Marco Basaiti

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Call of the Sons of Zebedee

Marco Basaiti (c. 1470-1530) was a renaissance painter who worked mainly in Venice and was a contemporary of Giovanni Bellini and Cima da Conegliano.[1] He has been referred to by several names including Marco Baxaiti, Marcus Basitus, and Marcus Baxiti. Originally Vasari believed there were two artist from Venice at the time, one name Marco Basarini and Marco Basaiti but later information reveals that these two were in fact the same painter.[2][3] Not much is known about Marco Basaiti's personal life. There is little documentation on Marco Basaiti besides his painting signatures and when he was recorded on a guild's ledger as a painter of figures in 1530.[4] Most of what is known about Marco Basaiti comes from examining the paintings attributed to him and the period in which he lived.

His works consisted of mainly portraits and often focused on religious themes.[4][5] In fact, there is no known painting attributed to Marco Basaiti with a mythological theme.[2] Although trained in the quattrocento style, Basaiti's career occurs right at the beginning of the cinquecento style which forces him to attempt to adapt his style to compete with the rapidly changing times.[4]

Personal Life, Training, and Influence[edit]

Marco Basaiti was born around 1470,[6] in either Venice[7][8] or Friuli.[6][9] His family was of either of Albanian[10][11][12][13][14][15] or possibly Greek origin, as Vasari reported.[6][7][9][13][16][17][18] In either case this explains the variety of names Basaiti is known by because the Greek and Albanian communities, along with many other foreign communities, for the most part kept to themselves and do not often appear on Venetian records.[19] Due to this distinct lack of documentation, not much is actually known about Basaiti's life, except what little scholars can learn about the artist through his art.[4]

Altarpiece of Saint Ambrose, Alvise Vivarini and Marco Basaiti, 1503

One more piece of evidence we have from Basaiti's life is a will left to his possible family in 1526. However, connection between Basaiti and this will is still somewhat debated.[2][4]

He began to paint actively from 1496 to 1520.[20] Currently there is evidence that Basaiti trained with Bartolomeo Vivarini as Basaiti's earlier pieces are thought to more reflect Bartolomeo's style and composition. Later Basaiti transitioned to working with Bartolomeo nephew Alvise Vivarini after Bartolomeo death in 1491. However once Bartolomeo died in the late 1590s, it is thought that Basaiti began working with Alvise Vivarini, Bartolomeo's nephew. This is supported by the fact that when Alvise died in 1505, Basaiti was commissioned to finish the altar piece entitled St. Ambrose Enthroned with Saints that Alvise had left uncompleted. Typically only major assistants working in the studio would have been asked to do this type of work which suggests that Basaiti was closely connected to Alvise by this time. Additionally, Basaiti's work seems to be influenced stylistically by both Vivarinis further implying the link between Basaiti and these two masters.[4]

However, Basaiti, as many artists from that time, were influenced by a variety of great artists during that lived during this era. For example, Basaiti began to incorporate more extensive landscapes into his backgrounds which takes queues stylistically from Giovanni Bellini.[21][1] In fact, some of Bellini’s older works were misattributed to Basaiti for a long period of time.[4] Another likely influence for Basaiti’s more complex backgrounds are Netherlandish painters. Specifically, it has been noted that after Albrecht Durer’s stay in Venice, Basaiti’s style shifted somewhat towards more complex and dramatic landscapes with a less of an emphasis on the figures in the painting. This type of style can be clearly seen in the Lamentation over the Dead Christ and St. Jerome in the Wilderness.[2] Additionally, the painting of St. Jerome in the Wilderness is thought to be a copy of a painting created by Cima da Conegliano which presents yet one more important artistic influence in Marco Basaiti’s life. For the most part Basaiti focused on religious themes rarely delving into mythological or historical topics.[5][4] Despite this his style seems fairly contemporary with complex composition and correct proportions.[2]

Early Period (1495-1510)[edit]

