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Giovanni Benedetto Castiglione, called Il Grechetto

1609 - 1664

Place Born

Genoa

Place Died

Mantua

Bio

The seemingly incessant peripatetic travels of the Genoese artist Giovanni Benedetto Castiglione, called Il Grechetto throughout the peninsula of Italy, provides the perfect parallel to his insatiable quest for assimilating a variety of artistic sources throughout his career. [1][ His emergence as one of the most important Genoese artists of the Seicento was recognition that he was more than just an animal specialist or a painter of patriarchal journeys. He was also known for his portraits, altarpieces, and allegorical works, and he received many plaudits for his drawings, etchings, and monotypes. Initially attracted to the works of Flemish (or Flemish inspired) contemporaries in Genoa, he later was influenced by the works of the Bassano, Titian, Correggio, and Parmigianino from the Cinquecento, and, among his contemporaries, Ribera, Rembrandt, Bernini, and particularly Poussin. Active as an occasional printmaker, he frequently appropriated paintings and individual and compositional motifs from the graphic works of others into his own corpus of dry brush drawings, pen and ink sketches, etchings, and monotypes (most likely the first to produce such prints).

After learning much from G.B. Paggi, who insisted on a theoretical foundation as the primary basis of art, which also included a close study from nature, Castiglione left for Rome in the early 1630s to seek his fame and fortune. There he attended the Accademia di S. Luca and became known for his patriarchal journey compositions such as Jacob’s Journey of 1633 (New York, private collection), still his first known documented work. For reasons still unknown, he left for Naples early in 1635. Although the length of his stay there remains equally uncertain, it appears that he returned to Rome a year or so later, before emerging again in 1639 in Genoa. He remained there throughout the 1640s producing at least three major altarpieces, including the famous Nativity of San Luca of 1645, St. James Driving out the Moors, (circa 1646), and St. Dominic of Soriano in Santa Maria di Castello. Having returned to Rome again by 1648, he made a series of etchings that were published by the de Rossi brothers, and in 1649 received at least one important commission from the Fiorenzi family, the Immaculate Conception, now in Minneapolis.

There is no documentary record of the artist in Rome after 1651, but recent archival discoveries indicate that he returned to Genoa yet again by 1652 and remained there until at least 1655. During this decade, he found himself facing a number of lawsuits, one of which was filed by his own attorney for apparent lack of payment. Notwithstanding the distractions caused by such affairs, he continued to produce a number of works for Genoese clients, assisted by a substantial workshop..

It is not known when Castiglione began to receive patronage from various members of the Mantuan Court of Carlo II Gonzaga , Duke of Rethel (1629 – 1665); his relationship with the court may have begun informally during the late 1640s in Rome and perhaps continued in Genoa throughout the first half of the 1650s, and he is documented there in April 1659.

During the last years of his life he found it difficult to remain in Mantua, instead preferring to spend his time between Genoa, Venice, and Parma. He continued to produce a few paintings on a monumental scale, such as the Allegory in Honour to the Duchess of Mantua, (Genoa, Zerbone Collection), and the Annunciation to the Shepherds (s. & d., 1663, Naples, Capodimonte), in addition to collaborative works with Filippo Gagliardi for the Duke and other members of the Gonzaga court. Curiously, an official proclamation appointing him Court painter to the Duke has never been found and although the inscription on Castiglione’s tomb in the Duomo at Mantua indicates that he died in 1665, it is now known that he died in Mantua, perhaps also without much official notice, on 5 May 1664.

Art Works Sold

God Creating the Animals

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Historical Period: 1600-1720 Baroque
God Creating the Animals
Orpheus Charming the Animals

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Historical Period: 1600-1720 Baroque
Orpheus Charming the Animals
St Francis in Ecstasy

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Historical Period: 1600-1720 Baroque
St Francis in Ecstasy
The Sorceress Circe transforming Ulysses's companions into Animals

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Historical Period: 1600-1720 Baroque
The Sorceress Circe transforming Ulysses's companions into Animals