Artibus et Historiae no. 66 (XXXIII)

2012, ISSN 0391-9064

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KATHERINE M. WALLACE, WILLIAM E. WALLACE - Seeing Chiari Clearly (pp. 239–246)

The altarpiece in the Tedalini Chapel of San Silvestro in Capite, Rome, painted by Giuseppe Bartolomeo Chiari (1654–1727) is not only the artist’s masterpiece, but also an intelligent synthesis of some of the most innovative art in Rome. Painted on the cusp of the eighteenth century, Chiari’s masterwork represents a type of altarpiece which continued to exert an influence throughout the century – that of the Madonna and Child imagined as a statue come to life before the faithful viewer. Although Chiari is principally known as an important pupil of the highly successful Carlo Maratta, in this case, Chiari surpasses his master. Chiari reinvigorates the altarpiece tradition by returning to the most innovative works of Caravaggio, but makes them palatable to a contemporary audience. In hindsight, Caravaggio is the greater artist, but it is important to recognize that Chiari was once the preferred artist, successfully articulating a taste that would be dominant in eighteenth-century aesthetics.

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