Pier Francesco Mola (Italian, 1666)


Born in the town of Coldrerio, in the Swiss canton of Ticino, Pier Francesco Mola settled with his family in Rome at the age of four.
He entered the Roman studio of Cavaliere d’Arpino at a young age, and later worked in Bologna as an assistant to Francesco Albani. To the influence of Arpino and Albani was added that of Pietro Testa, whom he met in Lucca in 1637, and Guercino, in whose Bolognese studio he may have spent time in the 1640’s. Of equal importance to the development of his artistic style were two long stays in Venice, between 1633 and 1640 and again from 1641 to 1647, after which Mola settled for good in Rome.
His only signed and dated painting is the splendid ‘Oriental Warrior’ of 1650, now in the Louvre.
He joined the Accademia di San Luca in 1655, and the following year contributed to the redecoration of the Palazzo del Quirinale, painting a fresco of ‘Joseph Greeting His Brothers’ on the end wall of the palace gallery.
By 1658 he was working for Prince Camillo Pamphili, for whom he painted frescoes at the Pamphili palaces at Nettuno and Valmontone. Later patrons included Queen Christina of Sweden, while an invitation from Louis XIV to work in France was turned down on the grounds of the artist’s poor health.
In 1662 Mola was elected principe of the Accademia di San Luca in Rome.
A large number of drawings by Mola survive today, the majority of which are in pen and brown ink, with a handful in red or black chalk. Relatively few drawings by Mola may be identified as preparatory studies for his paintings, however. Many remain unrelated to finished works and, in many cases, seem to have been done for the artist’s own pleasure; this is certainly true of a large number of caricatures.