Showing posts with label Mannerism. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Mannerism. Show all posts

11 August 2022

Lavinia Fontana – artist

Mother of 11 was Italy’s first female professional painter

A detail from Fontana's Self-Portrait at the Clavichord with a Servant, painted in 1577
A detail from Fontana's Self-Portrait at the
Clavichord with a Servant,
painted in 1577
Bolognese Mannerist artist Lavinia Fontana, who became famous for her portraits, died on this day in 1614 in Rome. She has come to be regarded as the first female professional painter in both Italy and throughout western Europe because her family lived on her income from commissioned works. Her husband worked as her assistant and agent and helped her bring up their 11 children.

Lavinia was born in Bologna in 1552 and baptised at the Basilica di San Petronio in the city. Her father, Prospero, was a prominent artist of the Bolognese school and trained Lavinia to follow in his footsteps. This allowed her to become an artist at a time when women were not widely accepted in the profession.

Her earliest known work, Child of the Monkey, was painted in 1575 when she was 23, but is now lost. Another early painting, Christ with the Symbols of the Passion, which was painted in 1576, is now in the El Paso Museum of Art in Texas.

Bologna society was largely supportive of Lavinia’s career, providing opportunities that were not given to women artists in other areas of Italy. She is thought to be the first woman artist working within the same sphere as her male counterparts to live outside a court or a convent.

Lavinia began working professionally by painting small devotional pictures on copper, which had popular appeal as papal and diplomatic gifts. By the 1580s she was in demand as a portrait painter of Bolognese noblewomen, who competed for her services and paid large sums of money for her work because of her close attention to detail. 

Mancini's Christ with the Symbols of Passion, at the El Paso Museum of Art
Mancini's Christ with the Symbols of
at the El Paso Museum of Art
She displayed the wealth of the sitter by not neglecting any fashionable detail and by using bright colours for their clothes and jewellery. She also painted portraits of important people connected with the University of Bologna. As her career developed, she began creating large-scale paintings with religious or mythological themes. Among her most famous works are her large altarpieces for churches in Bologna.

Lavinia married another painter, Gian Paolo Zappi, in 1577, at the age of 26, and continued to paint professionally, adding the name Zappi to her signature.

Her husband helped her take care of the household and worked as her painting assistant and agent. He would paint minor elements of her canvases, such as draperies. Lavinia attended Bologna University and was listed as one of the city’s ‘donne addotrinate’, women with doctorates, in 1580.

In 1589, Lavinia painted the altarpiece Holy Family with the Sleeping Christ Child for El Escorial in Madrid.

At the invitation of Pope Clement VIII, Lavinia and her family moved to Rome in 1604 and she was appointed Portraitist in Ordinary at the Vatican. Pope Paul V was later among her sitters.

In 1604, Lavinia painted her largest work, The Martyrdom of St Stephen, an altarpiece for San Paolo Fuori le Mura - Saint Paul Outside-the-Walls - in Rome.

Among the honours she received was a bronze portrait medallion of herself cast by sculptor and architect Felice Antonio Casoni in 1611. She was also elected into the Accademia di San Luca of Rome, which was rare for a woman.

Minerva Dressing (1613), thought to be
the first female nude painted by a woman 
Lavinia died in Rome on 11 August 1614 and was later buried in Santa Maria sopra Minerva, one of the major Dominican churches in the capital.

One of Lavinia’s masterpieces is considered to be the Self-Portrait at the Clavichord with a Servant, which she painted as a gift to the Zappi family before her wedding, describing herself as a virgin in the signature. She also stated that she painted it while looking at herself in a mirror as a testament to it being an accurate depiction of her.

Over 100 of her works have been documented, but only 32 signed and dated are still known today. Another 25 have been attributed to her, giving her the largest collection of works by any female artist before 1700.

Lavinia’s religious and mythological paintings sometimes featured nude figures. Her painting, Minerva Dressing, for Cardinal Scipione Borghese, nephew to Pope Paul V, is believed to be the first female nude executed by a woman in Italy.  This can be seen in the Galleria Borghese in Rome. It has also been claimed Lavinia was the first female artist to paint mythological subjects.

