Salvator Rosa

Prodigal Son

Prodigal Son
(click image to zoom-in)
Author: Salvator Rosa
Painting, Oil on canvas, 253.5x201 cm
Origin: Italy, First half of the 1650s

Artists turned often to the subject of repentance in the 17th century, most frequently to the theme of the Prodigal Son, from the Gospel According to St Luke , which tells how a young man leaves his parents' house, wastes his fortune and, after many sufferings, repents and returns to his father. In this canvas, Salvator Rosa presents the Prodigal Son as a shepherd from the southern regions of Italy. The strong body and tanned, muscle-bound legs are evidence of long journeys and a life beneath the open skies. The goats, sheep, boar and bull - the flock entrusted to him - are depicted with a marvellous understanding of the habits of animals and the construction of their bodies, no less than that evidenced by Dutch painters, who were famed for their animal subjects. Yet Rosa's painting is not a genre scene. The young shepherd is shown, without any affectation, as he is deep in troubled thought. Behind a scene of everyday life, a drama of the human soul unfolds before our eyes.

Personage: The Prodigal Son
Source of entry: Collection of Sir Robert Walpole, Houghton Hall, 1779
School: Neapolitan
Theme: The Bible and Christianity

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