Fantastic view of a Gothic Cathedral
Didier Barra called Monsu Desiderio (1589-1656)

Fantastic view of a Gothic Cathedral, ca. 1647

Oil on slate panel, H. 0.33 m; W. 0.43 m

Signed lower left: Desiderio Barra f.

Provenance: Private collection, France.

Under the generic name of Monsù Desiderio, literally Mister Didier, were grouped together for a long time two different painters, both from Lorraine and having worked in Naples in the 17th century: François de Nomé and Didier Barra. The paintings of François de Nomé are preserved in larger number and it is thus them who come into our minds when we mention Monsù Desiderio. He was a painter of architectural capriccios and church interiors, often imaginary and plunged sometimes into a disastrous chaos, earthquakes or fires. Didier Barra, the “true” Monsù Desiderio, painted panoramic city views, mainly of Naples, in a more topographic and realistic style. The collaboration between these two artists remains to be brought to light. Did Didier Barra, after the death of François de Nomé, take over his workshop?

This view of a cathedral shows two Gothic buildings formerly connected by an arc. A kind of pinnacle on the left roof bends strangely towards the side, doubtless in allusion to the disintegration of the monument. The cathedral is depicted on a vast square just outside of a city. The square is populated with numerous isolated groups of figures, underlining the monumental character of the construction. The bright tones of blue and grey create an unreal and fantastic atmosphere. There are only very few works signed by Didier Barra.