Wednesday, August 4, 2010

St Roch

Title: St Roch
Artist: Bernardo Strozzi
Medium: Oil on canvas
Size: 78 x 67 cm
Date: c. 1640
Location: Scuola Grande di San Rocco, Venice.

Saint Roch or Rocco, lived c.1348 – c. 1376, was a Christian saint, a confessor whose death is commemorated on 16 August. Among his many accolades is his distinction as the Patron Saint of dogs. Legend has that upon coming to Italy during an outbreak of the plague, St Roch ministered untiringly to the sick and at Piacenza he himself finally fell ill. He was expelled from the town and withdrew into the forest, where he made himself a hut of boughs and leaves. There he would have perished had not a dog belonging to a nobleman supplied him with bread and licked his wounds, healing them. The nobleman, following his hunting dog that carried the bread, discovered Saint Roch and became his acolyte.

This painting is a representative example of the picturesqueness of Bernardo Strozzi's work with its vivid chromatic effects developed from examples of Rubens's school. Here, a healed St Roch looks heavenward in thanks, while his canine savior rests dutifully at his side, loaf of sustaining bread at the ready. Salvation can come from many sources, from any of God’s creatures, no matter how common or unassuming.

Bernardo Strozzi (b. 1581, Genova, d. 1644, Venezia) was an Italian painter, the most important exponent of the rich vein of Genoese art in the seventeenth century. He entered the Capuchin Order in about 1597, hence his nicknames, Il Prete Genovese (the Genoese priest) and Il Cappuccino (the Capuchin). The sensuous richness of his style was influenced by Rubens (who worked in Genoa), but his work is highly distinctive, with an air of refinement and tenderness that recalls Van Dyck (who also worked in Genoa). The Ligurian school was molded through its contacts first with Rubens, which led to him using rich, thick colours applied with wide brushstrokes, and later with Van Dyck, whose refined elegance added its own influence. Strozzi's interpretation of these trends was highly original and combined with his thorough knowledge of other currents in art, from the Lombard school to the diffusion of Caravaggio's style.

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