Saint Benedict Orders the Destruction of Idols at Montecassino

Gaspare Serenario Italian

Not on view

This highly finished composition drawing was featured in the Dúrcal sale in 1889 as the work of Domenico Gargiulo, and the artist's nickname 'Spadaro' (for 'Micco Spadaro') was presumably then annotated along the upper border of the sheet. The verso bears an old attribution to Sebastiano Conca (1680-1764). On a visit to the Museum in 1968, Philip Pouncey noted on the mount, "seems close to Sebastiano Conca."

Nearly two decades later, Lawrence Turčić pointed out that the drawing appears to be a preparatory study – although with slight variations - for an altarpiece of the same subject by Sebastiano Conca's close Sicilian follower, Gaspare Serenario. This painting (oil on canvas, 454 x 287 cm), was executed by Serenario in Rome in 1739, shipped to Palermo and eventually installed as the main altarpiece in the church of San Giovanni dell’Origlione. The canvas is now in the local Museo Diocesano of Palermo. The iconography of the drawing explains the foundation of the historic abbey of Montecassino by St. Benedict of Nursia (ca. 480- 543 AD). Once arrived on a rocky hill at the south of Rome (Monte Cassino), Benedict destroyed the pagan idols - remains of the previous Roman domination - and placed the first stone for the erection of the new Christian abbey.

Saint Benedict Orders the Destruction of Idols at Montecassino, Gaspare Serenario (Italian, Palermo 1694–1759 Palermo (?)), Pen and brown ink, brush and brown wash, highlighted with yellow and white gouache, over black chalk or leadpoint, on beige paper

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