Author: Andrea Celesti
Dating: ca. 1680
Technique: Oil on canvas
Location: Central nave, ninth right arch (in the plan No. 16)
This painting depicts a historical episode that took place in 1621-24, one of the many victories of the brutal reaction by Catholics who armed themselves to defeat, with divine help, the growing group of secessionists. The Carmelites also participated in the expulsion of the heretics and boasted about it for a long time.
The scene shows fleeing Huguenot soldiers, or at least it seems to be their attitude, while others fall and tumble from the city walls, destroyed by fire. Halberds and swords lie abandoned on the ground, and the dead and wounded accumulate at the foot of the walls of Antwerp. On the right, standing, is a thin and gaunt old man with a long beard and tattered garments, taking part in the battle with his raised arm gripping a staff. The character, lacking any military attributes, could represent a surviving Carmelite or a suffering citizen who endured the torments of heretic domination. Above, among the clouds on the left behind the bars of a window, the figure of the Blessed Anne of Saint Bartholomew appears with some companions in prayer.
During those years, Celesti represented an original contradiction compared to other contemporary Venetian artists, who art critics knowingly referred to as “the tenebrous” because they characterized their works with the use of dark tones dramatically illuminated by glimpses of sudden light. Celesti, as his name ironically suggests, does not follow this fashion, so the environment is immersed in clarity and transparency, and the colors remain bright and vivid.
Celesti was born in 1637 and worked in the Veneto and Brescia regions, decorating many noble villas whose owners seemed to prefer the brightness of his colors and the openness of his compositions over the prevailing darkness of those years.