Portrait of a Young Man, Marco Basaiti, 1495

More than half of Basaiti's known works come from this first period in his painting career. This period comes right after his training and is marked by a constantly changing style as Basaiti experiments with his art to find his own personal style. This era is marked by the Portrait of a Young Man (1495) which represents his first finished piece as an independent painter.[4]

Stylistically there are strong influences from his two proposed mentors in the composition of his paintings, with Bartolomeo specifically influencing his figure design. Some notable features of the Antonellian include strong geometric forms and sharp contrast in lighting. Furthermore, in accordance with the style of his proposed masters, Basaiti’s paintings often consist of brightly colored clothing and cool skin tones. Indeed, Basaiti’s early works are very like some of Alvise’s established disciples such as Jacopo da Valenza which further confirms the link between Basaiti and Alvise.[4]

Portrait of a Young Man, Marco Basaiti, 1505

Around 1500, the influence of the Antonellian school becomes less distinct as Basaiti begins to incorporate more ideas from alternative influences. At this time Basaiti’s backgrounds become more developed demonstrating the influence Giovanni Bellini and Northern artists have on Basaiti.[1][2] This development can be seen in paintings such as in Portrait of a Young Man (1505), where, in contrast to his first Portrait of a Young Man (1495), the screen behind the figure has been completely removed and the landscape given more importance. In addition to developing a more complex landscape composition, Basaiti appears to become more concerned with spatial consistency after 1500.[4]

Additionally, this change to more expressive landscapes coincided with Albrecht Durer's stay in Venice from 1505-1506. It has been suggested that the landscape style Basaiti adopted is more influenced by Netherlandish paintings than Bellini.[2]

As Basaiti continued to mix the styles of Alvise and Bellini his paintings become comparable to Cima da Conegliano. However, Basaiti arrived at this mix of styles after Cima and he was never able to exert quite the same influence.[4]

Middle Period (1510-1520)[edit]

Agony in the Garden, Marco Basaiti, 1510-1516

By this time Basaiti's work began to reach a more mature style and this period represents the most cohesive time stylistically for his paintings as his early pieces seemed disjoined due to experimentation early on in his career. Additionally this was one of the most prosperous time for Basaiti and included several large commissions such as the high altarpiece at Sant'Andrea della Certosa, the Call of the Sons of Zebedee.[2][4] This piece in particular marked the beginning of his mature period and is considered by Vasari and many future critiques to be one of his best pieces.[4] Moving away from portraits which up until now had been his main artistic endeavors, the Calling of the Sons of Zebedee is a narrative painting which requires more complex composition. In fact, the painting features a much more detailed and expansive landscape that was lacking in his earlier works. Additionally the figures within a narrative setting must be place in a more careful fashion in order to bring the painting to life. Although Basaiti tried to compose narrative paintings later on, none were as successful as this first one.

Resurrection of Christ, Marco Basaiti, 1520

Another notable example of Basaiti’s work with narrative pieces is the Agony of Christ. This represents a large commission as the altarpiece of the Foscari in San Giobbe. This altarpiece is set up next similar pieces by Giovanni Bellini and the influence from Bellini in Basaiti's painting is obvious.[4]

Later, during this period, Basaiti’s paintings became more focused and returned to one figure paintings as intricacies of narrative paintings proved to be too difficult. As seen in the Resurrected Christ and the Blessed Redeemer, while many aspects of Basaiti’s former success remain, the painting features only one main figure.

Continuing his emphasis on the use of landscapes in paintings, backgrounds became more integrated into the overall painting but the influence of Bellini and of Netherlandish painters is still apparent. As Basaiti’s own style developed, the lighting in his piece became softer and the components of the painting blended more fluidly into his paintings.[4] This gradually shift towards softer lines and an emphasis on natural lighting was the popular style developing during this era.

