5 February 2016

Giovanni Battista Moroni – artist

Portrait painter left visual record of a changing society

Moroni's portrait of Bernardo Spini, a nobleman from his home town of Albino
Moroni's portrait of Bernardo
Spini, a nobleman from his
home town of Albino
Giovanni Battista Moroni, who was considered one of the greatest portrait painters of the 16th century, died on this day in 1578 while working on a painting at a church just outside Bergamo in the northern region of Lombardy.

His wonderful legacy of portraits provides an illuminating insight into life in Italy in the 16th century, as he received commissions from merchants trying to climb the social ladder as well as from rich noblemen.

Moroni was born at Albino near Bergamo somewhere between 1510 and 1522 and went on to train under a religious painter from Brescia, Alessandro Bonvicino.

Although Moroni painted many acclaimed religious works, he became known much more for the vitality and realism of his portraits, for which he was once praised by Titian.

Some of Moroni’s work is in the Uffizi Gallery in Florence and the National Gallery in London but there are fine examples of Moroni’s work in the collection of the Accademia Carrara in Bergamo, such as The Old Man Sitting Down and the Portrait of Bernardo Spini.

One of Moroni’s finest religious works, the Coronation of the Virgin, can be seen in the church of Sant Alessandro della Croce in Via Pignolo in Bergamo’s lower town.

Moroni’s unfinished painting of the Last Judgment can be seen in the church at Gorlago, just outside Bergamo, where he was working until just before his death on February 5, 1578.

Travel tip:

Bergamo is a fascinating historic city with two distinct centres. From the lower town you can see the beautiful upper town, the Città Alta, silhouetted against the sky. The upper town still has medieval buildings and towers, but the Venetians later built the impressive city walls and elegant palaces and fountains. At the heart of the upper town is Piazza Vecchia, said to be the most beautiful square in Italy, with the Colleoni Chapel, a stunning Renaissance building, nearby. There are plenty of interesting shops  and many excellent restaurants.

Find a hotel in Bergamo with Hotels.com 

The magnificent facade of Bergamo's Accademia Carrara, which houses a number of Moroni portraits
The magnificent facade of Bergamo's Accademia
Carrara, which houses a number of Moroni portraits
Travel tip:

You can see portraits by Moroni in Bergamo’s prestigious art gallery, Accademia Carrara. The magnificent palace just outside the Città Alta was built in the 18th century to house one of the richest private collections in Italy. It is the only Italian museum to be entirely stocked with donations and bequests from private collectors. Visitors can view works by the masters of the Venetian, Lombard and Tuscan Renaissances as well as great artists who came later, such as Lotto, Titian, Moroni, Rubens, Tiepolo, Guardi and Canaletto. Accademia Carrara, in Piazza Giacomo Carrara, is open Monday, Wednesday and Thursday from 10 am to 7 pm ; Friday from 10 am to 12 pm and Saturday and Sunday from 10 am to 8 pm . For more details visit www.lacarrara.it.

Bergamo hotels from Expedia.co.uk

More reading:

Why Titian was a giant of Renaissance art

Cosimo I de' Medici and the origins of the Uffizi

How Bergamo painter Antonio Cifrondi captured images of 17th century life

Also on this day:

The Festival of Saint Agatha of Sicily

1964: The birth of footballer and coach Carolina Morace


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