Antonello da Messina

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Antonello da Messina Photo

Fifteenth century Italy was considered the hub of all artistic endeavours. Italy witnessed the rise of many artists to fame as they resurrected the original Roman and Greek works which resulted in Renaissance. One such unprecedented artist of his time was Antonello da Messina. His work came to limelight during Italian Renaissance. He was said to be inspired by Early Netherlandish painting. One interesting fact about Messina’s work is that he was credited for introducing oil-painting to his homeland. Moreover, the northern Italian artists especially from Venice took inspiration from his work which was a rare occurrence, given that he was based in southern Italy which was little behind in its excellence of arts.

Antonello da Messina’s year of birth is not confirmed but historians seem to place his birth somewhere around 1429-1431. His parents were Margherita and Giovanni de Antonio Mazonus. It’s been revealed by a letters from Pietro Summonte, a Neapolitan humanist, that Antonello was the student of Niccolò Colantonio at Naples in 1450. Upon his return to Messina during mid 1450s, influenced by Flemish treatments of the subject, he painted Sibiu Crucifixion. The painting is now being displayed at the Muzeul de Artǎ in Bucharest.

He was immensely inspired by Flemish work, which he received from his mentor Colantonio. Other painters that influenced his work include Rogier van der Weyden and Jan van Eyck. He received his first commissioned work in 1457, to paint a banner for the Confraternità di San Michele dei Gerbini. He then setup a studio to create such banners in mass production. Another one of his notable works was Salting Madonna in which he employed standard iconography and Flemish style. During 1460s he produced Abraham Served by the Angels and St. Jerome Penitent. The painting is now in the reserve of Museo Nazionale della Magna Grecia.

One of his remarkable works that was reported being lost was Madonna with Child which he painted for Giovanni Mirulla, a Messinese nobleman. He painted his first portrait in the middle of his career. It is modeled after Netherlandish style of portrait full face against a dark background. It was contrast with the medal-style profile pose for individual portraits which was adopted by earlier Italian painters. Art historians are of the opinion that for Antonello believed that individual portrait was an art in its own right.

During the 1470s he painted the Annunciation and the St. Jerome in His Study. The former is now in Syracuse. In 1475 he stayed in Venice for a year. During that time his work took a slightly different direction as his work showed a great detail on the human figure, both in expressive sense and anatomically. This new development was credited to Piero della Francesca and Giovanni Bellini work.

The San Cassiano Altarpiece the Condottiero (Louvre), and the St. Sebastian were among some of his substantially significant works of that time. He also drew inspiration from Venetian painters as his work displayed the sacra conversazione format. He was offered the position of court portrait painter to the Duke of Milan, which he politely declined. The years close to his death are marked by his heightened creativity as he painted the paramount Virgin Annunciate painting which is now a part of Palazzo Abatellis. He died in 1749, leaving some unfinished paintings behind which his son, Jacobello, took upon himself to complete.

Antonello da Messina Paintings

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