Bernardo Strozzi

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
David with the head of Goliath

Bernardo Strozzi, named il Cappuccino and il Prete Genovese (c. 1581 – 2 August 1644) was an Italian Baroque painter and engraver. A canvas and fresco artist, his wide subject range included history, allegorical, genre and portrait paintings as well as still lifes.[1][2] Born and initially active mainly in Genoa, he worked in Venice in the latter part of his career. His work exercised considerable influence on artistic developments in both cities.[3] He is considered a principal founder of the Venetian Baroque style.[4] His powerful art stands out by its rich and glowing colour and broad, energetic brushstrokes.[1]


Rebecca and Eliezer at the Well

Strozzi was born in Genoa. He is not believed to be related to the Florentine Strozzi family. Bernardo Strozzi initially trained in the workshop of Cesare Corte, a minor Genoese painter whose work reflected the late Mannerist style of Luca Cambiaso. He subsequently joined the workshop of Pietro Sorri, an innovative Sienese painter residing in Genoa from 1596 to 1598. Sorri is credited with leading Strozzi away from the artificial elegance of Cambiaso's late Mannerist style towards a greater naturalism.[5] In 1598, at the age of 17, Strozzi joined a Capuchin monastery, a reform branch of the Franciscan order.[1] During this time he likely painted devotional compositions for the order, including many scenes with St. Francis of Assisi, the patron saint of the order.[6] While he lived in the Capuchin monastery of San Barnaba, he earned the nickname 'il Cappuccino' (the 'Capuchin monk').[7] Since he was allowed to abandon his Capuchin habit for that of a priest, he was also known as il prete genovese (the 'genovese priest').[8]

When his father died around 1608, Strozzi left the Capuchin monastery to care for his mother and unmarried sister. He supported his family through his paintings.[1] Strozzi's career took off during the next decade and he garnered the patronage of Genoa’s powerful Doria and Centurione families.[7][8] Bernardo Strozzi was able to secure commissions for grand mural decorations, which culminated in the important frescoes in the choir of the church of San Domenico, commissioned by members of the Doria family, Giovanni Carlo and his cousin Giovanni Stefano. The work is now almost entirely destroyed and is only known through a preparatory oil bozzetto for the vault depicting ‘’The Vision of Saint Dominic (Paradise)’’, located at the Museo dell’Accademia Ligustica in Genoa. It is believed that from the end of April until the end of July 1625 he resided in Rome, to which he had been summoned by the friars of his order to support their attempt to create a stronger Capuchin presence in the papal city.[8]

The flute player

In 1625 Strozzi began having trouble with the Capuchin order. He was accused of some now unknown act that had purportedly caused 'dishonor to his sacred habit'.[9] Some authors state that the act was the illegal practice of painting beyond the convent's walls.[8] It is known that his Capuchin superiors condemned his genre paintings and portraits. When after his mother’s death in 1630 he refused to return to the monastery, he was imprisoned.[10] His confinement lasted for about 17 to 18 months.[7][8]

By 1632-33 the artist had resurfaced in Venice, where he had been given permission to work and live. Strozzi was able to rise to a position of celebrity and esteem within two years, despite not being a native Venetian. He gradually gained recognition as one of the leading artists of his age. His Venetian patrons included the Doge of Venice Francesco Erizzo, whose portrait Strozzi likely painted soon after his arrival in Venice, the Catholic Cardinal and Patriarch of Venice Federico Baldissera Bartolomeo Cornaro, and at least two members of the Grimani family, as well as musicians and poets such as Giulio Monteverdi, and Giulio and Barbara Strozzi. He also received important public commissions for allegorical figures in the Biblioteca Marciana and altarpieces in the Chiesa di San Nicolò da Tolentino and the Chiesa degli Incurabili. Strozzi was bestowed with the title of Monsignor but was known popularly as il prete genovese.

Calling of St Matthew

His many pupils and the large number of his paintings, which often occur in many versions suggest that he operated a large workshop with several assistants.[9] Francesco Durello, Ermanno Stroiffi, Giovanni Eismann, Clemente Bocciardo, Giuseppe Catto, Antonio Travi and Giovanni Andrea de Ferrari are recorded as his pupils.[1][2]

At the end of his career he was active both as a painter and engineer. He died in Venice in 1644.[9]



Bernardo Strozzi was a versatile and prolific artist who worked on canvas and as a fresco artist. His subjects ranged from his history, allegorical, genre and portrait paintings.[1] Religious compositions make up the majority of his works. He also worked as a still life painter and various of his compositions include still life elements.[2]

Although also active as a fresco artist, he achieved greater success with his canvas paintings.[1] As was the common practice of artists working during this time, Strozzi produced autograph copies of his own paintings.[7]

Stylistic development[edit]

