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Calcedonio Reina, Love and Death (Amore e morte)

Museo civico al Castello Ursino, Catania

Date: 1881
Technique: Oil on canvas

Calcedonio Reina (Catania 1843-1911) trained with Domenico Morelli, one of the greatest of Neapolitan painters. Later, he continued his studies in Rome and Florence, creating many works in the Classic style.

Love and Death (1881) shows a passionate kiss between two lovers in the Capuchin catacombs in Palermo. The artist portrays the lace trimming of the girl’s skirts with meticulous care, contrasting the delicate white garment with the sepulchral background.

Morelli’s influence is evident in the use of colour, the work on the draperies and the concentration on Classical themes adapted to suit the Romantic style, even if Reina distances himself from that style by creating his own, more intimate kind of poetics.

Like the famous painting of The Kiss by Francesco Hayez, a Venetian artist of the Romantic movement, the faces of the two lovers are hidden to give the act itself more prominence. The attention of the Romantics to the dichotomy between eros (love) and thanatos (death), between the absolute and the sublime, is summarised perfectly, so that something which is horrifying and fearsome becomes beautiful.

Source 1
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