Artibus et Historiae no. 73 (XXXVII)

2016, ISSN 0391-9064

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CARLO CORSATO - From Dal Ponte to Bassano. The Legacy of Jacopo, the Shops of His Sons and the Artistic Identity of Michele Pietra, 1578–1656 (pp. 195-248)

The article reconstructs the history, evolution and organisation of the Bassano workshops across the broad span of their existence from 1578 to 1656. Careful historical reconstruction has outlined the profiles of four workshops on the basis of documents, many of which were hitherto unknown and/or unpublished.

The first bottega, directed in Bassano by Jacopo, was supplemented by parallel, yet interconnected, enterprises that were established in Venice by his sons Francesco (1578–1592) and Leandro (1587–1621). Upon Jacopo’s death, his other two sons, Giambattista and Girolamo, took over the family business (1592–1606), whose commercial position was progressively supported and improved as a result of Leandro’s leadership in the Venetian art market. Francesco died only a few months after his father and his shop was inherited by and divided among his three brothers.

The evolution of such a family business was not at all a natural or painless process, as traditionally suggested. It was, instead, the result of Jacopo’s careful and flexible planning, as well as of legal arbitration between father and sons, a complicated procedure that has been discussed in detail in the article.

At the very beginning of the third decade of the seventeenth century, Girolamo’s workshop, which he had meanwhile set up in Venice (1606–1621), was re-capitalised unexpectedly by one of his collaborators, Michele Pietra. Pietra extended his artistic services to include restoration and possibly the production of forgeries of works by famous painters of the sixteenth century (Bassano and Titian included). The analysis of unpublished documentation illuminates the role and importance of Pietra’s shop in terms of commercial strategies and the volume of production.

The article also takes into consideration the appreciation of the style and manner promoted by the four workshops. In particular, the study and attribution of new works, as well as the examination of key commissions, have presented the contributions of the various painters in a new historical perspective. But, more importantly, the paper also demonstrates how a style, which once belonged to Jacopo alone, came to be associated with a distinctive manner – the brand – of an entire clan of artists.

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