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Luca Giordano

(1634–1705, Naples)

Christ and the Adulteress. Etching. 36 x 50.1 cm. 1653. Bartsch 21, 177, 5 I (of II). Watermark: Easter Lamb in Double Circle.

Luca Giordano is one of the key artistic figures in Neapolitan Baroque painting. His prolific output and tremendous creative powers were legendary among his contemporaries, earning him the epithet Fà presto. In his early years in Naples, Giordano was substantially influenced by Jusepe de Ribera and later by Pietro da Cortona, under whom he may have studied. The artist undertook several journeys to Italy and spent a lengthy period in Venice, where he studied the work of Veronese very closely. In contrast to his extensive painted oeuvre Giordano produced just six etchings, all of which date to his early period. They are very varied in style and point to the diversity of Giordano’s sources of inspiration. His etchings are rare and were evidently printed in small editions, which would explain why the artist did not enjoy the fame of later years at the time he made them. All the works arose in Naples and were issued there by local publishers in the early 1650s immediately after Giordano’s first journey to Venice and northern Italy.

Christ and the Adulteress is the artist’s only etching with a date on it – 1658. According to Bellini, however, that should read 1653. The large composition with its abundance of figures has been rendered in a light, nimble etching technique which is deliberately intended to produce a tonal, painterly effect and is still very much influenced by Ribera. The slightly uneven printing quality – a characteristic of this work – shows that Giordano is not yet really au fait with the fine points of the technique. This is an impression of the exceedingly rare first state of the etching, before the address of the publisher, Francesco Palmieri. Already Adam von Bartsch noted the rarity of this particular state. A very fine, tonal impression with a delicate, vibrant veil of tone, with thread margins. Minor ageing, otherwise in perfect condition.

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