Mattia PretiMattia Preti, known as Cavalier Calabrese, was born in Taverna (Catanzaro) in 1613.
He went to Rome at the beginning of the 1630s and became acquainted with the work of Caravaggio and his followers. The travels of his youth were essential for his training (although there is no direct evidence that he actually travelled). It is almost certain that he moved to northern Italy where he studied the art of the Carracci family, of Lanfranco, Guercino and Veronese.
While he lived in Rome he painted the frescos in S. Giovanni Calibita and in the apse of S. Andrea della Valle (he painted frescos with stories of the saint); in 1652 he painted the fresco in San Carlo ai Catinari in Rome depicting the saint and beggars.
In 1653 the artist was in Naples where he painted large frescos and many altar pieces, becoming very well-known in the city.
Between 1657 and 1659 he painted ex voto frescos of the plague on the city’s doors (they have perished since then). He painted a cycle on the ceiling of the church of St Peter a Maiella, with Stories of the life of St Peter, Celestino and Saint Catherine of Alexandria, the two versions of the prodigal Son (now in the Capodimonte Museum and Palazzo Reale in Naples), St Sebastian for the church of S.Maria dei Sette Dolori and the Madonna of Costantinople in the church of San'Agostino agli Scalzi.
In 1661 the artist moved to Malta where, as official painter of the Knights of the Order, he painted the cathedral of S. Giovanni alla Valletta with Stories of the Baptist and many canvases for the island’s churches.
He died in 1699 in Valletta.