117. Mariano Rossi (1731 – 1807)

Painter born in Sciacca, Mariano Rossi was active mostly in Rome, Campania, Piedmont and Sicily during the mid-eighteenth century. Born Mario Antonino Russo, he changed his name later in Mariano Rossi. His first teacher, Gaspare Testoni, noticed his potential as a painter and directed him to the school of Filippo Randazzo in Palermo. When Randazzo died, in 1744, Rossi moved to Naples, where he connected with master Francesco Solimena who influenced Rossi’s frescoes style.

After about three years in Naples, Rossi went to Rome, where he was welcomed in the workshop of Marco Benefial and participated in a competition for young artists -“Accademia di San Luca”, 1754. His second place award settled his baptism in the artistic world, so that in 1764 he was welcomed among the members of the Academy itself. Between 1764 and 1768 he devoted himself to paint the large altar paintings in the church of Saint Joseph in Lungara in Rome where he painted the Adoration of the Magi, the Massacre of the Innocents, The Dream of St. Joseph, thirteen squares with the central scene of Christ in the Garden and, laterally, The Twelve Apostles. And yet four rounds with the birth of the Redeemer, The Marriage of the Virgin, Jesus in Joseph’s workshop and Death of Joseph. Finally he painted the vault in the sacristy of the Church’s triumph in 1768 and painted a Charity in the chapel of the convent attached to the church.

In the years 1767-8, Rossi went back to his hometown, where carried out a remarkable job in the city churches of Giummare (where you can see an ‘Assumption of the Virgin Mary), Purgatory (The Virgin with consoling the souls) and St. Francis of Paola (Our Lady of Light, Holy Family and Deposition of Christ).

Many paintings from his time in Rome can still be appreciated such as the “Dream of Innocent III” and the “Confirmation of the rule” in the basilica of Santa Maria in Aracoeli, the “Meeting of the saints Peter and Paul on the road of martyrdom” for the Church Saint Lucia of the Banner, the “Deposition” for the church of Our Lady of Consolation, and the “Stations of the Cross” for Santa Maria dei Monti .

Favored by his popularity and the support of Cardinal Alessandro Albani, in 1770, Rossi was engaged in Turin at the court of Charles Emmanuel III, Duke of Savoy and King of Sardinia. In addition, Cardinal Carlo Vittorio Amadeo delle Lanze commissioned the “Annunciation” (1774) for the abbey of Fruttuaria in San Benigno Canavese. Also, in 1774, Prince Marcantonio IV Borghese commissioned him to fresco the ceiling of the entrance hall of the building of the Galleria Borghese. The fresco represents the ‘Apotheosis of Romulus welcomed by Jupiter to Olympus” and occupied him until 1779.

Mariano Rossi, Romulus greeted by Zeus on Mount Olympus, Galleria Borghese
Mariano Rossi, Romulus greeted by Zeus on Mount Olympus, Galleria Borghese

In 1787 King Ferdinand IV of Naples commissioned to fresco the ceiling of the living room which is the antechamber to the royal apartments of the Royal Palace of Caserta. Rossi painted the wedding of Alexander the Great with Roxane.

Wedding of Alexander the Great and Roxanne, Royal Palace, Caserta, Mariano Rossi
Wedding of Alexander the Great and Roxanne, Royal Palace, Caserta, Mariano Rossi

In 1798, together with Ferdinand IV, Rossi fled from Naples to Palermo. In 1802 he was asked to decorate the cathedral of Palermo where he frescoed the apse and the choir vault painting the “Assumption of the Virgin Mary”. Rossi led the Academy of Design in Palermo until 1804. In 1806 he was recalled by the Sovereign in Caserta, but during the Napoleonic invasion was forced to flee to Rome where, at age seventy-five, he died and was buried in the Church of Santa Susanna.

Read More:
1. Wikipedia, https://it.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mariano_Rossi

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