Giovanni Battista Biscarra

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The nude class of the Academy of Fine Arts

Giovanni Battista Biscarra or Giovan Batista Biscarra (February 22, 1790 – April 13, 1851) was an Italian painter, sculptor, lithographer. He principally painted historical and religious subjects and a few portraits.[1]


Born in Nice (then in the Kingdom of Sardinia, now in France), he was the son of Caterina Coppon and Giuseppe Costantino Biscarra. His father was auditor and general treasurer of the Royal Armies of the House of Savoy.[citation needed] His cousin was the romantic poet Agathe-Sophie Sasserno.[2]

The Remorse of Cain

He learned his first rudiments of art from Pietro Benvenuti in Florence, where his family had taken refuge during the French occupation of the Piedmont. After twelve years of study at the Academy of Florence, he graduated with the painting The Prodigal Son crying about his Mistakes. He then moved to Rome in 1845 with a stipend from Victor Emmanuel I of Sardinia. He studied at the Accademia di San Luca where he became friends with the leading artists of Roman neoclassicism, such as Antonio Canova, Bertel Thorvaldsen, Tenerani, Vincenzo Camuccini and several others. He gained great success in Rome with his The Remorse of Cain (1817 or 1818, antechamber of the Superintendence, in the Palazzo Carignano).

After seven years in Rome he was summoned to Turin by Charles Felix of Sardinia. By sovereign decree of 17 September 1821 he was named the "first painter of His Majesty, Head and master of the schools of painting and drawing, and Director of the Academy of the nude". In 1822 he began teaching courses at the Academy, proving himself to be an excellent teacher. He continued teaching after the establishment of the Royal Academy of Fine Arts in 1824 and after the Albertine reform of the Academy in 1833. in 1842 he participated in the founding of the 'Società promotrice di belle arti' ('Society for the promotion of fine arts').[1]

His son Carlo Felice Biscarra (born in 1821) was a prominent painter in Turin, and also taught at the Academy there. His son Caesar Biscarra (born in 1866) was a talented sculptor.[3]

Giovanni Battista Biscarra died in Turin on 13 April 1851.[1]


Biscarra painted compositions depicting episodes from the history of the House of Savoy. He is also known for his altarpieces for the churches of Turin, Alba, Nizza Monferrato, Fossano, Mondovì, and others towns in the Piedmont.[4] He was further renowned as a portrait painter.[1]

Portrait of Charles Albert of Sardinia

After starting out in a neoclassical style akin to that of Jacques-Louis David, he developed towards a more purist taste, especially in his religious compositions. In his most mature phase he showed a romantic tendency, as exemplified in his narrations of events from national history. In his final works, especially in his late portraits and The nude class of the Academy of Fine Arts (1840, Albertina, Turin, Civic Museum, the Modern Art Gallery) he shows a development towards realism.

He excelled in large-scale compositions. The Royal Palace of Turin and various churches of that city have works of Biscarra including The promulgation of the Albertine Civil Code. He also painted the stage curtain of the former Municipal Theatre (Opera), which was destroyed by fire in 1881.[3]


  1. ^ a b c d Paolo Venturoli, Giovanni Battista Biscarra at Treccani Dizionario Biografico (in Italian)
  2. ^ Derot, Maurice (January–March 1980), "Agathe-Sophie Sasserno, la Sapho niçoise", Nice Historique, year 83 (1): 4
  3. ^ a b Rue Biscarra at Nice Rendez-Vous (in French)
  4. ^ Pittura e scultura in Piemonte 1842-1891: Catalogo cronografico illustrato della Esposizione Retrospettiva 1892., A. Stella, Stamperia Reale della ditta G.B. Paravia e Compagnia. Turin, 1893, page 21-25.

External links[edit]

Media related to Giovanni Battista Biscarra at Wikimedia Commons