Carpoforo Tencalla

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Carpoforo Tencalla (or Tencala) (10 September 1623 - 9 March 1685) was an influential Swiss-Italian Baroque painter of canvases and frescoes. He is little studied and has come only recently to the attention of art critics. He introduced the style of 17th-century Italian painting with its mythological subjects to Central Europe, reviving the art of fresco on large surfaces.

Apotheosis of St. Dominic
Dominican church, Vienna


Tencalla was born in Bissone in southern Switzerland. He began his apprenticeship in Lombardy, probably in Milan, Bergamo and Verona, possibly under the master Isodoro Bianchi, related to his mother. Other possibilities are Giovanni Stefano Danedi (1608–1689), Giuseppe Danedi, Giovanni Battista Lampugnani (active between 1619 and 1653) and Carlo Francesco Nuvolone. His works also show influences from the Bolognese, Roman and Venetian schools.

He began in 1655 as a fresco painter under the direction of the Italian architect-engineer Filiberto Luchese in the Pálffy castle at Červený Kameň (now Slovakia). Through these paintings he was influential in introducing the Early Baroque style in Central Europe.

An early painting of his can be found in the Palazzo Terzi in Bergamo. In 1659 he received a commission from the Benedictine Lambach Abbey in Austria for a number of frescoes in the presbitary of the monastery church. In 1660-61 he decorated the palace of the Count von Abensperg and Traun in Vienna. These no longer exist.

In the period 1662-65 he returned to Italy, where he painted the altar canvas in the San Giacomo church as well as the frescos for the Palazzo Solza and Palazzo Terzi, all in Bergamo.

Between 1665 and 1667 he returned to Vienna, where he decorated the rooms of the new Leopold wing of the Hofburg palace (no longer in existence). He also became the court painter of Eleonore Gonzaga (1630–1686), widow of Ferdinand II, Holy Roman Emperor.

As he became more famous, his patrons grew among the upper clergy and aristocracy in Vienna, Moravia, Styria and Hungary and his commissions grew accordingly.

Between 1666-67 he decorated the Petronell castle of Count Ernst III von Abensperg-Traun with a number of mythological frescoes. Most were lost in a fire in 1683 during the Battle of Vienna but a few remain. He was invited by the Heiligenkreuz Abbey to decorate their new sacristy. Unfortunately, these frescoes were also lost in a fire in 1683.

Between 1668-69 he decorated several churches in Vienna including the Servites, Franciscan, and Dominican churches. By 1670 he was at work painting the hall and chapel of the Trautenfels castle in the Styria, decorating them with mythological frescoes. At about that same time he also decorated the Eisenstadt castle of the House of Esterházy.

His major works are to be found in Slovakia, Moldavia, Austria, Germany and the Czech Republic:

  • In the monasteries of Lambach, Heiligenkreuz
  • Episcopal palaces of Olomouc
  • Episcopal palace of the Prince-Bishop Karl II von Liechtenstein-Kastelkorn (1664–1695) in Kroměříž: the architect was his brother Giovanni P. Tencalla, who invited him to do extensive frescoes and paintings. Only the paintings in the rotunda have survived.
  • Cathedral of Passau (1679–1685): frescoes for the nave and choir. Here he painted scenes that spanned multiple bays without interruption, being the first to do so in the region north of the Alps.
  • About 1675 he decorated the apse surrounding the main altar of the Dominican church in Vienna with two historic paintings of Christian victories, both attributed to power of the Rosary: 1) the Battle of Muret (1213) and 2) the Battle of Lepanto (1571). Tencala also added paintings to the walls of the side chapels.

After his death in 1685 at Bissone, his son-in-law Carlo Antonio Bussi completed his work at the cathedral of Passau and in the San Carpoforo church in Bissone.


  • Benezit, E. (1976). Dictionnaire des Peintres, Sculpteurs, Dessinateurs et Graveurs. Paris: Librairie Gründ. ISBN 2-7000-0158-3. 
  • Turner, J. (1990). Grove Dictionary of Art. MacMIllan Publishers. ISBN 1-884446-00-0. 
  • Carpoforo Tencalla 1623-1685. Pittura seicentesca fra Milano e l’Europa Centrale. Switzerland. 2005. catalog of an exhibition in Rancate in the canton Ticino 
  • Rūstis Kamuntavičius et alii: Artisti del lago di Lugano e del Mendrisiotto in Lituania, in Gli artisti del lago di Lugano e del Mendrisiotto nel Granducato di Lituania (dal XVI al XVIII sec.), Hrsg Giorgio Mollisi, «Arte&Storia», Edizioni Ticino Management, anno 13, numero 59, agosto-ottobre 2013, Lugano 2013.

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