By Martina Tanga

Native Genoese, late-Baroque painter Giovanni Battista Langetti – also known as Giambattista Langetti – died on this day in 1676. He spent most of his artistic career working in Venice, where he developed a dramatic and emotionally charged painterly style in the manner of Caravaggio. Indeed, the contemporary biographer Marco Boschini defined Langetti’s work as tenebroso – the use of strong chiaroscuro and striking contrasts of light and dark – in citing the artist’s use of potent, shadowy brushwork. But working in Venice, Langetti’s deep and intense use of color would have been also influence by the work of Tintoretto. Langetti excelled at painting the human figure, and in every one of his known 143 paintings, the human form dominates the pictorial space. In particular, in depicting philosophers, heroes from Greek and Roman Antiquity, mythology or the Bible, Langetti perfected the representation of the male muscular body. Frequently, he would compose just one, or a few, large figural subjects in the immediate foreground of the canvas. These bodies, rendered with such strong musculature accentuated through scrupulous observation of shading, take up the entire pictorial space. Overall, Langetti was consistent in his handling of figural subjects throughout his career, which was unfortunately cut short as the artist died when he was only forty-one.

The Vision of St. Jerome, ca. 1660, Oil on canvas, Cleveland Museum of art

Samson drinks from the jawbone to restore his energy after slaying 1,000 Philistines, between circa 1650 and circa 1660, Oil on canvas

Victorious Samson, between circa 1650 and circa 1660, Oil on canvas

The Punishment of Lxion, ca. 1650, Oil on canvas, Museo de Arte de Ponce, Puerto Rico

Marco Boschini, La carta del navegar pitoresco, Venice, 1660; reprint (critical edition by Anna Pallucchini), Venice and Rome, 1966

Marina Stefani, “Langetti Giovan Battista”, in C. Donzelli and G. M. Pilo, eds., I pittori del Seicento veneto, Florence, 1967

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