Alessandro Magnasco (called Il Lissandrino)

1667 - 1749

Place Born


Place Died



Recently discovered baptismal documents fix Magnasco’s birthdate as 4th February 1667. After an apprenticeship to Valerio Castello, the early death of his father, Stefano, resulted in Alessandro’s transfer to the studio of Filippo Abbiati in Milan, where his early portraits show a strong Lombard influence. Orlandi (1719) remarks that during this precocious phase the artist was already more at home depicting ‘picciole figure’. By the end of the century, Magnasco had established himself in Milanese circles as a specialist in providing staffage for landscape artists such as Antonio Francesco Peruzzini and Clemente Spera, a painter of imaginary ruins.

Between 1703 and 1710-13, Magnasco worked for the Grand Duke Ferdinand de’ Medici; together with Peruzzini and collaborators. The Hunting Scene (Hartford, Wadsworth Atheneum), which contains a self-portrait and portraits of the Grand Duke and Sebastiano Ricci, dates from this period. Magnasco was inspired by a study of Callot’s prints of Les Miséres de la Guerre to paint a new range of subject matter, such as The Inquisition (Vienna, Kunsthistorisches Museum), The Entrance to a Hospital (Bucharest, Müzeul des Arta), and The Sack of a City (Sibiù, Müzeul Brukenthal).

After the death of the Grand Duke, Magnasco again returned to work for the Milanese aristocracy, executing four large canvases for Count Gerolamo di Coloredo (1719-25) which are now in the Abbey of Seitenstetten, as well as scenes with beggars, monks, and Pulcinella for the Milanese aristocracy, such as the Archintos, Areses, Viscontis, and Borromeos. The Synagogue (Cleveland, Museum of Art) and The Marriage Banquet (Paris, Louvre) date from this time, while the macabre Sacrilegious Theft for the Church of Siziano was executed after 1731.

Toward the end of his life, Magnasco returned to Genoa, where he painted his masterpieces, The Reception in a Garden (Genoa, Palazzo Bianco) and The Supper at Emmaus (Genoa, Convent of S. Francesco in Albaro), but he failed to elicit the same success he had enjoyed in Milan and Florence.

Magnasco’s work is typically Genoese, betraying his debt to Valerio Castello in the dissolving forms and also to Domenico Piola and Gregorio de Ferrari in the fluid rhythms of his brushwork. Nevertheless, his work contrasts clearly with the highly coloured, decorative output of his predecessors, and plunges his figures into monochromatic, gloomy, grey-brown shadows from which they emerge with a few masterful highlights of yellow, red or blue. His style and content quite negate the glittering colour and almost hedonistic subject matter of the Rococo, and find a closer empathy with a more introverted form of Lombard culture which stems from the realism of the great Milanese painters of the first half of the Seventeenth Century.

Art Works Sold

Landscape with monks and figures round a shrine

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Historical Period: 1720-1780 Rococo
Landscape with monks and figures round a shrine