Cortese was a painter of suggestive light effects at dawn or dusk over Classical ruins. He was active in Naples, Rome and Paris.
The three ancient Greek temples of Paestum (circa 550 – circa 450 BC) rank amongst the best preserved from Antiquity. They were discovered only some 125 years before Cortese painted them.
About Federico Cortese
Naples 1829 – 1913 Naples
Pupil in Naples of the Court painter Salvatore Fergola and from around 1850 of the landscape painter Gabriele Smargiassi, who introduced him to the figure painter Domenico Morelli. Smargiassi learned him the naturalistic and luministic principles of the local School of Posillipo.
Cortese moved in 1854 to Rome, where he remained for some ten years. Here he was strongly influenced by Achille Vertunni, a Romantic landscape painter who specialised in views of the Roman Campagna and its ruins.
In 1864 our painter was appointed honorary professor of the Albertina Academy in Turin, in 1866 of the Academy of Fine Arts in Bologna.
From 1864 onwards Cortese travelled regularly to Paris, where he came into contact with Jean-Baptiste Corot and other members of the pre-Impressionist School of Barbizon. In Paris he exhibited at the Salons of 1868, 1879 and 1880. The first three Kings of a united Italy, Vittorio Emanuele II Umberto I and Vittorio Emanuele III, regularly bought paintings from Cortese.
At an advanced age Cortese moved to a modern villa in the hills above Naples, in the Vomero district.
About our painting
Cortese specialised in large landscapes with Classical ruins, studying light effects at dawn or twilight over the Roman Campagna and Paestum. He also painted views around Naples and in France.
Paestum, some 90 km. S. of Naples, on the Tyrrhenian coast, is known for its three ancient Greek temples, built in the Doric order between circa 550 and 450 BC. They rank among the best-preserved temples of Antiquity. They were discovered around 1750. Paestum is the Latin name given by the Romans to the ancient Greek city of Posedonia (that name refers to Poseidon, God of the Sea).
In the 8th century BC Greek city-states started with the creation of numerous colonies along the shores of the Mediterranean and the Black Seas for demographic, commercial or political reasons. The most important colonies in S. Italy were Syracuse and Agrigento on Sicily, Taranto and Naples on the mainland. Inhabitants from another important city, Sybayris (close to Taranto) are said to have created Paestum.
The two temples in our painting were dedicated to Hera (wife of Zeus and protectress of married women), the third temple to Athena (goddess of wisdom). At their discovery in the 18th century our two temples were erroneously identified as a public Roman building, a Basilica (in our painting at left), and as a Temple of Poseidon (at right). The third temple, that stands separately, was mistakenly seen as a Temple of Ceres.
In the foreground of our painting stand two water buffaloes. S. Italy is indeed well-known for its production of Mozzarella, the white balls of cheese made from buffalo milk, which is soaked in salt water or whey.
Why should you buy this painting?
Because it is a grand Romantic view on some of the major ruins of Italy.