Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Giovanni Benedetto Castiglione

Giovanni Benedetto Castiglione (1609-1664) was an Italian artist as well known for his hot temper and repeated brushes with the law as for his paintings, drawings, and etchings. His career began in Genoa but thanks to his repeated flights from arrest and revenge he also worked in Rome, Venice, Mantua, and other places. (Head of an Oriental, one of a series of drawings and etchings Castiglione made of exotic heads.)

His biographies are full of stories like this one:
On hearing that the Doge of the Republic, Giovanni Battista Lomellini, had been advised to turn down a painting commissioned from him, Castiglione drew his sword and slashed the work to shreds in front of the Doge's court, swearing that the Lomellini would never again have a work from his hand. Having insulted Genoa's most powerful family he then had to flee the city in disguise.
(The Adoration of the Shepherds)

Dueling and grandstanding were not unusual among Italian artists, but Castiglione was such an iconoclast that he actually admitted to being influenced by non-Italian artists. He worked for a while in the Genoa studio of Anthony van Dyck, and he was a great admirer of Rubens. He was much taken with Rembrandt's etchings, and you can perhaps see some northern influence in this possible (but much disputed) self-portrait of about 1645.

His best known works these days are drawings made with oil paint on paper, like Sacred and Profane Love, 1630s.

Here's the Adoration of the Shepherds as a sketch.

Shepherd with Urn and Flock, c. 1645, and detail.

An etching: Circe after Changing Ulysses' Men into Animals. This has been called "one of the most exciting drawings of the Baroque period," which seems a bit excessive to me, but it is quite nice.

Allegory in Honor of the Duke and Duchess of Mantua.

Detail from Crossing the Red Sea.

The Return from Egypt.


Virgin and Child.

More heads.

David with the Head of Goliath, a very late work -- in fact so late that some sources date it to 1665, the year after Castiglione's death. The perfect subject for a man who loved drawing disembodied heads.

Quite wonderful.


pootrsox said...

When I co-taught a history of Western civ course to HS seniors, one of the Renaissance readings was Castiglione's Book of the Courtier.

The man was multi-talented.

G. Verloren said...

Hah! I love Italian Renaissance figures for all of the reasons on display here.

This guy had guts. For a Genoan to piss off the doge and scamper off work for rivals like Venice and Mantua shows either great courage or great stupidity, and quite likely both.