Giovanni Battista Piazzetta

Born: February 13, 1682  - Death: April 28, 1754    Located in: Painting of the 18th Century

Piazzetta was an artist who sought little gain in his creations, and as a result he was impoverished for much of his life. Albeit, his paintings and drawings were renowned for their Rocco style, with subtle coloring and curvaceous forms in religious and genre subjects. Born in Venice to a sculptor, Piazzetta studied woodcarving with his father and went on to train as a painter with Antonio Molinari (1655 – 1704). Molinari was a Venetian Baroque painter, whose influence merged in Piazzetta with that of the Bolognese painter, Giuseppe Crespi (1665 – 1747), who certainly influenced Piazzetta and may have trained him some.

In Piazzetta’s works can be seen a strong development of Crespi’s genre painting, and it is said that he implored the bold contrasts, or Chiaroscuro, of the master painter Caravaggio (1571 – 1610). That Piazzetta also largely redefined drawing, as opposed to just painting, as an art form; there is a noted influence on him from the Emilian artist, Guercino (1591 – 1666). Guercino’s influence is also seen the religious pieces that Piazzetta executed.

While not receiving many commissions throughout his career, Piazzetta also made ends meet by illustrating books with drawings, which have a noted impression from the art of Rembrandt (1606 – 1669). In all his works, Piazzetta created complex worlds where the subject was never obvious and his characters where engaged in more than it seemed. This layering of meaning in his subjects can be seen in genre pieces, such as Rebecca at the Well, The Soothsayer, and Susanna and the Elders, which now hangs in the Uffizi Gallery. This dramatic element is also seen in his religious works as well, such as Saint James Brought to Martyrdom and The Guardian Angel with Saints Anthony of Padua and Gaetano Thiene.

His elusive subtext lent itself well to his reputation of being regarded as a darker artist than his Venetian contemporaries. Much of his later years were spent teaching, and although not wealthy, was a well respected artist. He was invited into the Bolognese Accademia Clementina in 1727 and later he was appointed as director of the Scuola di Nudo, (School of the Nude) in 1750.

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