The Martyrdom of Saint Peter
Oil on Canvas
114 1/2 x 76 inches
 

GIOVANNI BATTISTA BEINASCHI

The Martyrdom of St. Peter is one of Beinaschi’s most impressive works, yet due to its inaccessibility, it has until recently remained relatively unknown and unrecognized as a significant work by the artist. From 1817 until 2008 it was in the collection of the Princes of Liechtenstein, exhibited before World War II in the Liechtenstein Palace in Vienna, but then consigned successively to family castles in Bohemia, the Austrian Alps, and Liechtenstein. Over all these years it was held to be by Jusepe de Ribera and its frame still retains an identifying label and corresponding inventory number as such. As early as 1908 August Mayer had questioned the attribution, but it was not until a century later that Nicola Spinosa definitively recognized Beinaschi’s authorship. His opinion was subsequently confirmed by Francesco Petrucci and Antonio Gesino in the recent catalogue raisonné of the artist’s work and made yet more apparent following recent conservation of the painting which removed generations of dirt and discolored varnish. All of these scholars place the painting relatively early in the painter’s maturity, for Spinosa around 1660, for Petrucci and Gesino slightly later, ca. 1663-65. This would suggest that the original site for the altarpiece was either in Naples, at the beginning of Beinaschi’s tenure there, or in Rome, just before.

About Giovanni Battista Beinaschi

Beinaschi was born near Turin and his earliest training was with Esprit Grandjean, an artist active at the Savoy court. By 1652 he had moved to Rome, where he was to live for more than a decade before the lure of ecclesiastical patronage brought him to Naples. Although he is often referred to as piemontese, Beinaschi perfected a style that shows little evidence of his Piedmont origins. Rather it seems most indebted to the work of Lanfranco, whose works Beinaschi knew well (he had engraved Lanfranco’s altarpieces in San Andrea della Valle and San Carlo Catinari), although he apparently never met the elder artist, who had died in Rome in 1647.

Beinaschi moved to Naples around 1664, where he painted altarpieces and carried out several decorative fresco cycles, including those at San Nicola alla Dogana (1664; now destroyed); Santa Maria degli Angeli (1672-3); Santa Maria di Loreto; the Gesù Nuovo and the Santa Maria la Nova (all 1670s). His work was consistently in demand throughout his career and he received a succession of commissions, both private and public (although predominantly ecclesiastic) with the result that nearly all of his paintings remain in Italy, most in the places for which they were painted.