of poetry; and, at eighty years of age, he could repeat from memory the most beautiful passages of the poets, in the application of which he was very happy. He died in 1747, at almost ninety. He painted entirely after nature; being fearful, as he said, that too servile an attachment to the antique might damp the fire of his imagination. He was a man of a good temper, who neither criticised the works of others out of envy, nor was blind to his own defects. He told the Italian author of his life, that he had advanced many falsities in extolling the character of his works: which had procured him a great deal of money, but yet were very far short of perfection. The grand duke of Tuscany with difficulty prevailed on Solimene’s modesty to send him his picture, which he wanted to place in his gallery among other painters.1


Pilkington. Argeuville, vol. II.