By Martina Tanga

Genoese late-Baroque painter Alessandro Magnascowas born on this day, February 4, 1667. Also known as Il Lissandrino, the artist is best known for his eccentric, often phantasmagoric genre and landscape scenes. He left his native city at a young age to train with painter Filippo Abbiati in Milan. Influenced by the dramatic art of 17th-century Lombardy, Magnasco’s early paintings are filled with livid, earthy tones and dramatic contrasts of light and dark. He developed a very personal style with forms fragmented by swift brushstrokes and often tiny, flame-like figures that appear to be strewn across the canvas.

Magnasco’s fantastic scenes were favored by the Grand Duke Giovanni Gastone Medici of Florence, and the painter is known to have resided in Florence from 1703-1709 in order to paint for the Grand Duke. Upon his return to Milan, Magnasco was active in the aristocracy’s intellectual debates and his paintings reflected their taste for scenes from the lives of monks, nuns, gypsies, mercenaries, witches, beggars, and inquisitors. In Milan, his patrons included such celebrated and progressive families as the Borromeo, the Archinto, the Arese, the Visconti and the Casnedi.

Magnasco returned permanently to Genoa in 1735, only to reside there for another fourteen years. Throughout his life, but particularly in his final years, Magnasco’s swiftly executed brushstrokes are filled with tension. Overall, there appears to be no serenity in these turbulent paintings, and the artist’s subjects offer no easy visual pleasures. By choosing to paint socially marginalized figures, Magnasco expressed deeply felt moral judgments on the realities of the day.

Reference: Oxford Art Online

Self-Portrait, ca. 1710s, oil on canvas

Raising of Lazarus, ca. 1715-1740, oil on canvas, Rijksmuseum Amsterdam

The Triumph of Venus, ca. 1720-1730, oil on canvas, The J. Paul Getty Museum

The Baptism of Christ, ca. 1740, oil on canvas, The National Gallery of Art, Washington

Allegory of the Vices or Luxury, Worldliness and Ignorance Destroying the Arts and Sciences, ca. 1745, oil on canvas, Galerie Canesso, Paris

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