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Abdication of Charles III
Joli, Antonio
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Joli, Antonio

Modena (Italy), 1700 - Naples (Italy), 1777

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Abdication of Charles III

1759. Oil on canvas.
Room 022

On August 10, 1759, Ferdinand VI died without a descendant. As a result, his stepbrother Charles, then King of Naples and Sicily, inherited the Spanish throne. The first of seven children of Philip V and his second wife Isabel Farnese, Charles VII had reigned for a period of almost 24 years in Naples. In 1738, he had married the Pricess María Amalia of Saxony, and their thirteen children were born in Naples. The oldest boy, Philip of Asturias, was mentally ill and unable to accede to the throne, not even under the guidance of a regency. Moreover, several international treaties prohibited Charles from being King of both Naples and Spain simultaneously. Thus, he opted for the solution of legally declaring the incapacity of his firstborn and taking his second son, Charles (the future Charles IV) to Madrid, as the Prince of Asturias. He left the Neapolitan throne to his third son, Ferdinand. To this end, he negotiated a treaty with Austria (Naples, October 3, 1759) in which the other power recognized his right to freely dispose of the Neapolitan throne. The courts of Naples met and Charles abdicated his position as King of Naples, the event represented in this painting, in favor of Ferdinand, then an eight-year-old child. Until he reached the age of sixteen, a regency council instituted by his father would govern in his name.

Presiding over the council was Bernardo Tanucci (1698-1783), a capable politician and favorite minister of the abdicating King. The solemn abdication ceremony, which was held in the Throne Room of the Royal Palace of Naples, took place on Saturday, October 6, 1759, just before midday, with the King on his throne and the infant Ferdinand on his left. Present at the ceremony were the members of the Royal Chamber of Santa Clara, the Administrative Council of Sicily, the trustee and elected officials of Naples, deputies of the Senate and City of Parlermo, the Prothonotary of the kingdom, the regency council presided over by Tanucci and “many other people of the most qualified and distinct Orders and Degrees.” On the canvas, we can also recognize the Royal Family itself with Amalia, Charles and the other infantes. As Tanucci told Ricardo Wall, the event was “truly moving, causing tears to flow from the eyes of His Majesty and the others around him”. Tanucci read the document in which Charles abdicated the throne. The King gave Ferdinand his sword, which he had received from his own father, who had received it from his uncle, King Louis XIV. Thereupon the deputies of Naples, Palermo and Messina read their speeches, and later Charles invested the heir with the necklace of the order of the Toisón de Oro. The retired to their rooms and did not appear again in public.

Antonio Joli, of Modena, began to study perspective in the workshop of Raffaelle María Rinaldi, on whose advice he established himself in Rome in 1720. Once in the Eternal City, he made contact with Panini, who had been there since 1711 and whose archeological visions were of interest to Joli. From 1732 to 1742 he worked in Venice as a draftsman, coming under the influence of Canaletto and Bellotto. After working in Germany, where he rendered perspectives and drawing of numerous forts, he took up residence in London from 1744 to 1749 under contract as a scenery painter at the Italian Opera. Around this time, the Bolognese Giacomo Pavia died in Madrid while working as painter of perspectives and ornamentation of Madrid´s Buen Retiro Theater. The great Italian castrato soprano Carlo Broschi Farinelli called Joli to Spain. Joly stayed in the Sapanish Court until 1754, also working on the sets of the operas presented at the various Royal Sites and leaving a series of “veduttas” or “view paintings”, which earned him the sobriquet, the “Canaletto of Madrid”. His successor was Francesco Battaglioli, aslo of Modena. Back in Venice in 1755, Joli was among the founding members of the Academy of Painting and Sculpture. Four years later, he set himself up in Naples and was there for the final days of the reign of Charles VII, which explains his creation of the work shown in this exhibition. He also painted the Embarcation and Departure of Charles III from the Port of Naples, also held by the Prado Museum. From 1759 on, he created nature scenes and, in his workshop, views of the temples of Paestum. In 1762, he replaced Vicenzo Re as scenographer at the San Carlo Theatre. Models of his work there have been preserved in the vaults of the Royal Palace of Caserta. He also painted representations of civil and religious events in court life and “view paintings” of other peoples. His clients were European aristocrats and travelers making the “Grand Tour”. In addition, the artist received royal commissions such as the lost over-the-door panels with city views done for the Queen´s Bedchamber in the Royal Palace of Naples. Joli staged the ceremony with great fidelity, as is shown in the fine detail of the scene and the attendants perfectly distributed, some in pairs, others in groups, some attentive, chatting, gesticulating, and some engrossed in the event. The suits, dresses, habits and uniforms show the high rank of those in attendance. Neither posh nor stiffly conservative, the painting shows the flair for the anecdotal that is characteristic of Joli´s work (Text drawn from Rodriguez Rico, Carmen, The Majesty of Spain, Jackson, Mississippi, 2001, p. 101).

The Majesty of Spain. Royal Collections From the Museo del P, Jackson, Mississippi, Mississipi Commission For Internati, 2001, p.101

Technical data

Inventory number
Joli, Antonio
Abdication of Charles III
Height: 76.5 cm; Width: 125.7 cm
Acquisition, 1996.

Bibliography +

Manzelli, Mario, Antonio Joli. Opera pittorica, Studio LT12, Venezia, 2000, pp. 37. n. 21.

The Majesty of Spain. Royal Collections From the Museo del P, Mississipi Commission For Internati, Jackson, Mississippi, 2001, pp. 101.

Toledano, Ralph, Antonio Joli. Modena 1700-1777 Napoli, Artema, Turín, 2006, pp. 76-77 346-347 n.XVII.1.

Urrea, Jesús, Antonio Joli en Madrid, 1749-1754, Fondo Cultural Villar Mir, Madrid, 2012, pp. 62-64.

Kerber, Peter Björn., Eyewitness views. Making history in eighteenth-century Europe, J. Paul Getty Museum,, 2017, pp. 8 f.10.

Other inventories +

Inv. Nuevas Adquisiciones (iniciado en 1856). Núm. 2377.
Autor: Joli, Antonio / 2377. Titulo: abdicación de Carlos III. / Tipo de obra: pintura. Técnica/soporte: oleo sobre lienzo. / Nº de catalogo: P-07696 / Observaciones: Adquirido por el estado por derecho de tanteo, en la subasta de la Sala Retiro (Madrid) de 20-XII-1995, lote 23, en 20.000.000 ptas. Y adscrito al Museo del Prado por resolución del Ministerio de Cultura de 21-XII-1995. Acuerdo del Real Patronato de 15-I-1996. Ingresó en el Museo el 26-III-1996.

Exhibitions +

Eyewitness Views: Making History in the Capitals of Eighteenth-Century Europe
Cleveland Oh
25.02.2018 - 20.05.2018

Eyewitness Views: Making History in the Capitals of Eighteenth-Century Europe
Minneapolis MN
10.09.2017 - 31.12.2017

Eyewitness Views: Making History in the Capitals of Eighteenth-Century Europe
Los Ángeles CA
09.05.2017 - 30.07.2017

Antonio Joli, View of Queen Maria Amalia of Saxony at the Arch of Trajan in Benevento
10.11.2011 - 30.04.2012

Tha majesty of spain. Royal collections from the Museo del Prado & patrimonio nacional (La majestad de España)
Jackson MS
01.03.2001 - 03.09.2001

Location +

Room 022 (On Display)


Displayed objects +

Insignia / Decoration: Banda y placa de San Jenaro

Update date: 04-11-2021 | Registry created on 28-04-2015

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