De Simone: astronomoGaetano de Simone

Naples 1747circa 1822 

Portrait of the astronomer Giuseppe Cassella (Cusano Mutri 1755-Naples 1808) 

1789 

Oil on canvas, 66 × 52 cm 

Signed and dated on the back of the frame, top: ‚ÄúGaetano De Simone 1789 Napoli‚ÄĚ; lower left: ‚ÄúGaetano De Simoni‚Ä̬†

Provenance: Italy, private collection 

 

Gaetano De Simone was rediscovered only recently as a protagonist of aristocratic Neapolitan portraiture around the turn of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries¬†(Massimo Pisani,¬†‚ÄúGaetano De Simone, un¬†ignoto¬†pittore¬†napoletano¬†della¬†seconda¬†met√†¬†del¬†Settecento‚ÄĚ,¬†Prospettiva,¬†47,¬†1986, pp. 69-74; Id.¬†‚ÄúAncora¬†su¬†Gaetano De Simone‚ÄĚ,¬†Prospettiva, 64, 1991, 83-87).¬†¬†

In this portrait he owes a debt to the illuminist simplicity of¬†Mengsian¬†models, concentrating on the face of the sitter seen against an abstract background. The work is an exceptional iconographic record, it represents the illustrious Neapolitan astronomer Giuseppe¬†Cassella¬†(or Casella, Cusano¬†Mutri¬†1755-Naples 1808), accompanied by the attribute of the telescope. The scholar lectured in astronomy and nautical studies, was author of ‚ÄúAstronomical Ephemera,‚ÄĚ published annually from 1788 and designer of the first public Neapolitan observatory in 1791 at Palazzo¬†degli¬†Studi, then Museo¬†Borbonico, where he and the architect Pompeo¬†Schiattarelli¬†made the famous meridian in the room of the same name. At the time the painting was made¬†Cassella¬†made use for his¬†astronomical research of the apparatus at the private observatory belonging to Lord Acton at San Carlo¬†alle¬†Mortelle¬†(Ugo¬†Baldini,¬†Giuseppe Casella, in¬†Dizionario¬†Biografico¬†degli¬†Italiani, vol. 21, 1978,¬†ad¬†vocem).¬†

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