14 January 2021

Luca Longhi – artist

‘Quiet’ painter trained his children to be follow in his footsteps

Luca Longhi's Adoration by the Shepherds can be seen at the Museo d’Arte della Città
Luca Longhi's Adoration by the Shepherds
can be seen at the Museo d’Arte della Città
Luca Longhi, a portrait painter also known for his beautiful religious paintings who was working during the late Renaissance and Mannerist periods, was born on this day in 1507 in Ravenna in Emilia-Romagna.

He was the father of the painters Francesco Longhi and Barbara Longhi, who were both trained by him and worked in his workshop.

Little is known about Luca Longhi’s own artistic training, but it is thought he probably attended the Ravenna workshops of local artists Francesco Zaganelli and his brother, Bernardino Zaganelli.

The painter and art historian Giorgio Vasari visited Ravenna in 1548 and wrote about "Master Luca de Longhi" in his book, The Lives of the Artists. He says: “Luca de Longhi is a man of good nature, quiet and (a) scholar (who) has done in his homeland Ravenna, and outside, many beautiful oil pictures and portraits. He has done and still works with patience and study.”

Longhi painted the portraits of many famous and important people of his time, including Giovanni Guidiccione, Bishop of Fossombrone, Giulio della Rovere, Cardinal of Urbino, Alessandro Sforza, Cardinal legate of Romagna and Cristoforo Boncompagni, Archbishop of Ravenna.

The Lady and the Unicorn is said to depict Giulia Farnese
The Lady and the Unicorn is said
to depict Giulia Farnese
Among his well-known works are The Lady and the Unicorn, which is a portrait of Giulia Farnese, who was mistress to Pope Alexander VI and the sister of Pope Paul III, Adoration by the Shepherds and Virgin and Child with Saints Sebastian and Rocco.

He painted a Marriage at Canna for the Church of the Camaldolese in Ravenna with his son, Francesco. In the picture there are portraits of Francesco, his daughter, Barbara, and the Abbot of the church’s convent, Don Pietro Bagnolo da Bagnacavallo.

Longhi’s daughter, Barbara Longhi, was much admired as a portrait painter as well. She also assisted her father on large altarpieces and modelled for him. She was depicted by her father as Saint Barbara in his 1570 painting Virgin and Child Enthroned with Saints.

Her self-portrait, in which she is dressed as Saint Catherine of Alexandria, bears a strong resemblance to her father’s depictions of her. The painting was intended originally for the monastery of Sant’Apollinare in Classe, but it was acquired by the Museo d’Arte della Città di Ravenna in the 19th century and restored in 1980.

Lucca Longhi died in his home town of Ravenna in 1580 after succumbing to what was described as a catarrhal illness that had spread throughout Italy after arriving from Paris.

The Basilica of San Vitale in Ravenna is a UNESCO world heritage site
The Basilica of San Vitale in Ravenna is
a UNESCO world heritage site
Travel tip:

Ravenna in Emilia-Romagna, where Luca Longhi and his children lived and worked, was the capital city of the western Roman empire in the fifth century. It is known for its well-preserved late Roman and Byzantine architecture and mosaics and has eight UNESCO world heritage sites. The Basilica of San Vitale is one of the most important examples of early Christian Byzantine art and architecture in Europe.

The museum is housed in the cloister of the Basilica di Santa Maria in Porto
The museum is housed in the cloister of the
Basilica di Santa Maria in Porto
Travel tip:

There are works by Luca Longhi and his children, Francesco and Barbara, on display in the Museo d’Arte della Città di Ravenna, which is in Via di Roma in the centre of the city, housed in the cloister of the abbey of the Basilica of Santa Maria in Porto. The museum is open from Tuesday to Sunday from 9am to 6pm. During the Covid 19 pandemic the museum is asking visitors to book appointments in advance.  Also on display are works by the Zaganellis and many Venetian artists.

Also on this day:

1451: The birth of Renaissance composer Franchino Gaffurio

1552: The birth of international lawyer Alberico Gentili

1883: The birth of fashion designer Nina Ricci

1919: The birth of seven-times prime minister Giulio Andreotti


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