By Anne Leader
Flemish-born artist Giusto Suttermans (aka Justus Sustermans) died on 24 April 1681 in Florence, where he had worked as court painter to the Grand Dukes of Tuscany for over six decades. Born in Antwerp in 1597, Suttermans first came to Florence in 1620 after a stint in Paris where he continued his artistic training. He painted numerous portraits for the Medici dukes and other courts in Italy and beyond, traveling to Vienna, Rome, Modena, Genoa, Parma, and Innsbruck. Over his sixty-year career as court painter, he recorded the likeness of almost every member of the Medici family from early portraits of Ferdinando II (1627) to the children of Cosimo III (1670). Biographer Filippo Baldinucci (1625-97) recounts that in 1678, at age 82, Suttermans painted Francesco Maria de’Medici, which has been identified with a portrait now in the Uffizi.
Suttermans’ first major history painting, completed in 1626, was his large canvas depicting the Florentine Senate’s Pledge of Allegiance to Ferdinando II de’ Medici, lauded by contemporaries but now, rolled up in the storerooms of the Uffizi, is in need of conservation.
Suttermans was esteemed by many to be the leading painter of 17th-century Italy, an equal to the great Anthony Van Dyck and Peter Paul Rubens. The decline of the Medici, and the relative lack of attention paid to Baroque Florence, have led to the diminishment of his reputation, as has confusion and disagreement over attributions to the artist.
Lisa Goldenberg Stoppato. “Suttermans, Giusto.” Grove Art Online. Oxford Art Online. Oxford University Press
The Grand Duke Ferdinand II of Tuscany and his Wife, 1660s, oil on canvas. London: The National Gallery, NG89 (not on view)
Portrait of Galileo Galilei, 1636, oil on canvas. Florence: Galleria degli Uffizi
The Senators of Florence swearing Allegiance to Ferdinando II de’ Medici, oil on canvas, Oxford, Ashmolean Museum of Art, Purchased with the assistance of the Museums & Galleries Commission/Victoria & Albert Museum Purchase Grant Fund and the Friends of the Ashmolean, 1974; WA1974.3
Portrait of Ferdinando II de’ Medici, 1627, oil on canvas. Florence: Galleria Palatina (Palazzo Pitti)
Portrait of Vincenzo II Gonzaga, before 1627, oil on canvas. Mantua: Palazzo Ducale
Portrait of a Man, ca. 1649, oil on canvas. London: The National Gallery, NG3227 (not on view)