Lavinia was immortalised by being the subject of Portrait of a Woman by Paolo Veronese, painted in 1595, when she was 43. She was the only woman to be featured in the 17th century book Considerazioni sulla pittura - Considerations on Painting - written by the physician and art collector Giulio Mancini, where the beauty of her paintings was likened to her own physical attractions by the writer.

It was rare for a woman painter to achieve such success and to profit from her talent during the Renaissance period. Some experts would argue that, to this day, Lavinia Fontana remains insufficiently appreciated as an artist.

The Basilica of San Petronio in Bologna is the sixth largest church in Europe
The Basilica of San Petronio in Bologna
is the sixth largest church in Europe
Travel tip:

The Basilica di San Petronio, where Lavinia Fontana was baptised, dominates Bologna’s Piazza Maggiore. Standing 47m (154ft) tall, 132m (144yds) long and 60m (66yds) wide, it is the sixth largest church in Europe and is seen as a symbol of the city. Strangely,  it was not consecrated as a church until 1954 - 574 years after it was built. It was constructed as a civic temple and not transferred from the city to the diocese until 1929.  It is notable for its unfinished facade, the red and brick marble of Domenico da Varignana’s design abandoned when it had barely reached one third of the building’s height, following the intervention of Pope Pius IV, who considered the project too expensive and ambitious.

The Basilica of St Paul Outside-the-Walls is one of Rome's four major Papal Basilicas
The Basilica of St Paul Outside-the-Walls is
one of Rome's four major Papal Basilicas
Travel tip:

St Paul Outside-the-Walls is one of the four major Papal Basilicas in Rome, along with St John in the Lateran (San Giovanni in Laterano), St Peter’s (San Pietro in Vaticano) and St Mary Major (Santa Maria Maggiore). Originally built in the fourth century, it was founded by the Roman emperor Constantine I over the burial place of St Paul. It was damaged and rebuilt after Saracen raids in the ninth century and an earthquake in the 14th century and almost completely destroyed by a fire in 1823, after which Pope Leo XII ordered it to be reconstructed to exactly resemble the original, consecrated in 324, although this turned out to be an unrealistic ambition. The new basilica bears only a general resemblance to the original. The tomb of St Paul is below a marble tombstone in the basilica’s crypt.

Also on this day:

1492: The election of Rodrigo Borgia as Pope Alexander VI

1902: The birth of cycling champion Alfredo Binda

1967: The birth of football coach Massimiliano Allegri 


1 November 2018

Giulio Romano – artist and architect

Painter from Rome left his mark on Mantua

Titian's portrait of Giulio Romano, painted  between 1536 and 1540
Titian's portrait of Giulio Romano, painted
between 1536 and 1540
Giulio Romano, who was the principal heir to the artist Raphael and one of the most important initiators of the Mannerist style of painting, died on this day in 1546 in Mantua.

He is most remembered for his masterpiece, the Palazzo del Te, built on the outskirts of Mantua as a pleasure palace for the Gonzaga family, which was designed, constructed and decorated entirely by him and his pupils.

The artist had been born in Rome some time in the 1490s and was given the name, Giulio di Pietro di Filippo de’ Gianuzzi. He was known originally as Giulio Pippi, but later was referred to as Giulio Romano because of where he was born.

Giulio was apprenticed to Raphael when still a child and worked on the frescos in the Vatican loggias to designs by Raphael. He also collaborated with him on the decoration of the ceiling in the Villa Farnesina.

He became so important in the workshop that on Raphael’s death in 1520 he was named as one of the master’s chief heirs and he also became his principal artistic executor, completing a number of Raphael’s works, including the Transfiguration.

 Romano's 1523 painting The Stoning of St Stephen
Romano's 1523 painting The Stoning of St Stephen
His own works from this time, such as the Madonna and Saints and the Stoning of St Stephen, both completed in 1523, show he had developed a highly personal, anticlassical style of painting.

The following year, at the invitation of the Gonzaga family, Giulio left Rome for Mantua, where he remained until his death, completely dominating the artistic affairs of the duchy.

