Emanuele Paparo was born in Monteleone, a medieval name for Vibo Valentia, in 1778. Having demonstrated precocious artistic talents, he became a pupil of the local painter Lorenzo Rubino. Having completed this initial training phase in Calabria, he moved to Naples, after being noticed by a Napoleonic general, following the establishment of the government of Joachim Murat.
From Monteleone to Rome
Later, in the early years of the 19th century, Emanuele Paparo moved to Rome to develop his painting skills. Between 1806 and 1808 he was a pupil of Vincenzo Camuccini, from whom he drew his distinctly classicist vein, consisting on the one hand of a robust drawing scheme in the style of David, and on the other a full and sumptuous colour scheme, which he developed with pleasing personal derivations.
The refined tone of certain compositions by Camuccini was soon to be found in the work of the Calabrian painter, especially after his return to his homeland. In the 1910s, the artist was commissioned to restore several local churches, including the Cathedral of Santa Maria Maggiore.
Painting in Calabria: sacred works, portraits and views
During the years of his activity in Calabria, he is best known for his sacred and devotional works, including The Supper of the Redeemer and Our Lady of the Rosary of Gerocarne, works in which clear references to Mannerist painting can be seen, not only in the choice of a bright palette, but also in the particular dreamlike atmosphere. Nevertheless, his activity as a portrait painter cannot be overlooked, carried out with particular attention to a solid drawing and a truly rich chromatism already imbued with romantic notes, as can be seen in the Self-portrait of 1815 and the Portrait of Fortunato Morani, of 1820.
After taking his vows in 1818, Emanuele Paparo did not abandon his painting, although he did accompany his literary activity. His poem Il romitaggio (The hermitage) is famous. The View of Monteleone in a Storm dates from 1822, a work that is very different from his sacred work.
The atmospheric values emerging from the storm at the top of the canvas seem to project Paparo into an already Romantic sensibility, even if the arboreal backdrop on the left, the meticulous description of the leaves and the rigid schematisation of the reddish lightning indicate a still visible adherence to Classicist styles. The anecdotal vision of the woman on horseback in the wind and the peasant in the background reinforcing the fence against the storm insert Paparo into a regionalism that recalls certain descriptive and “fable-like” characteristics of the Flemish 17th century. However, the protagonist of the painting is Vibo Valentia, named Monteleone by Frederick II of Swabia. The city in the background leans over the sea and is dominated by the imposing Norman-Swabian castle (now the seat of the Archaeological Museum) silhouetted against the impassable mountain to the upper left.