Who was Domenico Morelli, the artist to whom the hall of the Municipality of Amalfi is dedicated? The Amalfi Coast has always been a land that attracts artists, who have found refuge and inspiration there. In fact, since the Middle Ages, personalities from the world of art have left their mark on the facades of cathedrals, inside monasteries, churches and in various places of worship.
Among these, a place full of charm and culture is definitely the Morelli Salonthe council chamber of the Municipality of Amalfi.
Obtained from an ancient Benedictine monastery from the 16th century, it can be reached by passing through a courtyard.
The Salon takes its name from Domenico Morelli, prolific artist of international fame of the 1800s and 1900s. Born in Naples on 4 August 1826, he was a senator of the Kingdom of Italy in the 16th legislature. He began attending the Academy of Fine Arts in Naples in 1836, where he was a pupil of the painters Costanzo Angelini and Camillo Guerra, who educated him according to the principles of the most rigorous and cold academic style. Indeed, his first paintings represented historical subjects, influenced by the teaching received. Subsequently, he moved on to the romantic ideal, with many medieval influences.
After meeting other painters, including foreign ones, during his study trips, the young painter let himself be fascinated by the English poet Byron, starting the artistic journey that later made him famous among his contemporaries, developing a rich theme with a literary, religious and symbolic.
In 1848 he won a competition which allowed him to go to study in Rome. Here he was involved in the uprisings for independence, having the experience of prison.
In 1855, together with Francesco Saverio Altamura and Serafino De Tivoli, he took part in the Universal Exposition in Paris and, on his return to Florence, he took part in the debates of the Macchiaioli on pictorial realism at the Caffè Michelangiolo.
From the contact with the Macchiaioli and the friendship with the painters Filippo and Giuseppe Palizzi, he learns to appreciate all the artistic beauty of the painting from life, which gradually leads him to assume a less academic and freer style, above all in the use of color, creating his own personal style that harmoniously combines realism and late romanticism with neo-seventeenth-century models.
Despite the hard study, to which Domenico Morelli undergoes, and the works of considerable size and level that he produces, he manages to get himself noticed only in 1861, when he exhibits “The Iconoclasts” in Florence, a painting of 1855 which, receiving many appreciations and enlivening the artistic discourse, alive in that period, deserves him the position of teacher.
In the following sixties Morelli finally became one of the best known Italian painters, appreciated for the exceptional qualities of colourist and the dramatic effects that he manages to instill in his painting.
In 1868 Domenico Morelli obtained the teaching post at the Academy (where he had studied); in this period his interest is mainly focused on religious, mystical and supernatural themes; from this period is one of his most famous works by him, the ‘Assumption’ in the Royal Palace of Naples.
Because of his religiosity, he was one of the artists who collaborated on the illustrations of the Amsterdam Bible (1895) and, from 1899 until his death in Naples on August 13, 1901, he was director of the Academy of Fine Arts in Naples.
In the Venice International Exhibition of 1901, most of his works were collected, to show the general public how much new and beautiful there was in his paintings.
In the nineteenth century, he oversaw the restoration of the tympanum and the upper pediment of the cathedral of Sant’Andrea. The original correspondence of this restoration is kept in the Sala Morelli. On a wall of the Palazzo Città di Amalfi you can admire the beauty of the fresco that recalls the upper pediment of the Cathedral. A biblical narration that re-proposes a passage from the gospel, that is the one from the apocalypse. In the center, in fact, Jesus Christ is depicted with the symbols of the four evangelists behind him. At his feet, however, the kneeling rulers. Also in this room, now dedicated to public functions and events, it is also possible to observe the correspondence of the twelve apostles which recall the recently restored cornice of the cathedral’s tympanum.