1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Giordano, Luca
GIORDANO, LUCA (1632–1705), Italian painter, was born in Naples, son of a very indifferent painter, Antonio, who imparted to him the first rudiments of drawing. Nature predestined him for the art, and at the age of eight he painted a cherub into one of his father’s pictures, a feat which was at once noised abroad, and induced the viceroy of Naples to recommend the child to Ribera. His father afterwards took him to Rome, to study under Pietro da Cortona. He acquired the nickname of Luca Fa-presto (Luke Work-fast). One might suppose this nickname to be derived merely from the almost miraculous celerity with which from an early age and throughout his life he handled the brush; but it is said to have had a more express origin. The father, we are told, poverty-stricken and greedy of gain, was perpetually urging his boy to exertion with the phrase, "Luca, fà presto." The youth obeyed his parent to the letter, and would actually not so much as pause to snatch a hasty meal, but received into his mouth, while he still worked on, the food which his father’s hand supplied. He copied nearly twenty times the “Battle of Constantine” by Julio Romano, and with proportionate frequency several of the great works of Raphael and Michelangelo. His rapidity, which belonged as much to invention as to mere handiwork, and his versatility, which enabled him to imitate other painters deceptively, earned for him two other epithets, "The Thunderbolt" (Fulmine), and "The Proteus," of Painting. He shortly visited all the main seats of the Italian school of art, and formed for himself a style combining in a certain measure the ornamental pomp of Paul Veronese and the contrasting compositions and large schemes of chiaroscuro of Pietro da Cortona. He was noted also for lively and showy colour. Returning to Naples, and accepting every sort of commission by which money was to be made, he practised his art with so much applause that Charles II. of Spain towards 1687 invited him over to Madrid, where he remained thirteen years. Giordano was very popular at the Spanish court, being a sprightly talker along with his other marvellously facile gifts, and the king created him a cavaliere. One anecdote of his rapidity of work is that the queen of Spain having one day made some inquiry about his wife, he at once showed Her Majesty what the lady was like by painting her portrait into the picture on which he was engaged. Soon after the death of Charles in 1700 Giordano, gorged with wealth, returned to Naples. He spent large sums in acts of munificence, and was particularly liberal to his poorer brethren of the art. He again visited various parts of Italy, and died in Naples on the 12th of January 1705, his last words being “O Napoli, sospiro mio” (O Naples, my heart’s love!). One of his maxims was that the good painter is the one whom the public like, and that the public are attracted more by colour than by design.
Giordano had an astonishing readiness and facility, in spite of the general commonness and superficiality of his performances. He left many works in Rome, and far more in Naples. Of the latter one of the most renowned is “Christ expelling the Traders from the Temple,” in the church of the Padri Girolamini, a colossal work, full of expressive lazzaroni; also the frescoes of S. Martino, and those in the Tesoro della Certosa, including the subject of “Moses and the Brazen Serpent”; and the cupola-paintings in the Church of S. Brigida, which contains the artist’s own tomb. In Spain he executed a surprising number of works,—continuing in the Escorial the series commenced by Cambiasi, and painting frescoes of the “Triumphs of the Church,” the “Genealogy and Life of the Madonna,” the stories of Moses, Gideon, David and Solomon, and the “Celebrated Women of Scripture,” all works of large dimensions. His pupils, Aniello Rossi and Matteo Pacelli, assisted him in Spain. In Madrid he worked more in oil-colour, a Nativity there being one of his best productions. Other superior examples are the “Judgment of Paris” in the Berlin Museum, and “Christ with the Doctors in the Temple,” in the Corsini Gallery of Rome. In Florence, in his closing days, he painted the Cappella Corsini, the Galleria Riccardi and other works. In youth he etched with considerable skill some of his own paintings, such as the “Slaughter of the Priests of Baal.” He also painted much on the crystal borderings of looking-glasses, cabinets, &c., seen in many Italian palaces, and was, in this form of art, the master of Pietro Garofolo. His best pupil, in painting of the ordinary kind, was Paolo de Matteis.
Bellori, in his Vite de' pittori moderni, is a leading authority regarding Luca Giordano. P. Benvenuto (1882) has written a work on the Riccardi paintings.