From 09 February to 22 May 2016
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Born in Taverna, Preti moved to Rome with his elder brother Gregorio around 1628. At this period his work reveals an interest in Caravaggism and the work of Merisi’s northern and French followers. During this early phase Preti produced scenes of card players and musicians. In the late 1630s he assimilated the Neo-Venetian trend, the work of the classicising painters such as Lanfranco, the style of Guercino and that of the Venetians, Titian, Tintoretto and Veronese. In Rome, Preti executed one of his masterpieces, the fresco decoration of Sant’Andrea della Valle (1650–51) with scenes of the Martyrdom of Saint Andrew. Like the frescoes he painted in Modena of The Evangelists and The Paradise, the Rome frescoes are clear examples of his mature style. Between 1656 and 1660 Preti was in Naples where his style evolved with regard to the use of light and a cooler palette. The works he produced in Naples were highly influential for the following generation of Neapolitan painters, particularly Francesco Solimena who is considered his principal follower. In addition to numerous easel paintings executed in Naples, Preti also decorated the church of San Pietro a Majella between 1657 and 1659 with scenes from the lives of Saint Pedro Celestino and Saint Catherine of Alexandria. After a brief period in Rome where he was involved in the decoration of the Stanza dell’Aria in the Palazzo Pamphilj in Valmontone, the artist settled permanently in Malta in 1611 where he was to be extremely active. He became a member of the Order of the Knights of Malta, achieving the rank of Knight, while the Order also became his principal client for whom he executed his most ambitious work, the redecoration of the cathedral of Saint John in La Valletta with episodes from the life of that saint. In addition to his involvement in the decoration of most of the island’s churches, Preti continued to receive commissions from various Italian and European cities, including The Preaching of Saint Bernard for the church of San Domenico in Siena, considered one of the great works of his late period.