Francesco Fidanza (1747–1819)
Vesuvius Erupting at Night, c. 1790
Oil on canvas - 15 1/2 x 22 5/8 inches
Portland, Art Museum
Photo : Portalnd Art Museum
6/5/14 - Acquisition - Portland, Museum - The scene of Naples at night is divided in two, on the left burnt by the red lava spouting from the volcano, on the right lit by the cold halo of the moon glimpsed between the clouds. Francesco Fidenza represented Vesuvius in a painting acquired in 2013 by the Portland museum from Charles Beddington. Influenced by the aesthetics of the sublime, the painter produced the work during a stay in Naples around 1790, probably intended for travelers on the Grand Tour wishing to purchase souvenirs to take back. We know of another view of Vesuvius by Fidanza which resides in Sorrento. As usual, the foreground of the composition shows human figures, standing in front of a boat moored at dock ; in this case, he has given them an exotic air with their turbans. The outline of another ship barely visible through the darkness on the left is almost identical to one which appears in a Coastal View by the artist and presented at auction by Cambi on 23 April 2013.
Francesco Fidenza remains unknown ; we are not sure if he was born in Rome or Città di Castello but documents tell us he came from a family of painters, including his father Filippo (1720-1790) and his brother Gregorio (1759-1823). Fidenza traveled to Paris around 1800 where he discovered the work of Vernet and Lacroix de Marseille, who influenced him although we do not know if he trained with them. He exhibited several landscapes at the Salon of 1801, scenes showing fog, moonlight and one seascape, and also at the Salon of 1804. After 1808, he settled in Milan where he painted a series of ports for Eugène de Beauharnais.