Bernardo Cavallino melded a strikingly original individuality from a variety of sources--Spanish, French, Netherlandish, and native Italian--transforming them so completely that it is impossible to know who actually influenced him. Despite his easily recognized individual style, little is known about Cavallino himself. Born in Naples, he probably died there during the plague of 1656. He worked for art dealers and private patrons whose records no longer exist. Only eight signed or initialed paintings are extant; four drawings have been attributed to him. During his lifetime, his pictures may have been sold outside Naples, often under other artists' names.
Cavallino specialized in relatively small paintings of saints and subjects from the Old Testament, New Testament, and Roman mythology on canvas and copper. He was probably trained in Naples, in an academic tradition emphasizing figure drawing, architecture, perspective, and literary sources. His paintings can be theatrical, with subtle, intense coloring; a naturalistic rendering of surfaces; mannered elegance and grace; and an emotional tenderness unparalleled in his Neapolitan peers.