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Permanent Collection

Francesco Pittoni - 1600–1700

(Venice, ca 1654 − after 1724)

Francesco Pittoni remains one of the less well researched representatives of the Venetian Seicento. On the one hand this is a consequence of the small number of surviving works in Venice and beyond its borders, while on the other hand he has remained somewhat in the shadow of his illustrious nephew Giambattista Pittoni (1687–1767). The latter received his first encouragement as an artist from his uncle Francesco and went on to become one of the most influential figures in eighteenth-century Venetian painting alongside Giambattista Piazzetta (1683–1754) and Giovanni Battista Tiepolo (1696–1770).

Francesco Pittoni, for his part, is considered an exponent of Venetian tenebrism, a style characterised by a darker, brownish palette and strong contrasts between light and shade. His oeuvre covers both biblical and mythological subjects and scenes from ancient history.

Several of his paintings also found their way to the Slovene lands. These date from the first two decades of the eighteenth century. In this period he painted works for the noble Lanthieri family in Gorizia and Vipava and, in all probability, as many as 24 paintings that once adorned Haasberg, a baroque country house in Planina near Rakek in Carniola. Paintings by Pittoni are also mentioned at Villa Attems in Piedimonte/Podgora near Gorizia.

Since the records of the Venetian painters’ guild (Fraglia dei pittori) show Pittoni as being absent between 1687 and 1712, we may assume that he was in our part of the world during this period.

From Mannerism to Baroque
Although imported early-Baroque works prevailed in this period and those by itinerant artists, the 17th century paved the way for the future. The political circumstances in the region were relatively stabilized in spite of the Thirty Year War and the patronage gradually grew stronger. The arrival of the Jesuits in Ljubljana, the activity of the polymath Johann Weichard Valvasor, particularly his graphic workshop at Bogenšperk/Wagensperg Castle, and the foundation of the Academia operosorum at the end of the century were the key events of the time. 

Characteristic of sculptural production on the Slovenian territory in the 17th century were the so-called “golden altars”. As a rule, these were gilded and polychrome carved wooden retables with rich ornamentation, first with crustaceous patterns which turned into vine and grapes that covered architectural framework until the achantus foliage took over and obliterated architectural structure completely. The making of golden altars included several branches of fine arts: prints, carving, gilding, painting. Religious painting of the first half of the century still contains Mannerist elements; in the second half also secular motifs became more numerous, particularly genre scenes and aristocratic portraits. The artworks mainly echo northern early-Baroque influences. 

Noteworthy among the newcomers who settled in Carniola with their workshops were the painter and gilder Hans Georg Geiger von Geigerfeld in the mid-century, who had moved to Carniola from the region of the Central Alps, and the Fleming Almanach in the third quarter of the 17th century, known only by his nickname, who worked here only for a few years. The extraordinary productivity and skills of the latter are evidenced by his rare surviving works, mentions in Valvasor’s books, and aristocratic probate inventories.