Sicily's most important painter of the 1600s, Pietro Novelli trained with his father, a painter and mosaicist, then studied painting and perspective in Palermo. Anthony van Dyck's visit to Sicily in 1624 influenced him for life. Van Dyck's altarpiece,still in the oratory of a Palermo church, encouraged Novelli to lighten his palette, a decision that added a sweetness and elegance to his art.
Novelli's travels also made a lasting impact on his work. Visiting Rome between 1622 and 1625, he studied paintings by the famous Italian Renaissance artists. His draftsmanship in particular, with its economical line, graceful curves, and abbreviated forms, shows his exposure to the art of Giovanni Lanfranco. During a trip to Naples in 1630, Novelli saw works by Jusepe de Ribera and Neapolitan naturalist painters, who encouraged him to develop a more realistic and popular art. In return, Novelli's style brought to Ribera and Bernardo Cavallino an awareness of Van Dyck's elegance and rich color.
Returning to Sicily in 1637, Novelli painted primarily religious subjects, including canvases and fresco cycles for ecclesiastical institutions and also served as the royal architect.