Showing posts with label 1675. Show all posts
Showing posts with label 1675. Show all posts

29 April 2018

Giovanni Antonio Pellegrini - painter

Venetian artist who made mark in England

Giovanni Antonio Pellegrini's self-portrait,  painted in about 1717
Giovanni Antonio Pellegrini's self-portrait,
painted in about 1717
The painter Giovanni Antonio Pellegrini, who is regarded as one of the most important Venetian painters of the early 18th century, was born on this day in 1675 in Venice. 

He played a major part in the spread of the Venetian style of large-scale decorative painting in northern Europe, working in Austria, England, France, Germany, and the Netherlands.

With a style that had influences of Renaissance artist Paolo Veronese and the Baroque painters Pietro da Cortona and Luca Giordano, he is considered an important predecessor of Giovanni Battista Tiepolo in the development of Venetian art.

A pupil of the Milanese painter Paolo Pagani, Pellegrini began travelling while still a teenager, accompanying Pagano to Moravia and Vienna.

After a period studying in Rome, he returned to Venice and married Angela Carriera, the sister of the portraitist Rosalba Carriera.

Soon afterwards, he accepted the commission to decorate the dome above the staircase at the Scuola Grande di San Rocco in 1709.

Pellegrini spent a significant part of his career in England, where he was invited, along with Marco Ricci, the nephew of Sebastiano Ricci, by Charles Montagu, the future Duke of Manchester.  He and Ricci were the first Venetians to work in England.

A copy of Pellegrini's original work in the reconstructed dome of Castle Howard in Yorkshire
A copy of Pellegrini's original work in the reconstructed
dome of Castle Howard in Yorkshire
Pellegrini made his mark in England by painting murals in a number of English country houses, including at Kimbolton Castle for the Montagu, Castle Howard, and Narford Hall, Norfolk, for Sir Andrew Fontaine.

His paintings in the dome at Castle Howard in Yorkshire were unfortunately largely destroyed in a fire in 1940.

In London he worked at 31 St James's Square for the Duke of Portland, and became a director of Sir Godfrey Kneller's Academy in London in 1711.

He submitted designs for decorating the interior dome of the new St Paul's Cathedral, and is said to have been Christopher Wren's favourite painter. However, he did not win the commission, losing out to Sir James Thornhill.

Pellegrini subsequently travelled through Germany and the Netherlands on his way back to Italy.

He completed works in many European cities, including Düsseldorf, The Hague, Prague, Dresden, Vienna and Paris.

Pellegrini died in Venice in November 1741.

The Ospedale degli Incurabili, which houses the  Accademia di Belle Arti in Venice
The Ospedale degli Incurabili, which houses the
 Accademia di Belle Arti in Venice
Travel tip:

Pellegrini is thought to have lived in the Dorsodoro sestriere of Venice, in which the Accademia di Belle Arti di Venezia was founded in September 1750. Giovanni Battista Tiepolo became the first president. The academy was at first housed in a room on the upper floor of the Fonteghetto della Farina, a flour warehouse and market on the Grand Canal, close to Piazza San Marco.

The facade of the historic Scuola Grande di San Rocco
The facade of the historic Scuola Grande di San Rocco
Travel tip:

The Scuola Grande di San Rocco is a lay confraternity founded in 1478, named after San Rocco, who was popularly regarded as offering protection against the plague. It quickly became the richest Scuola of the city.  Jacopo Tintoretto was engaged to produce a large number of paintings to decorate the walls and ceilings, which included what is regarded as his celebrated pictorial cycle illustrating episodes from the New and Old Testaments.  More than over 60 paintings are preserved in their original setting in a building that has undergone very little alteration since its construction.

More reading:

The brilliant miniatures of Rosalba Carriera

Pietro da Cortona - outstanding exponent of Baroque

Why Luca Giordano was renowned as a fast worker

Also on this day:

1945: Brazilian soldiers liberate an Italian town

1987: The birth of tennis champion Sara Errani


7 October 2017

Rosalba Carriera - portrait painter

Venetian artist specialised in miniatures

Rosalba Carriera: shown painting her sister in a self-portrait housed at the Uffizi in Florence
Rosalba Carriera: shown painting her sister in
a self-portrait housed at the Uffizi in Florence
One of the most successful women painters in the history of art, Rosalba Carriera is thought to have been born on this day in 1675 in Venice.

