With this first monographic exhibition of the paintings of Gaspare Traversi (1722-1770), the Staatsgalerie Stuttgart will be presenting a painter of the settecento whose artistic significance was not rediscovered until the 20th century. That he has remained largely unknown until the present day is ascribable to the twofold fact that his works were for the most part attributed to other painters of his time and, consequently, no biographers or historians have written about him in any great detail. Comprehensive research has meanwhile not only uncovered hitherto unknown works of the artist but also identified works by Traversi which were thought to have been painted by other artists. The stimulus for this forthcoming exhibition was provided by the Staatsgalerie's spectacular acquisition of Traversi's painting "The Operation" in 1999. As one of most important paintings by Traversi, who died at the very early age of 48, it is the ideal starting point for a journey of discovery through the life and work of this newly discovered celebrity of the settecento.
Thematically, the exhibition focuses on Traversi's portraits and genre paintings. On show will be around 60 paintings from an oeuvre totalling as many as 200 works. This unique exhibition would not have been possible without the many works kindly loaned by important museums, institutions and private collectors in Europe and the USA.
Gaspare Traversi's art is unmistakably the product of the Baroque painting tradition of his native Naples, the most significant representatives of which were such painters as Caravaggio (1573-1610) and Jusepe de Ribera (1591-1652). Traversi was a master of portraiture and, in particular, genre painting, the depiction of scenes from everyday life. He observed his fellow human beings and their weaknesses with a biting irony softened with a subtle sense of humour and enormous psychological empathy. In this regard, Traversi may be regarded as a decidedly modern painter who involves the viewer in the worldliness of what he depicts. Many of his works are reminiscent of the world of the theatre, especially that of the opera buffa in Naples, which had already made its début during the painter's lifetime.
On the threshold of Classicism, Traversi's paintings convey an extremely individual, and cheerful, view of the Age of the Enlightenment. It is not without good reason that Traversi is often referred to as "the Italian Hogarth".