Tuesday 13 February 2018


Today is the birthday of one of my favourite Venetian painters, Giambattista Piazzetta (born 1682). His name is not as well known as it should be, and that was the case in his lifetime too, when he was overshadowed by the massively successful Sebastiano Ricci and G.B. Tiepolo. Ricci's overblown work, painted by the acre in the grand manner, is now of interest chiefly to art historians, while Tiepolo's reputation, after declining in the 20th century, is back where it should be, i.e. in the Venetian premier league. Piazzetta, on the other hand, remains in the shadows, a fascinating figure whose works, once you get to know them, cast a powerful spell.
  Piazzetta is what might be called a poetic painter (like his fellow Venetian Giorgione), his best pictures seeming to be charged with something mysterious and elusive. His generally dark-toned palette and distinctive use of light and shade – a particular fall of warm light against intense, modulated darkness – deepens the mystery of pictures full of enigmatic poses, looks and gestures, and his subjects are often obscure. What exactly is going on in the picture above, An Idyll at the Coast? Or in the one below, The Soothsayer (which is in the Accademia)? The longer you look at works like these, the more compelling – and impressive – they become.
 Outside Venice, where there are a good many of his masterpieces in the churches, Piazzetta's works (which include many brilliant drawings, mostly portraits) are widely, and rather thinly, scattered. It would be wonderful if enough could be gathered together for a full-scale exhibition. It would open many eyes, and perhaps raise Piazzetta's reputation to the heights where it belongs.

1 comment:

  1. One is never sure with Giorgione and this kind of thing whether it is numinous and mysterious shadow or whether it just needs cleaning. I'm sure the experts can tell. They are lovely though.