From James Weldon Johnson's poem, Noah Built the Ark, 1927
This veritable panoply of the animal world, and a tour de force of animalier painting, reprises the 1864 version shown at the 1867 Exposition Universelle in Paris and bought there by King Victor Emmanuel II (now in the Museo Capodimonte, Naples). The scale of the work befits the subject's quite literally biblical proportions, yet every animal and its distinct character and gait is observed with painstaking and empathetic attention to detail.
Palizzi is considered the leading Neapolitan animal painter of the Italian Ottocento. Known as a painter of horses and sheep, the subject of the Deluge provided him with the opportunity to show off his precocious skills at capturing fauna of all kinds. In conceiving this grand composition, from the spatial recession to the luminosity of the palette, he was no doubt inspired and influenced by the work of the Northern Renaissance masters, and of Jan Breughel the Elder in particular (fig. 1), which he saw during his travels to the Netherlands in the 1850s.
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