Bernardo Cavallino - inv. 3267

Bernardo Cavallino (1616-1656)

Saint in Ecstasy
1640 c.
oil on canvas  
77,5 x 65 cm
1960 donation A. Mayer
Inv. 3267

Trivulzio Room
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A young woman is shown seated with her head thrown backwards, her hair loose and her eyes closed. Extremely pale, the figure emerges from a dark background, which emphasises her dramatic pose. The saint has been painted in ecstasy, in the moment in which she has reached the state of union with the divine, and holds a palm between her fingers, an attribute of martyrs and a symbol of their triumph over death.
Together with the palm and her luxurious clothes, a knife can also be seen near her neck; they are elements that refer to more than one saint, for example, Lucy, Agatha, Cecilia.
The painting is by Bernardo Cavallino, one of the more interesting Neapolitan painters of the seventeenth century. His elegant, melancholic and very personal style stands apart from the more vigorously realistic one of his colleagues, more influenced by a Caravaggesque naturalism. However, Caravaggio’s influence is certainly evident as much in the study of light as in the pose of the saint, which takes up the Virgin in Ecstasy painted in 1606, of which there are many copies.