Francesco Noletti, known as 'il Maltese' due to his Maltese origins, moved to Rome by 1640. He died there in 1654 at the age of forty three. The artist had for a long time been misnamed Francesco Fieravino but his true identity is confirmed by a portrait of him before an easel in the Foundation for International Studies, Valletta (fig. 1).1
In the absence of any signed or documented work by Noletti, our understanding of his style and technique is based on two prints published by Jaques Coelemans.2
They form the cornerstones of the reconstruction of the artist's corpus by Gianluca and Ulisse Bocchi who have gathered a provisional selection of a dozen works under his name. The two prints and all the paintings given to Noletti show a careful interest in the treatment of the draped and folded carpets that cover the tables and ledges on which the still lifes are arranged. The carpets are distinctive in their robust molding, deep shadowed recessions, and fervent attention to the representation of the soft texture of the weave. This, together with the impasto in the hard knobbly skin of the melon and the finer smooth brushwork in the circular patch of mould in the skin of the quince at the foot of the table, all equally demonstrate the attention Noletti gives to the tactile qualities of his subjects. A comparable painting in a private collection features the same broad-rimmed polished platter and split melon, opened into three segments towards the viewer found in the present work.3
Similarly the open pomegranates and the fine and delicately painted glass bowl and the gilt ewer within it, can be found in several other works. Even the long fringed carpet itself appears to be one re-used by the artist; The distinctive border of blue and white interlocking triangles, separated with a red line from a band of a green water pattern on a yellow background, flanked by anther line of striped blue and red weave can be seen throughout many of Noletti’s works.4
We are grateful to Alberto Crispo for confirming the attribution to Francesco Noletti on the basis of photographs.
1. See K. Sciberras, 'L'identità rivelata di Francesco Fieravino', in G. Bocchi & U. Bocchi, Pittori di Natura morta a Roma. Artisti italiani 1630–1750, Viadana 2005, p. 361, reproduced in colour fig. FN.1).
2. Sciberras in Bocchi and Bocchi, 2005, p. 365, fig. FN.2 and fig. FN.3.
3. Sciberras in Bocchi and Bocchi, 2005, pp. 380–81, fig. FN.9.
4. Sciberras in Bocchi and Bocchi, 2005, pp. 374–93, see in particular figs. FN.12, FN.13, FN. 15 and FN. 19.