Romanelli was trained in Rome in the studio of Pietro da Cortona, the leading painter of his day.
Born in Viterbo to Laura de Angelis and Bartolomeo Romanelli, he went to Rome at age 14 to study to become an artist, and within a few years became part of the household of Cardinal Francesco Barberini. He was a pupil in the painting studio of Pietro da Cortona, the leading painter of his day, but the two eventually quarreled and so Romanelli left. In 1639 he was elected director of the prestigious Academy of Saint Luke. With the death of Urban VIII and the accession of Innocent X, the Barberini family fell from favour and Romanelli’s patronage ebbed.
He was then summoned to work in Paris by Cardinal Mazarin, for whom he painted a fresco cycle based on Ovid’s Metamorphoses. He also painted the Salle des Saisons and the Queen’s Cabinet of the Louvre for Anne of Austria, mother of Louis XIV. In France he was made a knight of the Order of St. Michael by King Louis XIV.
Romanelli’s pupils included his son Urbano Romanelli and the painter from Visone, Giovanni Monevi.
Among his paintings are Deposition from the Cross in Sant’Ambrogio della Massima, Presentation in the Temple, which was transferred to a mosaic altarpiece for the Basilica of St. Peter’s, and Venus Pouring a Balm on the Wound of Aeneas, on display in the Louvre. He also painted The Israelites gathering up Manna (Louvre); The Finding of Moses (Indianapolis Museum of Art); and a “Sibilla” in the Museo di Capodimonte of Naples.
The Cumaen Sibyl:
The Cumaean Sibyl was the priestess presiding over the Apollonian oracle at Cumae, a Greek colony located near Naples, Italy. The word sibyl comes (via Latin) from the ancient Greek word sibylla, meaning prophetess. There were many sibyls in different locations throughout the ancient world. Because of the importance of the Cumaean Sibyl in the legends of early Rome as codified in Virgil’s Aeneid VI, and because of her proximity to Rome, the Cumaean Sibyl became the most famous among the Romans. The Erythraean Sibyl from modern-day Turkey was famed among Greeks, as was the oldest Hellenic oracle, the Sibyl of Dodona, possibly dating to the second millennium BC according to Herodotus, favored in the east.