follower of Andrea di Giusto (Italian painter, 1427-1447)


ca. 1710 (creation)

Alternate Title

Andromeda and Perseus


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Artist ID





Andromeda on the Rocks, also known as Andromeda and Perseus, is generally attributed to the hand of the Italian painter, Paolo de Matteis (1662-1728), who was trained in the Neapolitan workshop of Luca Giordano. Andromeda on the Rocks displays Matteis' gentle style, which epitomizes the transitional fusion of the dramatic Baroque vigor and the softer Rococo grace. Andromeda on the Rocks portrays a moment in the Greek myth of Andromeda and Perseus. In the myth, Perseus, a son of Zeus born of the beautiful mortal, Danae, was imprisoned along with his mother in an ark because the oracles had warned his grandfather, King Akrisos, that Perseus would be his end. A kind fisherman found the mother and son at sea and raised them on the island of Seriphus. Several years later, the evil brother of the King of Seriphus tried to take Danae in marriage. To protect his mother from this fate, the young Perseus accepted a challenge to slay the Gorgon, Medusa. Through the divine assistance of Athena and Hermes, Perseus was instructed to visit the Naiads nymphs, who gave him three gifts to help slay the Gorgon: winged shoes, the cap of Hades for invisibility, and a special wallet in which to hold the head of Medusa. Perseus valiantly killed Medusa by avoiding the deadly stare that would turn him to stone and quickly cutting off her head. Since Medusa was pregnant with the child of Poseidon, the winged horse Pegasus sprang from the Gorgon's severed neck. Perseus quickly leapt onto Pegasus and fled the scene in order to avoid the wrath of Medusa's sisters. On his way home, Perseus spotted the beautiful Andromeda being sacrificed to Cetus, a sea monster. Andromeda's mother, Queen Cassiopeia, had boastfully entered a beauty contest, thereby enraging the sea goddesses and Poseidon. To save their kingdom, the oracles had instructed the King and Queen to offer their daughter, Andromeda, to the sea monster. Enamored with Andromeda, Perseus made a deal with her parents that if he saved Andromeda, he could marry her. Andromeda on the Rocks portrays the moment in which Perseus charges towards Cetus in an effort to rescue Andromeda and win her hand. By the Middle Ages, the Greek myth of Andromeda and Perseus was translated into an allegory of virtue. The scene of the victorious hero freeing an innocent maiden continued to be a popular theme throughout the Renaissance and Baroque periods, demonstrating the vices of human nature and the heroism of conquering sin. The image of young Perseus flying off on the back of Pegasus symbolizes a wise man's ascent to virtue. The severed head of Medusa denotes the ability to conquer sin and evil, while the young Andromeda chained to the rocks signifies the weakness of human nature.1 It has been speculated that Andromeda on the Rocks is not by the hand of Paolo de Matteis, but is instead an earlier work of Cavaliere d'Arpino, known as Giuseppe Cesari (1568-1640), or Rutilio Manetti (1571-1639), or perhaps the much later work of Sebastiano Conca (1680-1764). After careful examination of Matteis' other known works, it appears likely that he created Andromeda on the Rocks. His The Annunciation, completed in 1712 and found today in the St. Louis Art Museum, possesses the same skilled modeling of figures found in Andromeda on the Rocks. A particularly striking comparison is the foreshortening and soft sculpting of the right bent leg of the angel Gabriel in The Annunciation, which is nearly identical to the right leg of the seated Andromeda. In addition to this similarity of form, both paintings maintain the same delicate positioning and appearance of the figure's hands. While Andromeda on the Rocks may never be definitively attributed to Matteis, the painting is nevertheless a testimony to the eighteenth-century Italian creations that are often obscured in the history of art. While much of the world was enthralled with the great masterpieces of the Italian Renaissance, by the eighteenth century, the focus of culture had shifted from Italy and the Vatican to more Northern European cultural centers such as France and England. Also during this period, Naples with its increasing wealth from trade, became an artistic world in itself that should not be ignored.2 Jennifer Mortensen 1 Mayerson, Philip, Classical Mythology in Literature, Art and Music (Newburyport, Mass: Focus Pub./R. Pullins, 2001): 291-294. 2 Roworth, Wendy Wassying, "Rethinking Eighteenth-Century Rome," Art Bulletin 83 (2001): 135 (10). Provenance Contini Bonacossi, Florence, from whom acquired by Kress in 1950

Description Source

Eliasoph, Philip (editor); The Samuel H. Kress Collection of Italian Paintings at Fairfield University, Fairfield, CT : Fairfield University, 2004




deities, figure, female, mythology (Classical), seascapes, Mythology--Greek, Kress, Andromeda, Rocks, Perseus, Cetus, sea monster, shackle, Medusa, Pegasus, Greek, myth



Work Type


Style Period

Mannerist (Renaissance-Baroque style)

Work Technique

painting, oil


DiMenna-Nysellus Library (Fairfield, Connecticut, United States)


oil on canvas


30 3/4 x 29 1/2 in (overall)

Image Rights

© Fairfield University

File Type


Photo Credit

Fairfield University


deities, figure, female, mythology (Classical), seascapes, Mythology--Greek, Kress, Andromeda, Rocks, Perseus, Cetus, sea monster, shackle, Medusa, Pegasus, Greek, myth