Mattia Preti, Taverna 1613 - 1699 Valletta
Dubbed “Il Cavalier Calabrese” in honour of his two knighthoods from the Knights of Malta, Mattia Preti is one of the most admired protagonists of the Italian Baroque. Preti departed his native Calabria at the age of seventeen, training and first establishing himself as a successful independent master in Rome during the 1630s and 1640s. While his earliest works include musicians and cardsharps in the manner of Caravaggio, he soon forged a distinctive style informed by his extensive travels throughout Italy, uniting Caravaggesque naturalism and expressive tenebrism with the grand theatricality of Venetian High Renaissance painting and the narrative rhetoric of the Emilian artists Guercino and Lanfranco in an emotive and dramatic manner. Preti left Rome for Naples in 1653, where he hoped to replace the recently deceased Ribera as the city’s preeminent painter. There he attracted the attention of the Knights of Malta, and finally moved to Valletta in 1661 where he undertook altarpieces and ceiling frescoes for the Co-Cathedral of Saint John’s.