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Allegory of the Four Parts of the World

This imposing canvas by Francesco Solimena, the most renowned painter in Baroque Naples, was commissioned to commemorate the marriage of King Charles III of Naples and Maria Amalia of Saxony in 1738. Solimena was tasked with decorating the royal couple’s nuptial chamber at the Palazzo Reale in Naples, and this painting was likely installed on the ceiling of the apartment’s antechamber. The work’s dramatic, asymmetrical composition is anchored by four allegorical figures representing the continents of Europe, Africa, Asia, and the Americas; however, it asserts the supremacy of Europe and its Christian religion—a form of propaganda befitting the royal palace. The figure of Europe is elevated on a throne and receives symbols of the Catholic Church—St. Peter’s keys and the papal tiara—from a group of angels that hover nearby.

Francesco Solimena
Italian, 1657–1747
Allegory of the Four Parts of the World
1738
Oil on canvas
50 x 72 ½ (127.0 x 184.2 cm)
Sidney and Lois Eskenazi Museum of Art, Gift of Dr. and Mrs. Henry R. Hope, 74.83