26. Antonello da Messina (c. 1430 – 1479)

Antonello di Giovanni di Antonio, born in Messina, was an Italian painter active during the Italian Renaissance credited with the introduction of oil-painting into Italy. Unusually for a south Italian artist of the Renaissance, his work proved influential on painters in northern Italy, especially in Venice.

Trained under Niccolò Colantonio in Naples, in 1450 Antonello returned to Messina where he painted the so-called Sibiu Crucifixion (which is now in the Muzeul de Artǎ in Bucharest) and another Crucifixion painting now in the Royal Museum of Antwerp. Early works shows a marked Flemish influence, derived from his master Colantonio.

His earliest documented commission, in 1457, was for a banner for the Confraternità di San Michele dei Gerbini in Reggio Calabria, where he set up a workshop. In 1460 Antonello painted the so-called Salting Madonna, in which standard iconography and Flemish style are combined with a greater attention in the volumetric proportions of the figures, probably indicating a knowledge of works by Piero della Francesca. Also from around 1460 are two small panels depicting Abraham Served by the Angels and St. Jerome Penitent now in the Museo Nazionale della Magna Grecia in Reggio Calabria. In 1461 Antonello’s younger brother Giordano entered his workshop, signing a three-year contract. In that year Antonello painted a Madonna with Child for the Messinese nobleman Giovanni Mirulla, now lost.

He probably painted his first portraits in the late 1460s following the Netherlandish model of showing the subject bust-length, against a dark background, full face or in three-quarter view, while most previous Italian painters had adopted the medal-style profile pose for individual portraits.

In 1475 he moved to Venice where he remained there until the fall of 1476. His works of this period begin to show a greater attention to the human figure, regarding both anatomy and expressivity, indicating the influence of Piero della Francesca and Giovanni Bellini. His most famous pictures from this period include the Condottiero (Louvre), the San Cassiano Altarpiece and the St. Sebastian. While in Venice he was offered, but did not accept, the opportunity to become the court portrait painter to the Duke of Milan.

Antonello had returned to Sicily by September 1476. The famous Virgin Annunciate, now in the Palazzo Abatellis in Palermo, and the San Gregorio Polyptych are among his last productions. He died at Messina in 1479.

Read More:
1. Metropolitan Museum of Art, http://www.metmuseum.org/toah/hd/mess/hd_mess.htm
2. Wikipedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Antonello_da_Messina

Salting Madonna
Salting Madonna, National Gallery, London
Virgin Annunciate
Virgin Annunciate, Palazzo Abatellis, Palermo

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