GIOVANNI BATTISTA VIOLA
(Bologna 1576 – 1622 Rome)
Two Scenes of Diana and Actaeon
A pair, each oval, oil on copper
9 x 11 ⅛ inches
(23 x 28 cm)
Suida-Manning Collection, New York (until 1996)
Private Collection (1996-2017)
Giovanni Battista Viola was born in Bologna and studied there with Annibale Carracci, whom he followed to Rome around 1601. He is documented the following year in Annibale’s studio and, for the next two decades worked with and for Annibale (who died in 1609), Francesco Albani, and Domenichino. Viola’s paintings were closest in spirit and style to Domenichino’s and inded the authorship of many of their paintings have been confused. Viola grew to become a landscape specialist (but remained an indifferent figure painter), which lent itself to fertile collaboration with Domenichino, in fresco decoration and cabinet paintings. Perhaps most celebrated are the frescoes that once decorated the Stanza d’Apollo at the Villa Aldobrandini in Frascati – now in the National Gallery, London—in which Viola provided the landscape backgrounds to Domenichino’s figures.
This pair of jewel-like paintings on copper are superb examples of Viola’s intimate essays in landscape. The mythological subjects are almost incidental to the composition. In one Actaeon, accompanied by his dog, is seen firing an arrow at an unseen quarry. In the other he has surprised the naked Diana at her bath and is seen being transformed into a stag. But the real subject for both are the luminous landscapes, romantic evocations of an ideal world with rolling hills, verdant foliage, and distant mountains – all beneath twilight cloud-filled skies.
Dr. Francesca Cappelletti has personally examined the present paintings and confirmed Viola’s authorship. Besides the clear bonds to Domenichino and Annibale Carracci, she notes the affinities with Northern landscape specialists active in Rome, particularly Paul Bril, with whom Viola collaborated on several occasions.