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Sunday, September 3, 2017

Bernardo Strozzi

The Healing of Tobit, early 1630s, Bernardo Strozzi,
based on a book (apocryphal) from the Catholic Bible.
In today's world, most artists have all but unlimited freedom to paint how we want, when we want, where we want, and what we want. It's a hard-won freedom that has evolved over the past several centuries to which we give little thought. Now imagine, if you will, being locked up for what you would not paint or perhaps for what you chose to paint, and not only that but where you chose to paint it. That pretty much sums up the saga of the Genoese painter, Bernardo Strozzi (not to be confused with an English landscape artist of the 19th century with the same name).

Madonna And Child With The Young St John,
1620, Bernardo Strozzi.
Bernardo Strozzi was born in Genoa around 1581. He was apparently not related to the wealthy Strozzi family of Florence. He initially trained in the workshop of Cesare Corte, a minor Genoese painter whose work reflected the late Mannerist style. Strozzi later studied for about two years in the workshop of Pietro Sorri, an innovative Sienese painter residing in Genoa. Sorri is credited with leading Strozzi away from the artificial elegance of the late Mannerist style towards a greater naturalism.

                   The Magdalene, 1617-18,
                                 Bernardo Strozzi
St. Francis in Ecstasy, ca. 1615-18, Bernardo Strozzi
Bernardo Strozzi
Then in 1598, at the age of seventeen, in something of an about face, Strozzi joined a Capuchin monastery. The Capuchin order was a reformist offshoot of the Franciscans. During this time he likely painted devo-tional compositions for the order, including many scenes with St. Francis of Assisi (above) whose life and deeds formed the inspiration of the order. Later Strozzi was allowed to abandon his Capuchin habit for that of a priest.

La Verónica, 1620-25,
Bernardo Strozzi
When Strozzi's father died around 1608, artist/monk left the Capuchin monastery to care for his mother and unmarried sister. He supported his family through his paintings. In so do-ing, Strozzi's popularity gained consid-erably during the next decade. Gen-oa's powerful Doria and Centurione families became his patrons. He was able to secure commissions for grand mural déc-orations, which culminated in the important frescoes in the choir of the San Domenico church, commis-sioned by members of the Doria family, Giovanni Carlo, and his cousin Gio-vanni Stefano. The work is now almost entirely destroyed, and is only known through preparatory sketches and models.

Joseph Telling his Dreams, 1626, Bernardo Strozzi--
one of his last paintings for the Capuchins.
Around the end of July in 1625 Strozzi was summoned to Rome, by the friars of his order to support their attempt to create a stronger Capuchin presence in the papal city. At that point, Strozzi's relationship with the Capuchin order became strained. They accused him of having committed a now long forgotten act that had supposedly caused "disgrace to his sacred habit." Some art historians believe the act centered on the illegal practice of painting beyond the convent's walls. It is known that his Capuchin superiors condemned secular paintings such as Strozzi's, including his portraits and genre paintings. The conflict came to a head in 1630 when Strozzi refused to go back to the monastery following his mother's death and his sister's marriage. His Capuchin superiors then had him imprisoned for about 17 to 18 months.

The Release of St. Peter, c.1635, Bernardo Strozzi. He no doubt identified with Peter, having been locked up for 18 months.
Probably as a condition in his release from prison, Strozzi was allowed to live and work in Venice. There, within just two years, Strozzi was able to build a strong reputation despite not being a native Venetian. He gradually gained recognition as one of the leading artists of his age. The Doge of Venice, Francesco Erizzo became one of his most prominent patrons. Strozzi likely painted the Doge's portrait soon after he arrived. Other patrons included the Catholic Cardinal and Patriarch of Venice Federico Baldissera, Bartolomeo Cornaro, and some members of the prominent Grimani family. He also painted prominent Venetian artists such as the musicians Claudio Monteverdi, Barbara Strozzi, and the poet Giulio Strozzi. The artist worked on important public commissions, including altarpieces in the Chiesa degli Incurabili and the Chiesa di San Nicolò da Tolentino and painted a tondo representing an Allegory of the Arts (below) for the reading room of the Biblioteca Marciana.

Allegory of the Arts ca. 1640, Bernardo Strozzi
Bernardo Strozzi had many pupils. The large number of his paintings, which often appear in many versions, suggests his reliance on the help of several assistants and the operation of a sizable workshop. His known students include Francesco Durello, Antonio Travi, Ermanno Stroiffi, Clemente Bocciardo, Giovanni Eismann, Giuseppe Catto, and Giovanni Andrea de Ferrari are recorded as his pupils. At the end of his career Strozzi also worked as an engineer. The artist died in Venice in 1644 at the age of sixty-three.

The Sermon of St. John the Baptist, ca.1644, Bernardo Strozzi,
probably the artists final painting.
Sleeping Child, Bernardo Strozzi

Fat Man, Bernardo Strozzi.
Obesity was considered a
mark of great wealth at
the time.


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