- Also known as
Pier Francesco Mola
primary name: Mola, Pier Francesco
other name: Mola, Francesco
other name: Mola, Pietro Francesco
- individual; painter/draughtsman; Roman; North Italian; Italian; Male
- Life dates
- Painter, draughtsman and etcher, b. Coldrerio (near Lugano, in the canton of Ticino) 1612, came to Rome as a child. He was of a family of craftsmen from the Ticino (modern Switzerland) and the son of the architect, stuccoist and topographical writer Giovanni Battista Mola (1585-1665), who, by 1616, had travelled from Coldrerio to Rome, since in that year he was appointed architect to the Camera Apostolica, a post he held until 1634. Little is known of Pier Francesco's early Roman training and career, though the style of some of his drawings perhaps indicates contact with the studio of the late Roman Mannerist painter Giuseppe Cesari, called the Cavaliere d'Arpino (1568-1640).
In 1633-40 and 1641-7, Mola was in Northern Italy. During his first absence from Rome he may have settled in Venice, where he seems to have associated with Francesco Ruschi (q.v.) (see 1934,1208.2), who earlier in his career had worked in Rome, also possibly in the studio of Arpino. Mola's paintings of the 1650s and 1660s contain many references to Venetian art and reflect a good knowledge of the work of Titian (1477-1576). During Mola's second visit to Northern Italy he probably worked with Francesco Albani (1578-1660), who, by tradition, is said to have been his master. A Bolognese ingredient to Mola's work undoubtedly exists, including the influence of Guercino (1591-1666). This latter is perhaps most evident in Mola's drawing - in his frequent use of emphatic chiaroscuro, indicated with dark, fluid washes, as well as in his liking for caricature.
In 1641 Mola returned to Coldrerio, where he began the fresco decoration of the Cappella Nuova in the church of the Madonna del Carmelo, his first surviving public commission (see 1898,1216.1). Many of the small-scale canvases of landscape subjects, for which Mola is perhaps best known today, appear to date from the 1640s. They combine Bolognese and Venetian influences and include subsidiary figures of mythological or biblical subject matter.
Mola was back in Rome in 1647, where he was employed by the Costaguti family to paint the altar-piece of the 'Image of St Dominic Carried to Soriano by the Virgin' in SS Domenico e Sisto (c. 1648). During the 1650s he received further important Roman commissions, including the ceiling fresco of 'Bacchus and Ariadne' in the Palazzo Costaguti (c. 1650-52); the decoration of the side walls, with 'St Peter Baptising in Prison' and the 'Conversion of St Paul', in the Ravenna Chapel, the Gesù (date unknown, but probably from the mid-1650s); and 'Joseph Greeting his Brethren', the fresco on one of the end walls of the Gallery of Alexander VII in the Quirinal Palace (1656-7) (see 1857,0613.367, 1853,1008.10 and 1990,0728.100).
In c. 1651-2, soon after his return to Rome, Mola had been employed by Principe Camillo Pamphilj to decorate rooms in the then recently acquired family palace at Nettuno, on the coast south of Rome (for which see Lugano and Rome, 1989-90, pp. 207-13). He was once more employed by Pamphilj in 1658, this time in the decoration of another family palace, at Valmontone, outside Rome. The extensive renovations included the ceiling decorations, by a number of different painters, of the four rooms dedicated to the Elements, the 'Stanza dell'Aria' being Mola's own assignment. Work did not go to plan and, from 1659 to 1664, Mola was involved in litigation with the Prince, part of the outcome of which was the destruction of his ceiling fresco and its replacement with a decoration by his rival Mattia Preti (1613-99).
In spite of this blow, Mola continued to be employed by wealthy patrons, including Pope Alexander VII and the Colonna family, and in 1662 he was appointed principe of the Accademia di San Luca, a position from which he resigned in 1663 on account of ill health.
- Bartsch XIX pp.202-8 (8 nos, many being false attributions)
Richard Cocke, 'PFM', Oxford 1972 (with catalogue of paintings)
'PFM', exhibition Lugano and Rome (Musei Capitolini), 1989-1990
Turner 1999 (whence biography)