In Mantua he worked on the rebuilding of the ducal palace and his decorations in the Sala de Troia are thought to foreshadow the Baroque style.

He also sculpted the figure of Christ that is positioned above Castiglione’s tomb in the Church of Santa Maria delle Grazie just outside Mantua.

Romano's Palazzo del Tel is 
Giulio’s studio became a popular school of art in Mantua and many of his pupils later achieved fame as artists themselves.

Drawings by Giulio that are still in existence are treasured by collectors and contemporary prints of them, engraved by Marcantonio Raimondi, made a significant contribution to the spread of Italian style throughout Europe.

The architect built a house for himself in Mantua, which was a Mannerist version of Raphael’s house in Rome. He started rebuilding the city’s cathedral the year before his death, in 1546.

Giulio Romano was buried in the Church of San Barnaba in Piazza Giuseppe Bazzani in Mantua.

The Palazzo Ducale in Mantua was the seat of the ruling Gonzaga family
The Palazzo Ducale in Mantua was the seat
of the ruling Gonzaga family
Travel tip:

Mantua is an atmospheric, old city in Lombardy, to the southeast of Milan, famous for its Renaissance Palazzo Ducale, the seat of the Gonzaga family between 1328 and 1707. Giulio Romano was well paid by the Gonzaga family and could afford to build his own residence in Via Carlo Poma. He reconstructed it from existing buildings, creating an elegant stone façade with arched windows on the upper floor. It still stands as an example of his genius and has some of his original frescos inside. 

The Palazzo del Te was designed as a pleasure palace considered to be Giulio Romano's masterpiece
The Palazzo del Te was designed as a pleasure palace
considered to be Giulio Romano's masterpiece
Travel tip:

Palazzo del Te, designed for Federico Gonzaga as a summer residence, is a fine example of the Mannerist school of architecture and is considered to be Giulio Romano’s masterpiece. The name for the palace came about because the location chosen had been the site of the Gonzaga family stables at Isola del Te on the edge of the marshes just outside Mantua’s city walls. After the building was completed in about 1535, a team of plasterers, carvers and painters worked on the interior for ten years until all the rooms were decorated with beautiful frescoes.

More reading:

The outstanding legacy of Mannerist painter Parmigiano

Why Bronzino is regarded as the master of the Mannerist movement

Salomone Rossi and the enlightenment of the Mantua court

Also on this day:

1512: Michelangelo's Sistine Chapel ceiling revealed

1596: The birth of painter and architect Pietro da Cortona

1757: The birth of sculptor Antonio Canova


24 August 2017

Parmigianino - Mannerist painter

Artist from Parma left outstanding legacy

Parmigianino's Self-Portrait in a Convex Mirror, with which he announced himself in Rome in 1524
Parmigianino's Self-Portrait in a Convex Mirror, with
which he announced himself in Rome in 1524 
The artist Girolamo Francesco Maria Mazzola – better known as Parmigianino – died on this day in 1540 in Casalmaggiore, a town on the Po river south-east of Cremona in Lombardy.

Sometimes known as Francesco Mazzola, he was was only 37 years old when he passed away but had nonetheless made sufficient impact with his work to be regarded as an important influence on the period that followed the High Renaissance era of Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo and Raphael.

Known for the refined sensuality of his paintings, Parmigianino – literally ‘the little one from Parma’ – was one of the first generation of Mannerist painters, whose figures exuded elegance and sophistication by the subtle exaggeration of qualities associated with ideal beauty.

Parmigiano is also thought to have been one of the first to develop printmaking using the technique known as etching and through this medium his work was copied, and circulated to many artistic schools in Italy and other countries in northern Europe, where it could be studied and admired.

The church of San Giovanni Evangelista in Parma, where Parmigianino did early work
The church of San Giovanni Evangelista in
Parma, where Parmigianino did early work
Parmigianino’s figures would often have noticeably long and slender limbs and strike elegant poses. He is most famously associated with the Madonna dal collo lungo – Madonna with the Long Neck – which portrays a tall Virgin Mary with long, slender fingers, long, narrow feet and a swan-like neck, cradling a particularly large baby Jesus watched over by a group of lithe and graceful angels.