A pioneer of the Rococo style, she worked in pastel colours and was best known for her portraits. Her work was so admired that at her peak she had an almost constant stream of commissions from notable visitors to Venice, and from diplomats and nobility in the courts of other countries, principally France and Austria.

Born into a middle-class background, she was able to live a relatively comfortable life, although she would outlive her family, including her two sisters, and had gone blind by the time she died, at the age of 84.

Nowadays, Carriera’s portraits are as highly sought after as they were in the 18th century, with prices in the tens or even hundreds of thousands of pounds realised when examples come up for auction.

One of the finest such examples, a portrait of the Irish politician Gustavus Hamilton, who was a colonel in the regiment of William of Orange at the Battle of the Boyne, fetched £421,250 at Christie’s in 2008.

The daughter of a clerk and a lacemaker, Carriera is said to have learned lacemaking from her mother but as the lace industry declined she began decorating snuff boxes with miniature portraits, to be sold to tourists.

Carriera's portrait of Gustavus Hamilton, the Irish politician, sold for £421,250 at Christie's
Carriera's portrait of Gustavus Hamilton, the
Irish politician, sold for £421,250 at Christie's
She was one of the first miniaturists to paint on thin pieces of ivory rather than vellum.

Her talent was soon recognised, bringing her admission to the Accademia di San Luca in Rome in 1704. She moved from snuff boxes to more conventional portrait painting.

Carriera’s portraits were highly sophisticated, appealing to the refined tastes of nobility in particular, who were impressed with the way in which her attention to detail conveyed the image of wealth and luxury.

She placed her subjects almost always in a bust-length pose, with the body turned slightly away and the face looking towards the viewer, with the features accurately captured. Her ability to use her paints to create realistic representations of different textures and materials - gold braid, lace, furs – as well as jewels, hair and skin, set her apart.

Although she veered away from idealising her subjects, inevitably she presented them in a flattering light. By contrast, her self-portraits were sometimes starkly unflattering, emphasising what she considered to her poorer features, exaggerating the size of her nose, for example.  Her best-known self-portrait is one she contributed to the Medici collection of self-portraits at the Uffizi Gallery in Florence, in which she portrays herself holding a portrait of her sister, Giovanna, to whom she was devoted.

Her early ‘celebrity’ subjects, whom she painted while they were visiting Venice, included Maximilian II of Bavaria and Frederick IV of Denmark.

Carriera's portrait of the young Louis XV
Carriera's portrait of the young Louis XV
August the Strong of Saxony, who was also King of Poland and sat for her in 1713, became one of her biggest patrons, inviting her to his court and acquiring more than 150 of her works.

Carriera spent between a year and 18 months in Paris, after the collector and financier Pierre Crozat had encouraged her to go.

She arrived with her family in March 1720 and became the idol of the French capital.  She painted every member of the French royal family, including the young Louis XV, and was granted honorary membership of the French Royal Academy.

After returning to Venice, where she had a home on the Grand Canal, she was invited to Vienna, where Holy Roman Emperor Charles VI became her patron.

Carriera was very close to her sisters, Angela and Giovanna, to whom she passed on her skill.  Giovanna helped her fulfil her numerous commissions in Paris, for example.

When Giovanna died in 1738, she was said to have become lonely and deeply depressed, her state of mind not helped by failing eyesight.  She underwent surgery twice in the hope of saving her sight from cataracts, but the operations were not successful.

Carriera spent the last few years of her life living in relative seclusion in a house in the Dorsoduro area of Venice.

The Ca' Biondetti on the Grand Canal was Carriera's home for many years
The Ca' Biondetti on the Grand Canal was Carriera's
home for many years
Travel tip:

Rosalba Carriera lived for many years in the Ca’ Biondetti, a private house on the Grand Canal in Venice, situated between the beautifully ornate Palazzo Mula Morosini and Palazzo Venier dei Leoni, the 18th century palace best known for being the home of the Peggy Guggenheim collection.

