Vincenzo Abbati was born in Naples in 1803 and trained at the School of Set Design at the Institute of Fine Arts between 1822 and 1826. He then joined the studio of the Frenchman who had moved to Naples, Louis Nicolas Lemasle, an important interior painter dear to the Bourbons and set designer at the San Carlo Theatre.
Interior painting in Venice
Abbati also soon developed a strong preference for interior painting: he made his debut at the Bourbon Exhibition in 1826 with a View of the plasterwork room at the Royal Institute of Fine Arts. Feeling the need to perfect his skills, the painter made several study trips: he stayed in Florence for a while and in 1844 moved to Venice, where he remained for about fifteen years.
In Venice, Vincenzo Abbati was able to fully develop his career, working mainly in the service of the Duchess of Berry, who appointed him court painter. He remained in Venice until 1859, apart from a short stay in Graz in 1848, when he followed the duchess and her family as they tried to escape the revolutionary uprisings.
Among the various interior paintings he did for the Duchess were Don Pedro’s Tomb Monument in Palermo Cathedral, Friars’ Choir in Sant’Efremo in Naples, Interior of the Frari Church, Minotulo Chapel, Palatine Royal Chapel, Posillipo Grotto, Moonlit View of Capri.
Interiors and historical re-enactment
In Venice, Vincenzo Abbati also worked for other aristocratic families, including the Zopetti family, for whom he painted The Burial of Giovanni da Procida. Other works executed during his Venetian years include several interior paintings with a historical vocation, including Interior of a Church with Procession of Crusaders and Galileo Held by Inquisitors.
From a stylistic point of view, the painter was undoubtedly influenced by the perspective and luministic precision that came from his studies of scenography, which enabled him to construct an orderly and perfect spatial and chiaroscuro representation. At the same time, however, he seems to have adopted a balanced and intimate realism, especially in some late scenes from everyday life, which would later be carried on by his son Giuseppe, one of the greatest exponents of the Macchiaioli movement.
In 1859, the painter returned to Naples and in the same year took part in the Bourbon Exhibition with five paintings, including Interior of Raphael’s studio showing his portrait to the Fornarina and The Tribuna in Florence. After being appointed honorary professor at the Institute of Fine Arts, he died in Naples in 1866.