Fra’ Galgario, born Giuseppe Vittore Ghislandi, and also called Fra’ Vittore del Galgario, was  born 4 March 1655, and though much of his work has been lost or forgotten, was a successful and busy portraitist mainly active in the Bergamo and Milan art markets.While standard contemporary portraits tend to be pleasing and superficial Fra Galgario’s are dark, brooding, almost Goya-like in their intensity.

In a review for the New York Times, Olivier Bernier describes what may be Galgario’s masterpiece:

The strange painting, Portrait of a Knight, it is unquestionably the likeness of a real person, and yet it seems almost surrealist in its mood and detail. Staring darkly out from under a huge black, silver-laced three-cornered hat, the knight’s eyes are pools of gloom; his immensely thick, dark lips are set in a moue of disdain; and that extraordinary, almost caricatural head framed in tight silver-gray curls tops a mountain-like torso dressed in a dark gray and silver lace coat. There is nothing here but black, gray, silver and brown, but the color is both rich and fascinating while the mood is little short of terrifying.

Born to an artist father, Domenico Ghislandi, Galgario initially he entered the studio of Giacomo Cotta, then Bartolomeo Bianchi, and finally the studio of Sebastiano Bombelli in Venice of the 1690s. He also reported trained with the German portrait artist Salomon adler in Milan.In 1702, he entered the religious life in the Order of the Minims of the Monastery of Galgario, in Bergamo. He assumed the name of the saint for whom the monastery is named. He was elected a member of the Milanese Accademia Clementina in 1717. The artist died in Bergamo in 1743.

Reference: Olivier Bernier, “And Nearby, Another Choice Collection.” New York Times, 2 December 1990. []

Portrait of a Knight, c. 1740. Museo Poldi Pezzoli, Milan.

Self-Portrait, c. 1730. Pinacoteca, Lovere, Italy.

Portrait of a Young Artist/ A Young Sculptor, c. 1735. University of Arizona Museum of art, Tucson, Nr. 1961.013.017.

Further Reading: Fern Rusk Shapley. Paintings from the Samuel H. Kress Collection: Italian Schools. London: Phaidon, 1966. 

R. Ward Bissell. Masters of Italian Baroque Painting. Detroit: Detroit Institute of Arts, 2005. 

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