Basaiti was trained in the quattrocento style which he worked on perfecting during this time but unfortunately this style was declining in popularity. Despite this new style emerging during his later years he attempts to incorporate some of the new techniques being popularized during this time. This transition can be particularly seen in his later works.[1][4]

Late Period ( 1520- 1530)[edit]

Lamentation, Marco Basaiti, 1527

This was Basaiti's last period and no paintings have been dated after 1530. Basaiti appears on a ledger for a painters guild in 1530 and then there is no known mention of him after this ledger and he is presumed to have died in the early years of that decade. According to current estimations, this would have made him 60 around the time of his death. In this last decade of his painting career, his composition became slightly more developed and more in tune with the contemporary style but remained heavily influenced by the quattrocento style. During this time he mainly focused on portraits as the delicate interplay between figures in narrative scenes were much more difficult for him. In fact, portraits were the one area where he was able to adapt the most stylistic with the changing times.[4] Additionally during this shift back to portraits landscapes started to decline in importance in his paintings although their presence never quite disappeared completely.

One exception to this trend is the painting the Lamentation which once again demonstrates Basaiti's ability to compose narrative scenes. The Lamentation blends many of the influences throughout Basaiti's life and exhibits Basaiti's progress towards more organic lighting and forms.[4]

Some call Basaiti one of the last masters of the early renaissance and his works demonstrate a refined quattrocento style. However, despite his best efforts, his works are still generally considered to be one step behind the trends of the Venetian painting of that time.[4]


There are approximately 30 known pieces currently attributed Basaiti.[1][4]

Date attributed Painting Location currently Type
1495-1500 Portrait of a Young Man[22] National gallery London Oil on panel
1496-1505 The Virgin and Child[23] National gallery London Oil on panel
1500 Portrait of a Gentleman[24] RISD Museum Oil on panel
1500 Saint Catherine of Alexandria[25] Szépmüvészeti Múzeum- Budapest Oil on panel
1500-1501 Virgin and Child with Saint James the Great[26] Philadelphia Museum of Art Oil on panel
1500-1505 Portrait of Doge Agostino Barbarigo[27] Szépmüvészeti Múzeum- Budapest Oil on panel
1500-1510 Madonna and Child with Saint Chiara and Saint Francis[28] Academia Carrara Oil on Panel
1500-1510 Portrait of a Man in a Cap[29] Museo Correr- Venice Tempura on panel
1501-1502 Madonna and Child with a Donor[30] Location unknown Tempera on panel
1503 Altarpiece of Saint Ambrose[31] Frari Basilica Oil on panel
1505 Portrait of a Young Man[32] Private collection Oil on panel
1508 The Deposition[33] Alte Pinakothek- Bayerische Staatsgemäldesammlungen Oil on panel
1508 Virgin and Child with Saints[34] Fitzwilliam Museum- University of cambridge Tempera on panel
1510 The Call of the Sons of Zebedee[35] Galleria dell Accademia- Venice Oil on Panel
1510 Dead Christ[36] Szépmüvészeti Múzeum- Budapest Oil on panel
1510 Madonna and Child[37] Georgia museum of art- Athens Georgia Oil on panel
1510-1516 Christ Praying in the Garden (Agony in the Garden)[38] Galleria dell'Accademia- Venice Oil on panel
1515-1516 Portrait of a Gentleman with a Cap[39] Academia Carrara Oil on panel
1517 Blessed Redeemer[40] Academia Carrara Oil on panel
1518-1519 Madonna and Child with Saint John the Baptist and Saint Liberalis [41] Muzeum Palacu Krola Jana III w Wilanowie- warsaw Oil on panel
1520 Madonna Adoring the Child[42] National Gallery of Art- Washington Oil on panel
1520 The Resurrection of Christ[43] Accademia Carrara Oil on canvas
1521 Portrait of a Gentleman in Black[44] Academia Carrara Oil on panel
1527 The Lamentation[45] The State hermitage Museum- St. Petersburg Oil on canvas
No date given on website Head of the Virgin[46] Ashmolean Museum of Art and Archaeology -University of Oxford Oil on panel
No date The Lamentation of Dead Christ[47] Museum of Fine Arts- Boston Oil on panel
No date Saint Peter Enthroned with Four Saints[48] San Pietro di Castello Oil on canvas
No date Saint Sebastian[49] Santa Maria della Salute- Venice Oil on canvas
No date San Girolamo[50] Museo Correr- Venice Oil on panel
No date Dead Christ between Two Angles Galleria dell'Accademia- Venice Oil on panel

The table is ordered by date and those with a range of dates were ordered based on their earliest estimated date. Those with no determined dates were listed last.


