Pietro Novelli, called Il Monrealese
Arguably the only significant painter working in Sicily in the early 17th century, Pietro Novelli, known as Monrealese after his birthplace, was established as an independent artist by 1618. The early influence of Anthony Van Dyck, who was in Palermo in 1624, is evident in Monrealese’s fresco of The Coronation of the Virgin, painted in 1630 for the Oratorio del Rosario in Palermo. A trip to mainland Italy between 1631 and 1633 introduced the artist to the naturalism of Neapolitan art, typified by the work of Jusepe de Ribera and Massimo Stanzione. Following his return to Sicily, his paintings displayed a distinct affinity with the Neapolitan tradition, combined with his earlier exposure to Venetian and Flemish styles. A typical work of this period is the Saint Benedict Distributing the Rule, painted in 1635 for the Benedictine monastery of San Guglielmo in Monreale. Monrealese’s paintings are today to be found almost exclusively in Sicily, where he also executed fresco cycles such as those in the Palazzo Normanni in Palermo, painted between 1637 and 1640. He enjoyed a close relationship with the Franciscan order, from whom he received commissions to provide altarpieces for churches such as the Badia Nuova and San Francesco d’Assisi in Palermo. In the last year of his life Monrealese painted two canvases for the church of San Matteo in Palermo.