As an artist, Il Schiavone worked on many private commissions, which has caused a great deal of dispute in documentation of his life and works. He was a painter and etcher, born in the Venetian Dalmatia (Modern Croatia), who worked mostly in Venice. There is evidence of influence in his work from the Italian Mannerist painter Parmigianino (1503 – 1540), which may be part of the claim that he trained some under Parmigianino.
It is said that Il Schiavone taught himself to etch by copying the drawings of Parmigianino. His style in both painting and etching has been described as a “Venetian Maniera,” or a style that brings together techniques of The Venetian School of the Renaissance and elements of Mannerism. At the time this was a daring move that both shocked and inspired the art world, influencing some of the great Venetian painters, including Titian (1485 – 1576) and Tintoretto (1518 – 1594).
His influence on Titian was soon overshadowed by the great works of the artist, as the poet Dante called Titian, “the sun admist small stars.” Still, in the 1550s Il Schiavone reached a pinnacle of artistry in the atmosphere his works emulated, often described as a synthesis of Raphael’s gracefulness and Titian’s bold compositions. After this his work was criticized as imitative of Titian and even challenged as being the work of Tintoretto.
His work, Portrait of an Old Man, was claimed to be a piece by Tintoretto, but found rightful attribution when placed in the Uffizi Gallery in Florence in 1798. His other noted and well regarded painted works are Holy Family with St. Catherine (1552) and Conversion of St. Paul. His work in etching, as art historian Francis Richardson has said, was an innovative technique that unsystematically “…used dense webs of light and fine, multidirectional hatching to create a tonal continuum embracing form, light, shadow and air.” His well known woodcut etchings are, The Crowning with Thorns, based on a painting by Titian and also The Entombment. Such works were said to influence the 16th century Venetian printmakers and 17th century etchers in France, Italy and the Netherlands.