By Costanza Beltrami

Seventeenth-century painter Angelo Michele Colonna died on 11 March 1687 in Bologna. Born near Como in 1604, the artist worked both as a figure painter (figurista), and as a painter of illusionistic architectural views, or quadraturista.He collaborated widely with contemporaries such as Girolamo Curti and, especially, Agostino Mitelli. Together, Colonna and Mitelli realised scenographic room decoration in the Palazzo Pitti, Florence (1639–41), frescoes in the Great Hall of the Palazzo d’Este at Sassuolo, Modena (1646–7), and elaborate designs in the Chapel of the Rosary in San Domenico in Bologna (1654–6). In the following year, the two were called to Spain in 1657–8 by King Philip IV, where they realized frescoes ceiling decorations for royal palaces such as the Buen Retiro and the Alcázar in Madrid. These works are now lost, although several drawings survive in the Prado Museum. Sadly, Colonna’s collaboration with Mitelli was cut short by the death of the latter in Madrid in 1660. Colonna’s later work —after his return to Bologna in 1662— was not as successful. Indeed, his last two decorative schemes, the nave ceiling of San Bartolomeo (1667) and the vault of the Sala del Consiglio in the Palazzo Comunale (1677), were less original than his earlier work, and fully within the dominant academic tradition.

Reference: E. Feinblatt. “Colonna, Angelo Michele.” Grove Art Online, Oxford University Press,

San Lorenzo, fresco ceiling decoration of the Capella Franceschi, c. 1643, San Gateano, Bologna.

Sketch for a ceiling in the Buen Retiro, oil on canvas, 187 x 281 cm, c. 1659. Prado Museum, Madrid, Inv. P02907.

Cupido sitting on a cloud, wash and ink on white paper, 103 x 129 mm, after 1657-8. Prado Museum, Madrid, inv. D00716.

Study of five flying angels, wash and ink on paper,  209 x 144 mm, c. 1637. Prado Museum, Madrid, Inv. D00718.   

Angel sitting on clouds, wash and ink on white paper, 103 x 129 mm, after 1657-8. Prado Museum, Madrid, Inv. D00717.                                              

Architectural view with statue of Minerva, wash and brush on paper, 186 x 147 mm, after 1657-8. Prado Museum, Madrid, Inv. D02076.

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