Salvator rosa’s self-portraits: Some problems of identity and meaning

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Salvator Rosa (1615-1673), the Italian painter and satiric poet, has been best known since the nineteenth century as a painter of ruggedly wild landscapes and a ‘proto-Romantic’ often at odds with society. Rosa also painted large figure compositions, often of unusual subjects or complex philosophical allegories, and his poetry, composed primarily in the form of biting, Cynical satires, covered a variety of subjects from the arts of painting, poetry, and music, to the horrors of war and the corruption of the church, princes, and society.1 In addition to his paintings, drawings, prints, and poems, the hundreds of Rosa’s surviving letters provide a vivid picture of an artist struggling to advance his career in mid-century Rome.2 Sometimes passionate, frequently touching, their subjects range from musings on philosophy to Rosa’s family and work, the price of paint and canvas, art exhibitions, his aspirations, successes, and disappointments. He commented, frequently with bitterness, on the politics of Papal Rome and his rivalry with other painters and writers, and he freely gave his opinions on art patrons. Although sincere, the letters reflect Rosa’s cultivated self-image as a scornful cynic, a critic of Church and State, and a painter of moral subjects. He liked to think of himself as a painter-philosopher in the manner of his more well-known and successful contemporary Nicholas Poussin. © 1989 Taylor & Francis Group, LLC.

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Seventeenth Century