Salvator Rosa (1615-1673), painter, etcher, poet, satirist, mime actor, 'proto-romantic and free creative spirit'( Roworth, 'Salvator Rosa's Self Portraits; Some problems of Identity and Meaning', p. 148), was born in Arenella, Naples and worked in Florence and Rome.
Rosa's response to 'picturesque' landscape anticipated the eighteenth century, and Langdon,'Salvator Rosa and Claude', p. 779, comments that the 'belief of eighteenth century writers that the landscape of Salvator Rosa and Claude epitomise the contrast between the sublime and the beautiful has received remarkably little modification'. During his time in Florence from 1640-49 Rosa's work began to reflect his philosophical and moral concerns in allegorical and historical paintings, in which his perspective is that of a Stoic rejecting the vanities of the world. It was during this period that he produced such macabre paintings as Witches at their Incantations (NG6491) in the National Gallery, London.
In Naples Rosa established the habit of making 'oil sketches from nature directly on paper'; these were both 'terresti e marittime'. Baldinucci, Notizie de' Professori del Disegno da Cimabue (published 1728 quoted in Conisbee, 'Salvator Rosa and Claude-Joseph Vernet') praised particularly the 'naturalezza e verità' of his treatment of landscape. Lady Morgan's biography of Rosa published in 1824 suggests that he was trained as a painter in the 'school of Nature'. The terms used are similar to those used of Canaletto in the eighteenth century: and the basis of Ruskin's depreciation of Rosa, is the same as the basis of Ruskin's depreciation of Canaletto - the falsity to nature of painters who had been praised for their truth. Rosa favoured the mountainous landscape of the Apennines as opposed to the softer Roman countryside favoured by Claude, and so Ruskin seeks particularly to depreciate Rosa on what was seen as his 'own ground', the painting of rocks. The influence of the views expressed by Reynolds on Rosa, and the influence of Rosa's reputation more generally, were among the 'fetters' which Ruskin sought to remove. Ruskin's later judgements of Rosa's moral character amplify and considerably deepen the reference in MP I:385 to Rosa's 'love of ghastliness'.