Francesco Solimena (1657-1747), The Annunciation, after 1733
When San Rocco in Venice was remodelled in 1733, three of the leading artists of the time were asked to do altarpieces for the church. Two commissions went to the Venetian Marco Ricci (1676-1730), one to the Roman Trevisani (1656-1746), and one to the Neapolitan Solimena, who was regarded as one of Europe’s finest (and most expensive) painters at the time.
In all likelihood the intention was to compare the three Italian schools of painting with each other.
The emotional intensity of Solimena's picture
Ricci’s lavishly coloured extravaganzas and Trevisani’s conventionally based pathos are no match for the emotional intensity of Solimena’s picture.
The museum's version
The museum’s version may be a colour study for the finished painting – which is, however, narrower and finished with a semicircle on top – or, which is more likely, it may be a replica created to be used for teaching at Solimena’s private school of painting. The elegant composition, forceful use of strong contrasts between light and shade, and the figures’ classically restrained poses are all typical of Solimena who looked equally for inspiration within the solemn Baroque and the cheerful Rococo.