Baroque and Contemporary Art at Pio Monte della Misericordia

Pio Monte della Misericordia
Giovanni Bernando Azzolino, San Paolino che libera lo schiavo, 1626-1630 and Jan Fabre, The Resurrection of Life, 2019. Pio Monte della Misericordia, Naples

The chapel of Pio Monte della Misericordia is fond at no. 253 via dei Tribunali, which was in ancient times the decumanus of Greek Naples. The small, octagonal-plan, 18th-century church is best known for Caravaggio’s masterpiece The Seven Acts of Mercy, a masterful synthesis of the confraternity’s charitable mission and located on the high altar. The side chapels are decorated with paintings by Battistello Caracciolo, Fabrizio Santafede, Luca Giordano, Giovan Vincenzo D’Onofrio and Giovanni Bernardino Azzolino that also illustrate the acts of Christian mercy.

Pio Monte della Misericordia
Caravaggio, The Seven Acts of Mercy, 1606-1607, Pio Monte della Misericordia, Naples

In a project designed to dialogue with these great artists of the Neapolitan Baroque and on the same spiritual themes, the contemporary Belgian artist Jan Fabre created four sculptures (The Purity of Mercy, The Freedom of Compassion, The Resurrection of Life and The Liberation of Passion) out of red coral from the storied manufacturies in Torre del Greco, donating the works to the church in 2019. Coral is known as “red gold” for its economic and apotropaic value. In Fabre’s sculptures, mythological and Christian symbolism merge: the element that links together and repeats in all four works is the anatomical heart, a recurrent symbol in the corporeal research of the Belgian artist, who describes it in one of his Night Diaries as a “courageous and passionate organ”.

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