  1. ^ a b c d e "Marco Basaiti". March 3, 2017.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h Mauro Lucco. "Basaiti, Marco." Grove Art Online. Oxford Art Online. Oxford University Press. Web. 4 Apr. 2017. <>.
  3. ^ "BASAITI, Marco." Benezit Dictionary of Artists. Oxford Art Online. Oxford University Press. Web. 25 Apr. 2017. <>.
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u Bonario, Bernard. Marco Basaiti: A Study of the Venetian Painter and a Catalogue of His Works. 1974. University of Michigan, PhD dissertation. ProQuest Dissertations and Theses Global.
  5. ^ a b "Marco Basaiti". Rijksbureau V. Kunsthistorische Documentatie. Retrieved 4 April 2017. 
  6. ^ a b c Shaw, James Byam (1976). Drawings by old masters at Christ Church, Oxford. Clarendon Press. p. 193. OCLC 2633502. Marco Basaiti who was indeed born of Greek parents, in Friuli, c. 1470 and was a follower of Giovanni Bellini 
  7. ^ a b Vasari, Giorgio (1963). The lives of the painters, sculptors, and architects. Dent. p. 141. OCLC 175078002. Marco Basaiti, born in Venice of Greek parents 
  8. ^ Ansell, Florence Jean (2008). The Art of the Munich Galleries. READ BOOKS. p. 229. ISBN 1-4437-5543-5. Of a somewhat later date and severer style was Marco Basaiti, who was born of Greek parents in Venice, and who was a pupil and assistant of Luigi Vivarini and later Giovanni Bellini, whose influence in the softness of his later works can be easily traced. 
  9. ^ a b Rose, Hugh James (2008). A New General Biographical Dictionary, Volume III. BiblioBazaar. p. 293. ISBN 0-559-38853-5. BASAITI, (Marco del Friuli,) an Italian painter, a native of Friuli, whence his designation. He was born of Greek parents, and flourished about 1510 
  10. ^ Babinger, Franz (1962). "L'origine albanese del pittore Marco Basaiti (ca. 1470 - ca. 1530),". Atti. Istituto Veneto di Scienze, Lettere ed Arti, Classe di Scienze Morali e Lettere. CXX: 497–500. 
  11. ^ Fabio Maniago (conte di.); Caterina Furlan (1999). Storia delle belle arti friulane. Fondazione Cassa di Risparmio di Udine e Pordenone. p. 18. Veneziano di probabile origine albanese 
  12. ^ Pacini (1976). Problemi di morfosintassi dialettale. Centro di studio per la dialettologia italiana. p. 6. L'opinione di F. Babinger (*) secondo cui il pittore veneziano Marco Basaiti, il quale operò intorno agli anni 1500-1530, fosse di origine albanese, a mio avviso trova conferma nel fatto che Bazaiti appare ancor oggi come nome di famiglia nella città di Delvina 
  13. ^ a b Preyer, David Charles (2008). The Art of the Vienna Galleries. BiblioBazaar. p. 39. ISBN 0-559-69564-0. Trained in the same school was the Greek Marco Basaiti, from whom we find a smaller replica of the artist's large painting which is now in the Academy at Venice 
  14. ^ "Bulletin of the Rhode Island School of Design". 
  15. ^ Ferid Hudhri (2003). Albania Through Art. Onufri. p. 15. ISBN 978-99927-53-67-5. [The Albanian exiled community] set up there their own school, which they called “Scuola degli Albanesi” (School of the Albanians). Their textbooks were the works of the Albanian Humanists: Marin Beçikemi (1468-1528) and Marin Barleti (1460-1512). The most renowned painters were Marco Basaiti (1496-1530) and Viktor Karpaçi (1465-1525). Some international academics have referred to them and their Albanian descent. 