He is also remembered for The Mystic Marriage of St Catherine, for his fresco series Legend of Diana and Actaeon, executed while he was living in Parma, for his Vision of St Jerome, which he painted in Rome, and for the Madonna with St Margaret and Other Saints that he worked on in Bologna after leaving Rome to escape the sacking of the city by German troops loyal to the Holy Roman Emperor, Charles V.

Parmigianino was born, as the name suggests, in Parma, in 1503, into a large family. His father died when he was two and he was brought up by two uncles, Michele and Pier Ilario, who were both established artists.

His uncles saw his talent at a young age and he would help them on local commissions.  His early influence was said to be Antonio Allegri – otherwise known as Correggio, the foremost painter of the Parma school during the Renaissance, with whom he likely worked at the church of San Giovanni Evangelista, in Parma, where there are frescoes attributed to Parmigianino.

Parmigianino's Madonna with the Long Neck highlights his exaggerated style
Parmigianino's Madonna with the Long
highlights his exaggerated style
In common with many young artists of his era and earlier, he moved to Rome in 1524, seeking fame and inspiration by working in the city of so many great masters, where he could study the works of Raphael and Michelangelo among others. He took with him his brilliantly imaginative Self-Portrait in a Convex Mirror, which he presented to the Papal court, after which Giorgio Vasari, who is recognised as art’s first historian, noted that he was hailed as 'Raphael reborn'.

Parmigianino and Pier Ilario, along with Maria Bufalina from Città di Castello, collaborated on a project at the church of San Salvatore in Lauro that included an altarpiece of the Vision of Saint Jerome, now on show at the National Gallery in London.

His time in Rome was cut short when the city was destroyed by Charles V’s imperial army in 1527.

Initially, he went to Bologna, where he stayed for almost three years. His works during that time included the Madonna and Child with Saints, which is kept now by the Pinacoteca in Bologna and the Madonna with Saint Zachariah, which is in the Uffizi in Florence.

By 1530 he was back in Parma, where he was paid an advance to produce two altarpieces, depicting Saint Joseph and Saint John the Baptist, for the unfinished church of Santa Maria della Steccata.

He painted the Madonna with the Long Neck after being commissioned by the noblewoman Elena Baiardi to decorate her family chapel in the church of Santa Maria dei Servi in Parma.

For all he was celebrated at his peak, however, Parmigianino was to end his life somewhat in disgrace.

Distracted, it is thought, by his obsession with etching and printmaking techniques, he neglected his commission with the church of Santa Maria della Staccata and was eventually imprisoned for two months for breach of contract and replaced with Giulio Romano.

The monument to Parmigianino in Parma
Released on bail, he took refuge in Casalmaggiore, where he died of a fever. Increasingly eccentric, he was said to have been buried in the church of the Servite Friars naked and with a cross made in cypress wood placed on his chest.

Many Venetian artists, including Jacopo Bassano and Paolo Veronese, are said to have been strongly influenced by the emotional and dramatic qualities in Parmigianino’s work. 

Travel tip:

Despite the unhappy end to his relationship with what is now the Basilica of Santa Maria della Steccata, Parmigianino’s status as one of Parma’s most famous sons is celebrated with a monument immediately in front of the church, in Piazza della Steccata, executed by the sculptor Giovanni Chierici and inaugurated in 1879. The monument consists of a fountain and a statue.

Piazza Garibaldi in Casalmaggiore, looking towards Palazzo Comunale
Piazza Garibaldi in Casalmaggiore, looking
towards Palazzo Comunale 
Travel tip:

Casalmaggiore sits alongside the Po river about 42km (26 miles) south-east from Cremona. It is an attractive town with a lively central square, the Piazza Garibaldi, where there is a weekly market every Saturday and regular outdoor events. Most of the town’s main sights are in the vicinity of the square, including the imposing castellated Palazzo Comunale – the Town Hall – built in 1788, and the Estense tower. Look out also for the Diotti or Bijou Museum, in the basement of the former Collegio Santa Croce, which displays jewellery, ornaments and accessories made in local factories in the late 19th century.