The magnificent Basilica of Santa Maria della Salute
The magnificent Basilica of Santa Maria della Salute
Travel tip:

Dorsoduro is the quarter of Venice just across the Grand Canal near where it emerges into the lagoon, accessed from San Marco via the Accademia Bridge. Much less crowded than San Marco, it nonetheless has much to recommend it, including the Peggy Guggenheim collection, the Gallerie dell’ Accademia and the Basilica di Santa Maria della Salute, which itself houses no fewer than 12 works by Titian.  There are also a host of small bars serving a wonderful variety of the Venetian bar snacks known as cicchetti.

12 June 2017

Charles Emmanuel II - Duke of Savoy

Ruler who was notorious for massacre of Protestant minority

Charles Emmanuel II's good work for Turin was overshadowed by his persecution of minority
Charles Emmanuel II's good work for Turin was
overshadowed by his persecution of minority
Charles Emmanuel II, who was Duke of Savoy for almost his whole life, died on this day in 1675 in Turin.

His rule was notorious for his persecution of the Valdesi – a Christian Protestant movement widely known as the Waldenses that originate in 12th century France, whose base was on the Franco-Italian border.

In 1655, he launched an attack on the Valdesi that turned into a massacre so brutal that it sent shockwaves around Europe and prompted the English poet, John Milton, to write the sonnet On the Late Massacre in Piedmont.

The British political leader Oliver Cromwell, Lord Protector of the Commonwealth, proposed to send the British Navy if the massacre and subsequent attacks were not halted, and raised funds for helping the Waldensians.

More positively, Charles Emmanuel II was responsible for improving commerce and creating wealth in the Duchy. He was a driver in developing the port of Nice and building a road through the Alps towards France.

He also reformed the army so that it did not rely on mercenaries, forming five Piedmontese regiments and reviving the cavalry, as well as introducing a standardised uniform.

Charles Emmanuel with his mother Christine Maria
Charles Emmanuel with his mother Christine Maria
Charles Emmanuel restored crumbling fortifications and many of Turin’s most beautiful buildings were built on his initiative. He also continued the development of the Palazzo Reale, which had been built by mother, Christine Marie of France, during her regency, as a new residence for the Court of Savoy.

He was born in Turin in June 1634. His father was Victor Amadeus I, Duke of Savoy, who died when Charles Emmanuel was just three. His maternal grandparents were Henry IV of France and his second wife Marie de' Medici.

Charles Emmanuel was only four when he succeeded to the title following the death of his older brother, Francis Hyacinth. Because of his age, his mother governed as regent. He showed little interest in affairs of state himself as he grew up and even after turning 18, when he might have taken charge in his own right, he invited his mother to extend her regency, allowing him to continue to enjoy the carefree life of a wealthy young man.

It was only with the death of his mother in 1663 that he was forced to take responsibility for governing the Duchy.  Apart from his persecution of the Valdesi, he also flexed his military muscles in a war against Genoa which was inconclusive.

Charles Emmanuel was Duke of Savoy from the age of four years old
Charles Emmanuel was Duke of Savoy
from the age of four years old
His first marriage was rather forced on him by his mother, who paired him with Françoise Madeleine d'Orléans, daughter of her younger brother, Gaston, Duke of Orléans. They were married in April 1663 but the marriage lasted less than one year because of the death of his new wife in 1664. They had no children.

This freed him to marry Marie Jeanne of Savoy, whom he had first met in 1659 and fallen in love with her. They married in May 1665 and had one son, who would become Victor Amadeus II of Savoy, future King of Sicily and later Sardinia.

Charles Emmanuel II is also thought to have fathered at least five illegitimate children by three different mistresses.

He died in Turin a few days short of what would have been his 41st birthday, leaving his wife to act as regent on behalf of Victor Amadeus.  He is buried in Turin’s Duomo – the Cathedral of St John the Baptist.

The Cattedrale di San Giovanni Battista in Turin
The Cattedrale di San Giovanni Battista in Turin
Travel tip:

The Cattedrale di San Giovanni Battista, to give the Turin Duomo its Italian name, is the seat of the Archbishops of Turin. It was built between 1491–98 on the site of an old Roman theatre and adjacent to an earlier campanile built in 1470. Designed by Guarino Guarini, the Chapel of the Holy Shroud – the resting place of the Shroud of Turin - was added in 1668–94, Guarini having been called in to complete a project begun in 1649 by Bernardino Quadri at the behest of Charles Emmanuel II.

