Active in Naples and Rome (?) in the second half of the 17th century
Battle between Christian and Turkish cavalries
oil on canvas, 58×170 cm
The author of this canvas, the ‘battle painter Marzio Masturzo, is quite an interesting figure, both because of his close relationship, as remembered by sources, with two of the fathers of the battle genre, Salvator Rosa – of whom he was a friend and pupil according to De Dominici (1744) – and Aniello Falcone, and due to his “typical confident brushstrokes”, probably inspired by an appreciation of Giordano. Giancarlo Sestieri has identified the Neapolitan master as the author of this work, and classifies this battle painting among the better works in his production. In fact, the expert has identified, in spite of a body of works that is clearly distinguished in terms of style and painterly execution, some paintings of particularly high quality such as, in particular, the two pendant battle paintings in the National Gallery of Palazzo Barberini (see G. Sestieri in I pittori di battaglie, Rome, 1999, pages 382-393).
As the expert has pointed out on more than one occasion, the distinctive traits of the Neapolitan author comprise, in addition to the nonchalant execution and perceptibly ‘overdrawn’ physiognomies of the subjects, the presence of lateral sceneries in the form of fortified hills dominated by towers. Among the works of Masturzo which are comparable to this painting – whose typical horizontal form indicates that it was intended as decoration above a door – we may mention, in particular, the painting with the same motif in a private collection in Modena (op. cit., no. 19, p. 392) or the one – which also features a battle between Christian and Turk cavalry – which was recently exhibited at L’Aquila (see G. Sestieri, Pugnae. La guerra nell’arte: dipinti di battaglie dal secolo XVI al XVIII, catalogue of the exhibition, Foligno, 2008, no. 19, pages 52-53): both feature, in a very similar composition, the central figure of the warrior on a white horse who is charging the enemy, pistol in hand, of this painting.