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Work St. Cecilia at the organ surrounded by angels

Department of Prints and Drawings: 17th century

Sainte Cécile à l'orgue entourée d'anges

Prints and Drawings
17th century

Boyer Sarah

A complex, multi-faceted artist who easily absorbed visual experience, Giordano is revealed often to have been an inspired draftsman. The composition and graphic aspects of this drawing of St. Cecilia playing the organ indicate it was completed early in Giordano's career, when he was still very much influenced by his master Jusepe de Ribera (1591-1652). HIs brilliant calligraphic style exploits all the effects possible with brown wash.

The master Ribera

Giordano was famed in his day for his skill in making the style of his illustrious masters his own, although his own touch is immediately recognizable. He tried to minimize the role of drawing, but his exceptional talent in this field shone through. The style of this early drawing, as well as that of a Martyrdom of St. Sebastian, also in the Louvre, is identical to that of a study in the Villa Farnesina in Rome for the painting Jesus among the Doctors (Galleria Nazionale d'Arte Antica, Rome), whose date may be between 1657 and 1660. The freshness of Ribera's influence can be seen in the use of fragmented lines and in the positioning of all the figures in the same plane of perspective. Giordano brought to his drawings a sense of scale and a pictorial sensibility that are his own, which may be seen in a comparison of two refined, detailed studies in the Louvre - Moses drawing water from the rock and Samson and Delilah - with drawings by Ribera.

. . . and Rosa and Cambiaso . . .

Evoking the Neapolitan artistic ambiance of the second half of the 17th century, this drawing, as well as Giordano's Susannah and the Elders (Museo Nazionale di Capodimonte, Naples), also echoes the graphic work of Salvator Rosa, particularly his Woman playing a Lute (Teylers Museum, Haarlem), in the broad, free, sweeping lines that scorn formal construction and painstaking accuracy. His style also came under the influence of the Genoese artist Luca Cambiaso. Literary sources indicate that in his youth, Giordano practiced copying Cambiaso's works. This is corroborated by a fragment of a letter dated 1687, written on the reverse of a drawing in Munich catalogued as an anonymous 17th-century work. The Genoese influence probably played an important part in helping Giordano break free from the shadow of his master Ribera; this contact, together with trips to Venice and Rome, helped Giordano develop a freer style.

Giordano the draftsman

Giordano the draftsman has a great deal in common with Giordano the painter. In both cases, he uses a wide variety of techniques, some unusual, such as the combination of pen for outlines and chalk to bulk out volumes. His drawings reveal a spontaneous temperament and are less the result of his research than the reflection of his impressions, thrown down vigorously on the page. He worked in several styles at a time and often returned to previous styles to give them another try. In the 1670s, his figures seemed to melt into their surroundings, which were filled with a new light. In both drawing and painting, he developed a more personal style from around 1680, which set him apart from other artists of the late 17th century. His art became more consistent: no drawings from this later period show the least sign of mediocrity or weakness.


Monbeig-Goguel C., Vitzthum W., in Le dessin à Naples du XVIe au XVIIIe siècle : XXXIXe exposition du Cabinet des Dessins, Paris, Musée du Louvre, 1967, n 70.
Borrelli G., Delfino A., De Vito G., Ricerce sul '600 napoletano : saggi e documenti per la Storia dell'Arte dedicato a Luca Giordano, Milan, L.T., 1991.
Ferrari O., Scavizzi G., Luca Giordano : l'opera completa, Naples, Electa Napoli, 2 vol., 1992.
Cassani S., Sapio M., Luca Giordano : 1634-1705, cat. exp., Castel Sant'Elmo-Museo di Capodimonte, 3 mars-3 juin 2001, Vienne, Kunsthistorisches Museum, 22 juin-7 octobre 2001, Los Angeles Country Museum, 4 novembre 2001 - 20 janvier 2002, Naples, Electa, 2000.
Scavizzi G., Luca Giordano : l'opera completa , Naples, Electa, 2 vol., 2001.
Ferrari O., Scavizzi G., Luca Giordano : nuove ricerche e inediti, Naples, Electa, 2003.

Technical description

  • Luca Giordano (1634-1705)

    St. Cecilia at the organ surrounded by angels


  • Pen and brown ink, brown wash over black chalk

    H. 25 cm; L. 20 cm

  • Charles-Paul Jean-Baptiste de Bourgevin Vialart de Saint-Morys collection; seizure of émigrés' possessions, 1793; allocated to the Museum, 1796-97

    INV 12558

  • Prints and Drawings

    Due to their fragility, works on paper are not on permanent display in the museum.

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