The Healing of Tobit

His style continued to evolve throughout his career. His art drew its early inspiration from the rich variety of styles flourishing in Genoa around the turn of the 17th century. Starting in a style which borrowed from the artificial elegance of Cambiaso's late Mannerist style he gradually developed toward a greater naturalism.[5]

Strozzi had early on absorbed the Tuscan Mannerist style through his teacher Sorri as well as the style of Milanese mannerist painting so that it is often difficult to distinguish the influence of Tuscan Mannerism from that of Lombard painters. In the 1620’s Strozzi began to depart from his mannerist roots and fashioned a more personal style focused on a new naturalism derived from the work of Caravaggio and his followers. The Caravaggist style of painting was introduced to Genoa both by Domenico Fiasella, who returned there in 1617–18, and by followers of Caravaggio who visited the city, including Orazio Gentileschi, Orazio Borgianni, Angelo Caroselli and Bartolomeo Cavarozzi. His Calling of St Matthew (c. 1620, Worcester Art Museum)[11] comes closest to the style of Caravaggio and resembles the latter's own treatment of this subject.[1]

Lute Player

His exposure to the work of Anthony van Dyck, Peter Paul Rubens and the colony of other Flemish artists resident in Genoa contributed to a growing naturalism and a definitive break with the Mannerist tendencies in his work. Warmer colors started to dominate while he developed a more robust and painterly technique. In his composition St. Lawrence Distributing the Riches of the Church (c. 1625, Saint Louis Art Museum) the artist achieved a clear and lucid treatment of space and an accurate definition of form by the use of light and shade. The impasto in this work is yet thicker.[1]

By the end of the 1620s, Strozzi had started to synthesize a personal style which fused painterly influences of the North (including Rubens and Veronese) with a monumental, realistic starkness. Venice infused his painting with a gentler edge, a style more acceptable to the local patronage, and one derived from his precursors in Venice, Jan Lys (died 1629) and Domenico Fetti (died 1626), who had also fused the influence of Caravaggio into Venetian art. Veronese's art inspired him to adopt a bolder and more luminous palette.[1] An example of this style can be found in his Parable of the Wedding Guests (1636, Accademia ligustica di belle arti).[12] His style continued at the same time to reveal the strong influence of Rubens as is shown in Allegorical figure (Minerva?) (mid-1630s, Cleveland Museum of Ar), which unites the robust forms and brilliant colours of Rubens with the warm atmosphere of Venetian art.

Portrait of a Maltese Knight

His latest works are luminous and sketchy, as can be seen in the David with the Head of Goliath (after 1640, Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen, Rotterdam) and the Rebecca and Eliezer at the Well (after 1630, Gemäldegalerie Alte Meister, Dresden). His Lute Player (after 1640; Kunsthistorisches Museum Vienna) exudes a poetic mood likely derived from his study of the work of Giorgione.[1]


Strozzi was a sought after portrait painter who portrayed the leading aristocratic, clerical and artistic figures of his time. In the late 1630s he was invited to participate in the creation of series of portraits of illustrious members of the prominent Genoese Raggi family. Other artists invited to participate included Antony van Dyck, Jan Roos, Luciano Borzone and Gioacchino Assereto. Although painted by different artists, the fourteen canvas that can be traced back from this series reveal a certain homogeneity of arrangement that is based on van Dyck’s models. The fact that Strozzi painted the most portraits in the series points to a privileged relationship between patron and Strozzi.[13]

Genre paintings[edit]

Strozzi was likely inspired by Flemish genre scenes as well as the Caravaggist models to create a group of genre works. Best known of these works is The Cook which exists in many versons (c. 1625, Palazzo Rosso, Genoa, and 1630-40, the Scottish National Gallery).[14] This work goes back to Pieter Aertsen's The Cook (1559; Palazzo Bianco, Genoa) as well as the work of Jan Roos.[1][14] These works reveal an intention to represent daily life without attaching any meaningful allusions.[14]

The Cook

His boisterous The flute player (Palazzo Rosso, Genoa), which also exists in several replicas, is another genre painting that shows its indebtedness to Flemish genre art in its subject, palette and painterly technique.[15] Strozzi’s use of coloured shadows is indebted to Rubens, but rather than adopting Rubens' practice of allowing a light-coloured ground to occasionally emerge on to the surface, Strozzi worked on a reddish-brown ground with light brushstrokes in paler colours.[1]

Still lifes[edit]

Bernardo Strozzi's career as a still-life painter is still not very well understood and there remains confusion over his artistic development in this genre. His relationship with still-life painters from Lucca such as Simone del Tintore and Paolo Paolini whom he is likely to have met during his supposed trip to Rome in 1625 is not yet fully understood.[16] It is known that he painted still lifes throughout his career and included still life elements in many of his compositions. An example are the still lifes of game in his work The Cook.