  16. ^ Waters, Clara Erskine Clement (1881). Painters, Sculptors, Architects, Engravers, and Their Works. Houghton, Mifflin and Co. p. 75. OCLC 227712073. Basaiti, Marco. It is not known whether this artist was born at Friuli or Venice. He was of Greek parentage. Flourished from 1496 to 1520. 
  17. ^ Fernau, Joachim (1959). The Praeger encyclopedia of old masters. F.A. Praeger. p. 27. OCLC 444975. BARTOLOMMEO VENETO (See VENETO) BASAITI Though of Greek parentage Marco 
  18. ^ Sturgis, Russell (2008). Manual of the Jarves Collection of Early Italian Pictures. BiblioBazaar. p. 71. ISBN 0-554-70267-3. Marco Basaiti, or Baxaiti, born at Venice of a Greek family that was corny[?]. His works are delicate in finish and exquisite in color. 
  19. ^ Krén, Emily; Marx, Daniel. "Biography- BASAITI, Marco". Web Gallery of Art. 
  20. ^ Waters, Clara Erskine Clement (1881). Painters, Sculptors, Architects, Engravers, and Their Works. Houghton, Mifflin and company. p. 75. OCLC 227712073. Basaiti, Marco. It is not known whether this artist was born at Friuli or Venice. He was of Greek parentage. Flourished from 1496 to 1520. 
  21. ^ "Giovanni Bellini Style and Technique". Artble. Retrieved 2017-10-03. 
  22. ^ "Portrait of a Young Man". The National Gallery. 
  23. ^ "The Virgin and the Child". The National Gallery. 
  24. ^ "Portrait of a Gentleman". RISD Museum. 
  25. ^ "Saint Catherine of Alexandria". The Museum of Fine Art, Budapest. 
  26. ^ "Virgin and Child, with Saint James the Great". Philadelphia Museum of Art. 
  27. ^ "Portrait of Doge Agostino Barbarigo". Museum of Fine Arts, Budapest. 
  28. ^ "Madonna col Bambino e i santi Chiara e Francesco d'Assisi". Academia Carrara. 
  29. ^ "File 2338". Fondazione Musei Civici Venezia. 
  30. ^ "Madonna and Child with a Donor by Marco Basaiti". Find the Data, Graphic IQ. 
  31. ^ "Altarpiece of St Ambrose". Web Gallery of Art. 
  32. ^ "Past Auction, Portrait of a Young Man, Marco Basaiti". Artnet. 
  33. ^ "The Deposition". The Athenaeum. 
  34. ^ "Virgin and Child with Saints". The Fitzwilliams Museum. 
  35. ^ "Calling of the Sons of Zebedee". Web Gallery of Art. 
  36. ^ "Dead Christ". Museum of Fine Arts, Budapest. 
  37. ^ "From the collection". Georgia Museum of Art. 
  38. ^ "Christ Praying in the Garden". Web Gallery of Art. 
  39. ^ "Ritratto di gentiluomo con pelliccia". Academia Carrara. 
  40. ^ "Redentore benedicente". Academia Carrara. 
  41. ^ "Madonna and Child with St. John the Baptist and St. Liberalis". WikiCommons. 
  42. ^ "Marco Basaiti- Madonna Adoring the Child". Artsy. 
  43. ^ "Resurrezione di Cristo". Academia Carrara. 
  44. ^ "Ritratto di gentiluomo in nero". Academia Carrara. 
  45. ^ "Lamentation-Marco Basaiti". State Hermitage Museum. 
  46. ^ "Paintings Collection: Marco Basaiti, Head of the Virgin". Ashmolean Museum of Art and Archaeology -University of Oxford. 
  47. ^ "The Lamentation of the Dead Christ". Museum of Fine Arts Boston. 
  48. ^ "St. Peter Enthroned and Four Saints". Web Gallery of Art. 
  49. ^ "St. Sebastian". Web Gallery of Art. 
  50. ^ "File 2355". Fondazione Musei Civici Venezia. 

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