The Palazzo Reale is at the heart of Turin
The Palazzo Reale is at the heart of Turin
Travel tip:

The Royal Palace of Turin – the Palazzo Reale – was built on the site of what had been the Bishop’s Palace, built by Emmanuel Philibert, who was Duke of Savoy from 1528 to 1580, who chose the site because it had an open and sunny position close to other court buildings. Opposite is the Palazzo Vecchio or the Palazzo di San Giovanni, which was later replaced by the grand Ducal Palace. In 1946, the building became the property of the state and was turned into a museum. In 1997, it became a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

1 June 2017

Francesco Scipione – playwright

Erudite marquis revitalised Italian drama

An 18th century portrait of Scipione by  an unknown artist
An 18th century portrait of Scipione by
an unknown artist
Dramatist Francesco Scipione, marchese di Maffei, was born on this day in 1675 in Verona.

His most famous work was his verse tragedy, Merope, which attempted to introduce Greek and French classical simplicity into Italian drama. This prepared the way for the dramatic tragedies of Vittorio Alfieri and the librettos of Pietro Metastasio later in the 18th century.

After studying at Jesuit colleges in Parma and Rome, Scipione went to fight on the side of Bavaria in the War of the Spanish Succession. He saw action in 1704 at the Battle of Schellenberg, near Donauworth, when his brother, Alessandro, was second in command at the battle.

In 1710, Scipione was one of the founders of an influential literary journal, Giornale dei letterati, a vehicle for his ideas about reforming Italian drama. He founded a later periodical, Osservazioni letterarie, to promote the same cause.

Scipione spent time studying the manuscripts in the Royal Library at Turin and arranged the collection of objects of art which Charles Emmanuel, Duke of Savoy had brought from Rome. He also travelled extensively in France, England, the Netherlands and Germany and received an honorary doctorate from Oxford University.

The Scipione statue in Piazza dei
Signori in Verona
When Scipione’s verse tragedy, Merope, was first performed in 1713, it met with astonishing success. It was based on Greek mythology and the French neoclassical period, signalling the way for the later reform of Italian tragedy. It was popular with the audience because of its rapid action and the elimination of the prologue and the chorus.

In addition to Merope, Scipione wrote other plays, scholarly works and poetry, and he also translated the epic poems, the Iliad and Aeneid.

Another of his major works is a valuable account of the history and antiquities of his native city - Verona illustrata: A Compleat History of the Ancient Amphitheatres and in particular that of Verona.

Scipione built a museum in Verona to house his art and archaeological collection, which he bequeathed to his native city. He died there at the age of 79 in 1755.  A statue to him was later erected in Piazza dei Signori in Verona.

Travel tip:

The secondary school, Liceo Maffei, is named in Scipione’s honour in the town of his birth, Verona. The city in the Veneto is famous as the setting for Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet as well as for its Roman amphitheatre, L’Arena di Verona in Piazza Bra, where opera and music concerts are now regularly performed.

The Biblioteca Reale is housed inside the Royal Palace in Turin's Piazzetta Reale
The Biblioteca Reale is housed inside the Royal Palace
in Turin's Piazzetta Reale
Travel tip:

The Royal Library, Biblioteca Reale, in Turin, where Scipione studied the manuscripts, is on the ground floor of the Royal Palace in Piazzetta Reale. It was originally established to hold the rare manuscripts collected by members of the House of Savoy.

31 March 2017

Pope Benedict XIV

Bologna cardinal seen as great intellectual leader

Pierre Subleyras's portrait of Benedict XIV, painted in the early 1700s, is in the Palace of Versailles
Pierre Subleyras's portrait of Benedict XIV, painted
in the early 1700s, is in the Palace of Versailles
Prospero Lorenzo Lambertini, who would in his later years become Pope Benedict XIV, was born on this day in 1675 in Bologna.

Lambertini was a man of considerable intellect, considered one of the most erudite men of his time and arguably the greatest scholar of all the popes.

He promoted scientific learning, the baroque arts, the reinvigoration of the philosophy of Saint Thomas Aquinas and the study of the human form.

He was Bishop of Ancona at the age of 52, Archbishop of Bologna at 56 and Pope at 65 but at no time did he consider his elevation to these posts an honour upon which to congratulate himself.  He saw them as the opportunity to do good and tackled each job with zeal and energy. A man of cheerful character, he set out never to allow anyone to leave his company dissatisfied or angry, without feeling strengthened by his wisdom or advice. 