Still life with flowers in a glass vase and fruits on a ledge

The Still life with flowers in a glass vase and fruits on a ledge (At Sotheby's on 3 July 2013 London, lot 35) is one of the few still lifes by Strozzi that is generally accepted as fully autograph. The design is simple and most objects placed on a similar pictorial plane. Both the gentle light entering the scene from the left and the cream background cite from Caravaggio's Still life of fruits and flowers in a basket (Pinacoteca Ambrosiana, Milan]]). Strozzi's characteristic thick use of paint is present throughout the design.[16]


Bernardo Strozzi's work exercised considerable influence on artistic developments in both Genoa and Venice.[3] He is considered a principal founder of the Venetian Baroque style.[4] Painters in Genoa strongly influenced by Strozzi included Giovanni Andrea de Ferrari, Giovanni Bernardo Carbone, Valerio Castello, Giovanni Benedetto Castiglione and Gioacchino Assereto.[1][17] In Venice, Ermanno Stroiffi, Francesco Maffei, Girolamo Forabosco and certain works by Pietro Muttoni also demonstrate the influence of Strozzi.[1] He has also been cited as a possible influence on the Spanish painter Murillo, who may have known his work such as the Veronica (1620-1625, Museo del Prado, Madrid).[18]

Further reading[edit]

  • Gavazza, E. et al., eds.,Bernardo Strozzi, Genova 1581/82-Venezia 1644 (exhibition catalogue, Palazzo Ducale, Genoa), Milan, 1995
  • Spicer, J., ed., Bernardo Strozzi: Master Painter of the Italian Baroque (exhibition catalogue, Walters Art Museum, Baltimore), Baltimore 1995
  • Pallucchini, A., La pittura veneziana del Seicento, Milan 1993
  • Krawietz, C., "Bernardo Strozzi", in The Dictionary of Art (ed. by Jan Shoaf Turner), London, 1996
  • Hansen, M.S. and J.Spicer, eds., Masterpieces of Italian Painting, The Walters Art Museum, London 2005, no. 43
  • Camillo Manzitti, "Gioacchino Assereto: tangenze giovanili con Bernardo Strozzi e nuove testimonianze figurative", in "Paragone, n. 663, Maggio 2005.
  • Wittkower, Rudolf (1993). "14". Pelican History of Art, Art and Architecture Italy, 1600-1750. 1980. Penguin Books Ltd. pp. 351–2. 


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o Chiara Krawietz. "Strozzi, Bernardo." Grove Art Online. Oxford Art Online. Oxford University Press. Web. 2 February 2017
  2. ^ a b c Bernardo Strozzi, Nature morte avec une corbeille de fruits, un vase de fleurs et des fruits sur un entablement at Galerie Canesso Paris (French)
  3. ^ a b Brigstocke, Hugh. "Strozzi, Bernardo." The Oxford Companion to Western Art. Ed. Hugh Brigstocke. Oxford Art Online. Oxford University Press. Web. 2 February 2017
  4. ^ a b Bernardo Strozzi, The Martyrdom of Saint Justina at the Chrysler Museum of Art
  5. ^ a b Genoa : drawings and prints, 1530-1800, Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1996, p. 85-89
  6. ^ Adoration of Shepherds at the Walters Art Museum, Baltimore
  7. ^ a b c d Bernardo Strozzi, St. Catherine of Alexandria at the Columbia Museum of Art
  8. ^ a b c d e Bernardo Strozzi, ‘’Saint Paul’’ at Galerie Canesso Paris
  9. ^ a b c Bernardo Strozzi, Head of a Young Man at Adam Williams Fine Art Ltd.
  10. ^ Loire, Stephane (1995). "Bernardo Strozzi". Burlington Magazine. pp. 477–479. 
  11. ^ Calling of St Matthew at the Worcester Art Museum
  12. ^ Parable of the Wedding Guests Archived August 21, 2006, at the Wayback Machine. at the National Gallery, Australia
  13. ^ Bernardo Strozzi, Portrait of Nicolò Raggi at Robilant+Voena
  14. ^ a b c Giuseppe Pacciarotti, La pintura barroca en Italia, Ediciones AKAL, 2000, p. 389 (Spanish)
  15. ^ [ Bernardo Strozzi, Pifferaio at Musei di Strada Nuova - Palazzo Rosso (Italian)
  16. ^ a b Bernardo Strozzi, Still life with pink and white peonies in a glass vase and peaches, white roses and fruits on a ledge at Sotheby's
  17. ^ Della origine e delle vicende della pittura in Padova, by Giannantonio Moschini, Tipografia Crescini, Padua (1826), page 106 (Italian)
  18. ^ Bernardo Strozzi at the Prado (Spanish)

External links[edit]