Giovanni Battista Moroni became the first modern painter thanks to a bloody family feud
Never paint a family portrait if you want to live a quiet life and avoid being messed up. Giovanni Battista Moroni, an Italian painter of the 16th century, acquired a certain fame among well-off families from Bergamo, his birthplace, but eventually found himself in the middle of a real blood feud and had to pay the consequences. We learn more about this tragic character by speaking to Arturo Galansino, curator of the Moroni exhibition at the Royal Academy of Arts.
Was this an economic recession ante litteram? “Yes, in a way it was. But in my opinion this is when Moroni became a great painter. The rich and the beautiful had gone for good and he had to look to common people to make a living. So, after all the turmoil, Moroni started painting portraits of simple workers in his studio, with the same background, the same chair, the same yellow book in their hands. It was nothing fancy, but not having to concentrate on their beautiful dresses and their wannabe poses, he started concentrating on what he really saw, becoming the first realistic painter of the history of art. “The Tailor”, for example, is a real masterpiece, despite the fact that it’s a portrait of a man captured in his everyday job, chalk and scissors in hand. Nobody had done that before, but many would do it in the future. Think about Degas and his laundresses, who would find the same realism a couple of century after. Moroni worked as a small suburban photographer, but he was developing his great art”.