Pieter van Hanselaere (Gand 1786 - 1862)
Oil on canvas
83,5 x 97 cm
Born in Ghent, Pieter van Hanselaere began his artistic studies with Pierre Van Huffel, before joining the studio of Jacques Louis David in Paris in 1809. Returning to his native city in 1814, he won the prize for historical painting, which enabled him to finance a trip to Italy. His stay began in Rome, where Antonio Canova took him under his protection, then he went to Naples and became the official court painter.
As in our painting, the compositions of this period are generally of a very classical order. Here, in the middle of a market in a square in Naples, a woman holds in her left hand an ex-voto representing her in prayer, while a ship is being battered by a storm. With her right hand she points to a rescued sailor with his arm in a sling, thus testifying to the crowd that her wish has been granted. A collection is organized in thanksgiving. This subject of popular devotion is used as a support for the representation of a crowd in typical colored costumes, made with great attention to detail.
In the same way as his compatriot François Joseph Navez, or of the Swiss Léopold Robert, Hanselaere delivers to us by this type of image a picturesque and colourful vision of Italy which will mark of its print the following generations.
It is no longer the country of Caesar, Virgil or majestic ruins, it is more picturesque and romantic, the one "where the orange tree blooms".
 Ambroise Thomas, Mignon (Opéra,1866), Acte 1, « Connais-tu le pays où fleurit l’oranger? »
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