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The raising of Lazarus
Novelli, Pietro
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Novelli, Pietro

Monreale, Sicily (Italy), 1603 - Palermo, Sicily (Italy), 1647

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The raising of Lazarus

1635 - 1640. Oil on canvas.
Not on display

This painting has recently been identified as a work by Pietro Novelli, known as Il Monrealese on account of his having been born in Monreale, Sicily. It was considered until 1933 to be the work of Neapolitan painter Andrea Vaccaro, and after that time its authorship was demoted to Anonymous Neapolitan by the Museo del Prado. The painting passed largely unnoticed on account of its being on long-term loan to the offices of the Council of State, Madrid, from 1893, and it was not recognised as a fine and typical work by Novelli until 2006.

At the centre of the composition a dynamic, muscular Lazarus emerges from his tomb and looks at Christ, who has just shouted: Lazarus, come forth (John 11:43). The men on the left are untying the bandages that held Lazarus and removing his winding sheet. One of Lazarus´s sisters kneels in the foreground to the right. This is probably Martha, the protagonist of the Bible story depicted. Her sister, Mary, may be the figure who joins her hands and gazes at Christ with loving devotion from the shadows just behind Lazurus. The remaining figures are unidentified, although they must be many of the Jews [who] came to Martha and Mary, to comfort them concerning their brother (John 11:19), the bearded figure on the right may be one of the Apostles.

The intense hand gestures in this painting emphasise the event´s dramatic nature. Novelli organised the composition around the main diagonal generated by the figure of Lazarus, echoed by the tomb´s stone slab, and the secondary diagonal created by his arm, which links him to the figure of Jesus. The facial types -especially those of the old woman to the right and the woman we suppose is Martha- as well as the virtuoso treatment of the clothing, with its abundant folds, are typical of this artist. The rich colours and markedly tactile character of the folds are the result of a technique employing intense glazes and high-quality pigments.

Novelli did not base his composition on either of the two celebrated, large paintings of the subject by Caravaggio and Guercino, both of which he must have known. The arrangement of the figures and the handling of light is perhaps closest to the small but much-admired painting of the subject by the Veronese painter Alessandro Turchi, which was made for the nephew of Pope Paul V, Cardinal Scipione Borghese, in 1617 and has been in the Palazzo Borghese in Rome ever since. Although Novelli almost certainly painted the picture in Sicily, it reflects the influence of Massimo Stanzione (1585-1656) and Vaccaro, who embodied the more classicising wing of Neapolitan painting. That said, with The raising of Lazarus, 1635–40, Novelli produced a work of undoubted originality in which he took on the challenge of representing no less than eleven life-size figures on what is not an especially large canvas. This painting comes from the convent of the Discalced Carmelites in Segovia and, after a period in Madrid´s Museo de la Trinidad, entered the Museo del Prado in 1872. It was very likely one of the works by Novelli brought to Spain by the ninth Admiral of Castile, Juan Alfonso Enríquez de Cabrera (1597-1647), Viceroy of Sicily between 1641 and 1644. Relations between the two are documented from 29 January 1643, when the admiral appointed Novelli Ingegnere della Real Corte (Engineer of the Royal Court). Juan Alfonso acquired works from Novelli in 1644 and his post-mortem inventory includes five pictures by him, although not The raising of Lazarus (Finaldi, G.: Italian Masterpieces. From Spain´s Royal Court, Museo del Prado, 2014, p. 134).

Technical data

Inventory number
Novelli, Pietro
The raising of Lazarus
1635 - 1640
Height: 239 cm; Width: 178 cm
Segovia, Convento de San Juan de la Cruz, de carmelitas descalzos, sacristía; Museo de la Trinidad.

Bibliography +

Cruzada Villaamil, Gregorio, Catálogo provisional, historial y razonado del Museo Nacional de Pinturas, Madrid, 1865, pp. 271.

Espinós, Adela; Orihuela, Mercedes y Royo Villanova, Mercedes, ''El Prado disperso''. Cuadros depositados en Madrid. III. Senado, Boletín del Museo del Prado, I, 1980, pp. 184.

Moreno Alcalde, Mercedes, Pinturas procedentes de Segovia en el Museo de la Trinidad. Contribución al catálogo y localización del Prado disperso, BOLETIN DEL SEMINARIO DE ESTUDIOS (BSAA), 50, 1984, pp. 426.

Pulini, Massimo, Pietro Novelli, Nuovi studi, anno II v.3, 1997, pp. 69-76 [71, l.109].

Museo Nacional del Prado, Pinturas de Segovia en el Museo del Prado: estudio de las pinturas de las instituciones eclesiásticas desamortizadas de Segovia que formaron parte del Museo de la Trinidad, por María Luisa Gómez Nebreda, Obra Social y Cultural de Caja Segovia, 2001, pp. 31-34.

Finaldi, Gabriele, La Resurrección de Lázaro de Pietro Novelli, Il Monrealese, Boletín del Museo del Prado, XXIV, 2006, pp. 24-30.

Saracino, Francesco, Cristo a Napoli. Pittura e cristologia nel Seicento, Grimaldi & C., 2012, pp. 102, f.64.

Finaldi, G., Pietro Novelli ' The raising of Lazarus' En:, Italian masterpieces from Spain's royal court, Museo del Prado, National Gallery of Victoria Thames & Hudson, 2014, pp. 134.

Other inventories +

Catálogo Museo de la Trinidad, 1865. Núm. 247.
ESCUELAS ITALIANAS. / 247. La Resurreccion de Lázaro. / Lienzo.- Al. 2,36.- An. 1,16. - Fig. e. t. n. / Escuela Napolitana. / Se levanta Lázaro de su sepulcro cumpliendo el mandato del Salvador, rodeado de gentes que admiran el milagro. Estuvo en una iglesia de Segovia.

Inv. Museo de la Trinidad, Pintura. Núm. 247.
247 / La resurrección de Sn Lázaro fs de cuerpo / entero y tamº nat.l / Autor. / Rdo Alto 2,36; ancho 1,76 pr la / luz del marco [Nota en margen derecho] Fda Rdo Con moldura lisa Dorada y colgdo / en el salón de la media naranja [Nota en margen izquierdo] N 13 S G

Inscriptions +

Carmen descalzo de Segovia. / Recojido por el Sr. Castelaro
Inscribed in black. Stretcher, upper crossbeam, on the left

Inscribed in black. Back, central area

Exhibitions +

Italian Masterpieces from Spain's Royal Court. Museo Nacional del Prado
16.05.2014 - 31.08.2014

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

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