He was born to a family of artists. He is best known for still lifes, most commonly of musical instruments. This could explain his friendship with a family with notable violin makers from Cremona. Still-life depiction were uncommon as a thematic among Italian painters prior to the 17th century. Baschenis, along with the more eccentric 16th century painter Milanese Arcimboldo, represents provincial outputs with idiosyncratic tendencies that appear to appeal to the discernment of forms and shapes rather than grand manner themes of religious or mythologic events. For Arcimboldo, the artifice is everything; for Baschenis, the items, man-made musical instruments, have a purpose and a beauty even in their silent geometry. One source for his photographic style of still life could be Caravaggio's early painting of peaches, or alternatively, Dutch paintings. The most faithful imitator of his style is a younger contemporary Bergamese, Bartolomeo Bettera. Baschenis is a contemporary of the Bergamese portrait artist, Carlo Ceresa, and appears to have been influential for the Modenese artist Cristoforo Munari.
Still Life with Musical Instruments, oil on canvas, Pinacoteca di Brera, Milan.
Studio of Still Life with Musical Instruments, oil on canvas, Wallraf-Richartz Museum, Cologne.
Still Life of Musical Instruments (1650) oil on canvas, Accademia Carrara, Bergamo.
- Dictionnaire Bouillet
- Wittkower, Rudolf (1993). Art and Architecture Italy, 1600-1750. Penguin Books, Pelican History of Art. pp. 350–351.
- Web Gallery Art biography
- A Caravaggio Rediscovered, The Lute Player, an exhibition catalog from The Metropolitan Museum of Art (fully available online as PDF), which contains material on Baschenis (see cat. no. 17)
- Painters of reality: the legacy of Leonardo and Caravaggio in Lombardy, an exhibition catalog from The Metropolitan Museum of Art (fully available online as PDF), which contains material on Baschenis (see cat. nos. 101-102)
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