He attracted some criticism for his willingness to make concessions or compromises in his negotiations with governments and rulers, yet his pursuit of peaceful accommodation was always paramount and historians have noted that few conflicts in which he sought to arbitrate remained unresolved after his administration came to an end.

As governor of the papal states he reduced taxation and encouraged agriculture. He supported free trade.
As a scholar he laid the ground work for the present Vatican Museum.

The 18th century bust of Benedict XIV by  Pietro Bracci is in the Museum of Grenoble
The 18th century bust of Benedict XIV by
Pietro Bracci is in the Museum of Grenoble
The third of five children born to Marcella Lambertini and Lucrezia Bulgarini, both of whom came from noble families, he was precociously gifted as a child.  He began to study rhetoric, Latin, philosophy and theology at the Collegium Clementianum in Rome from the age of 13. 

At the age of 19 he became a Doctor of Sacred Theology and Doctor Utriusque Juris (canon and civil law).

He was consecrated a bishop in Rome in July 1724. He became Bishop of Ancona in 1727 and was made a Cardinal in 1728. He was made Cardinal Priest of Santa Croce in Gerusalemme in May 1728 and served as the Archbishop of Bologna from 1731.

At the time of the death of Pope Clement XII, Lambertini’s reputation was at its highest and he was invited to attend the papal conclave to choose a successor. Among the 54 cardinals who took part in the process, several cliques developed and through various intrigues the conclave would last six months.

Ultimately, after one proposal after another was rejected, it was suggested that Lambertini might be put forward himself as a compromise candidate.  He made a speech in which he said, slightly with tongue in cheek: “If you wish to elect a saint, choose Gotti; a statesman, Aldobrandini; an honest man, me."

The words struck a chord with the cardinals and Lambertini was elected Pope on the evening of August 17, 1740 and took his new pontifical name of Benedict XIV in honour of Pope Benedict XIII. 
St Peter's Basilica has a monument marking the tomb of Benedict XIV
St Peter's Basilica has a monument
marking the tomb of Benedict XIV

Benedict governed the states of the church with wisdom and moderation and introduced many reforms to promote the happiness and prosperity of the people. Measures were put in place to curb the excesses of the Catholic Church and to replenish the resources that have been exhausted by the extravagance of some of his predecessors as Pope.

In spiritual and religious matters, Benedict left a lasting impression. His papal bulls and encyclicals played an important part in defining and clarifying obscure and difficult points of ecclesiastical law. For example, he brought definition to the question of mixed marriages, between Catholics and Protestants. It was decreed that mixed marriages were allowable under certain conditions, one of which was that children born of those marriages should be brought up in the Catholic faith.

Benedict's health began to decline in the 1750s and he died on May 3, 1758 at the age of 83. Following his funeral he was buried in St Peter’s Basilica and a large monument erected in his honour.

Apostolic Palace above the colonnades in St Peter's Square
The Apostolic Palace above the colonnades in St Peter's Square
Travel tip:

The Apostolic Palace is the official residence of the Pope, which is located in Vatican City. It is also known as the Papal Palace, Palace of the Vatican and Vatican Palace. The building contains the Papal Apartments, various offices of the Catholic Church and the Holy See, private and public chapels, Vatican Museums, and the Vatican Library, including the Sistine Chapel, Raphael Rooms, and Borgia Apartment. The modern tourist can see these and other parts of the palace, but other parts, such as the Sala Regia and Cappella Paolina, are closed to tourists.

The facade of Bologna's cathedral
The facade of Bologna's cathedral
Travel tip:

The seat of the Archbishop of Bologna is the Metropolitan Cathedral of St Peter.  In the past, there was a baptistery in front of the façade but the building, as it may be seen today, is the one renovated after a fire in the 12th century and an earthquake in the 13th century. Inside the church are paintings by Prospero Fontana, Ludovico Carracci and Marcantonio Franceschini.

More reading:

How Pope Benedict XV tried to stop the First World War

Gregory XV - the last pope to issue ordinance against witchcraft

The consecration of St Peter's Basilica

Also on this day:

(Bust by Milky; Monument in St Peter's by Ben Skála; Apostolic Palace by MarkusMark; Cathedral facade by Jean Housen; all via Wikmedia Commons)