Born in Syracuse, Minniti arrived in Rome in 1593, where he became the friend, collaborator and model of Baroque painter Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio. Minniti can be identified as model for many of Caravaggio’s early works including “Boy with a Basket of Fruit”, “The Fortune Teller”, “The Musicians”, “Boy Bitten by a Lizard (probable)”, “Bacchus”, “The Lute Player”, “The Calling of Saint Matthew”, and “The Martyrdom of Saint Matthew”.
Around 1600, Minniti married and may have been involved with Caravaggio and others in the 1606 street brawl which resulted in the death of Ranuccio Tomassoni at Caravaggio’s hands. Caravaggio fled to Sicily from where he petitioned for a pardon (it was eventually granted), and it is known that Minniti sheltered Caravaggio on the latter’s stay in Sicily in 1608-1609, procuring for him the important commission for the Burial of Saint Lucy. In Sicily Minniti established a successful workshop producing religious commissions and eventually became a respected local businessman. He used Caravaggio’s opaque beeswax and oil technique to great effect, creating stunning shadows and light in portraiture, particularly in works rendered around 1625. His style evolved over the years, eventually achieving a bold, lively Baroque realism.
Among Minniti’s better known surviving works are the Miracle at Nain (a detail is shown here; regional art gallery at Messina), the Martyrdom of Saint Lucy, Miracle of Saint Clare, (both at the regional art gallery in Palazzo Bellomo, Siracusa), Saint Benedict, Madonna with Child and Saints Cosimo and Damian (Church of Saint Mary, Modica), and Saint John the Baptist (Messina).Mario Minniti was one of the most distinguished Sicilian painters of his era. Indeed, he is one of the few Sicilian painters of the early seventeenth century whose work is still preserved and may be viewed today.
1. Best of Sicily, http://www.bestofsicily.com/mag/art126.htm
2. Wikipedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mario_Minniti