Giacomo Ceruti

Photo: Earl Fields

Giacomo Ceruti

Italian, Brescia, 1698-1767

Giacomo Antonio Ceruti was born in 1698 in Milan, Italy. He settled in Brescia in 1721. He is most known as a Brescian painter, but also worked in Milan, Padua, and Venice. Ceruti began as a painter of portraits and history and religious scenes, but, though he would continue to paint these types of paintings throughout his career, he became most celebrated for his genre paintings of beggars and peasants. It was because of his interest in depicting the poor that he became known as "Il Pitocchetto," after the Italian term for beggars and vagabonds, "pitocchi."

In 1723, Ceruti received his first commission, for which he painted four frescoes and three altarpieces for the parish church of Rino di Sonico. Ceruti also received commissions from prominent Brescian families during the early 1720s, who employed him as a portraitist. He received his first large-scale public commission in 1726 when the Governor of Brescia, Andrea Memmo, commissioned seventeen paintings of famous Brescians to decorate the Palazzo di Broletto in Brescia. During this time, Ceruti also began a series of works for the noble, landowning Avogadro family, depicting the lower and working classes, including workers, beggars, and the handicapped.

In 1736, Johann Matthias, Graf von der Schulenburg, Marshal of the Venetian Republic and a noted collector of art, commissioned a series of paintings of beggars from Ceruti. These works were probably influenced by northern European painters, like Bernhardt Keil and Pieter Snayers, by Italian artists Pietro Bellotti, Antonio Cifrondi, and Giulio Todeschini and by the prints of Jacques Callot.

Ceruti also executed a number of works for religious buildings, including the Virgin of the Rosary for the Parish Church in Artogne (1734), Birth of the Virgin and Death of the Virgin for the church of S Maria Assunta (1734-1739), the altarpiece for the Santo in Padua (1737-1738), and St. Alexander Destroying the Pagan Altar for S Alessandro in Piacenza (1747).

Ceruti's later work is rare. His next recorded work is his portrait A Country Gentleman (ca. 1750), which is in the collection of the Seattle Art Museum. Another portrait is known from 1757, Attilio Lampugnani Visconti. Ceruti's last signed work was a portrait of Benedetto Martignoni, painted in June, 1767. The date of his death is unknown.

  • painting
  • Italian
  • Milan

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