Signed in lower right corner : « Giacomo del Po F »
Oil on copper, 24 5/16 x 30 ¾ in. (61,7 x 78,2 cm.)
Provenance : London, Christie's sale, 31 January 1964, lot 25 (as Coypel); London, Sotheby's, 9 March 1966, lot 57 (Giacomo del Po); London, Sotheby's, 18 June 1975, lot 59; London, Christie's, 15 December 1978, lot 156; London, Christie's, 11 December 1987, lot 138; London, private collection. Literature : Nicola Spinosa, Pittura napoletana del Settecento. Dal Barocco al Rococò, Naples  1993, p. 139, no. 163, p. 284, fig. 192. The subject of this painting on copper, drawn from Virgil's Aeneid, illustrates a passage from Book One (25-154). Accompanied by her peacocks, Juno is commanding King Aeolus to free the winds in order to sink Aeneas' fleet as it sails from Troy, and addresses him angrily: "A race of wand'ring slaves, abhorr'd by me, / With prosp'rous passage cut the Tus¬can sea; / To fruitful Italy their course they steer, / And for their vanquish'd gods design new temples there" (Dryden translation). The King obeys and liberates the winds, held prisoner in grottoes along the mountainous shore: "The raging winds rush thro' the hollow wound, / And dance aloft in air, and skim along the ground". But Neptune comes to the aid of Aeneas and his storm-battered ships, and calms the waves. Here, the ocean god can be discerned in the background, in a chariot drawn by sea-horses, swiftly sketched in white. Our painting bears the clearly legible signature "Giacomo del Po" in the lower right corner, although in 1964 it was offered by Sotheby's in London with an attribution to Coypel. Nicola Spinosa catalogued it as Del Po, together with a pendant identified as the Flight of Angelica (?) (whereabouts unknown). These two pictures on copper appear to have been apart for many years as they do not appear together in any of the sale catalogues cited in our provenance. It is tempting to compare a copper recently acquired by the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, illustrating The Flight of Camilla from the Aeneid (XI.648 ff.); although catalogued separately by Nicola Spinosa, this third picture, of comparable dimensions and derived from the same literary source, could suggest the existence of a series of paintings. Whatever their status may be, Nicola Spinosa dates all three pictures to around 1708, given their stylistic similarity to the frescoes in the church of Santa Teresa degli Studi in Naples, signed and dated in the same year, with which they share a surprising compositional energy.1 Juno and Aeolus exhibits a startling freedom of handling that represents one of the most original contributions to the continuing evolution of Neapolitan Baroque art. While never shrinking from a naturalistic approach, the artist gives his pigments a luminosity, breaking them up into vibrant, caressing strands, as for example in the perfect technical prowess that suggests foam on the waves. Within this approach, his figure style nonetheless reflects evanescent forms and we are surprised by the neo-Mannerist canon of Juno’s body, with its curved rhythms and theatrical gestures; the same gestures enliven the body of Aeolus and one of the male figures in the foreground. The great swells of drapery also display this Rococo exaggeration, seducing the viewer through almost immaterial brushwork, as if the scene were the performance of a dream. This moment in the painter’s career, and especially this group of oils on copper, truly reveal what De Dominici defined as a manner that was “pittoresca e bizzarra”, and represent one of the most refined expressions of Giacomo del Po’s artistry.2 Notes : 1- Nicola Spinosa, Pittura napoletana del Settecento. Dal Barocco al Rococò, Naples,  1993, p.139, no. 161, figs. 187-188. 2- Bernardo De Dominici, Vite de’ pittori, scultori ed architetti napoletani, 3 vols., Naples, 1742 vol. III, p. 506.