Past Events

Salvator Rosa in Britain


  • 18 November 2010
  • 9:30 – 7:00 pm
  • Dulwich Picture Gallery

Salvator Rosa (1615-1673) was one of the boldest and most powerfully inventive artists and personalities of the Italian 17th century. He invented new types of painting: allegorical pictures, distinguished by a haunting and melancholy poetry; fanciful portraits of romantic and enigmatic figures; macabre and horrific subjects; philosophical subjects, which bring into painting some of the major philosophical and scientific concerns of his age. His early works, particularly the landscapes, are bright and rich in picturesque motifs - crumbling towers, boats on the sea shore, colourful travellers crossing perilous bridges, bandits lying in wait in rocky ravines. But he moved towards a grander style, and his mature art is characterised by his dazzlingly free technique, and by his rich chiaroscuro and dark but strong colours which create a suggestive atmosphere. No other artist has created windswept landscapes of such expressive and emotional power, or figures of such dark and brooding intensity. Rosa invented an emphasis on freedom and sincerity. He aimed to intrigue powerful patrons by his mysterious and independent personality. Unlike Caravaggio, Rosa was truly a rebel, radical, anti-clerical, associated with libertine thought, and often in very real danger from the Inquisition.

Man in beret and brown tunic looking forlornly to the side

Salvator Rosa, Philosophy (Self-Portrait), circa 1645

Digital image courtesy of National Gallery, London

Rosa has always had a double importance for art in Britain, as both painter and phenomenon, and the conference aims to explore his vast impact on both painters and writers. Possible themes might include collectors and collecting; Rosa and concepts of the sublime, both in landscape and in magic, prophecy and enchantment; the afterlife of some outstanding works once or still in Britain, such as the Democritus, Belisarius, Atilius Regulus, Empedocles leap into Etna; Rosa and the concepts of Romantic genius and the freedom of the artist; the myths woven around Rosa's biography; bandits and witches.