The Documented Paintings and Life of Andrea Vaccaro (1604-1670)

Open Access
Tuck-Scala, Anna Kiyomi
Graduate Program:
Art History
Doctor of Philosophy
Document Type:
Date of Defense:
August 20, 2003
Committee Members:
  • Jeanne Chenault Porter, Committee Chair
  • Roland Edward Fleischer, Committee Member
  • George L Mauner, Committee Member
  • Alfred Angelo Triolo, Committee Member
  • seventeenth-century Neapolitan painting
ABSTRACT This dissertation takes stock of what is known about Andrea Vaccaro (1604-1670), one of the most prominent painters of Naples in the middle of the seventeenth-century. Although successful during his lifetime, Vaccaro currently suffers a reputation that is, at best, second rate. Due to the hundreds of paintings attributed to Vaccaro of dubious quality, modern art historians characterize his art as “eclectic” and “academic.” The sole monograph on Vaccaro, Maria Commodo Izzo’s Andrea Vacccaro pittore (1604-1670) published in 1951, is also sorely out of date. This study provides a new and more accurate portrayal of the artist. Rather than the customary all-inclusive approach, this study is based on the solid foundation of all known documents about the artist’s life and art, which are gathered and analyzed in one place for the first time. An overview of Vaccaro’s career organized in three sections provides an original assessment of the artist. Vaccaro’s early period (ca. 1604-1636) is the least documented and therefore the least understood. An analysis of different speculations on his formation reveals the biases of those who propose them. I also suggest a model employed by the eighteenth-century biographer Bernardo De Dominici for characterizing Vaccaro and his artistic advancement. Vaccaro’s mature (ca. 1636-1660) and late (ca. 1660-1670) periods are studded with documented artistic activity for both private and public patrons. In my chronological discussion of the paintings, stylistic and iconographic links are made in order to revise the wide-spread perception of Vaccaro’s so-called eclecticism. The results of this study demonstrate that Vaccaro was a good painter, on par with his contemporaries Massimo Stanzione and Bernardo Cavallino. In addition, contrary to what is believed, Vaccaro’s art and reputation did not decline as he grew older and he was not immediately eclipsed by Luca Giordano. Instead, numerous prestigious church commissions, his post as the first prefetto of the renewed Corporation of Painters, and a variety of other documented activity attest to his artistic importance and the public recognition he enjoyed before he died in 1670, making him a model religious painter of the period.