Belluno 1689 - Venice 1767


Born in the town of Belluno, some one hundred kilometres north of Venice, Gaspare Diziani was trained in the Venetian studios of Gregorio Lazzarini and Sebastiano Ricci. The latter artist, who was also from Belluno, was to become a decisive influence on the paintings of the young painter. Diziani worked in Venice for most of his life, apart from a brief period between 1717 and 1720 in Dresden, where he was active as a scenographer at the court of Augustus II the Strong, and in Munich, where he painted overdoors in the Residenz. He also worked for about a year in Rome between 1726 and 1727. Among his earliest known paintings is an Ecstasy of Saint Francis of 1727 in the church of San Rocco in Belluno, which shows the dominant influence of Ricci. An extremely prolific artist, Diziani enjoyed a long and successful career that lasted for more than forty years. He painted numerous altarpieces for churches in Venice, notably a series of three large canvases of The Adoration of the Shepherds, The Flight into Egypt and The Massacre of the Innocents for the sacristy of Santo Stefano, executed in 1733, together with fresco decorations for villas and palaces in the city and throughout the Veneto, as well as in Friuli, Padua, Rovigo, Bergamo and elsewhere. Diziani also worked in collaboration with view painters such as Antonio Joli and Michele Marieschi, painting the staffage in their compositions. Between 1746 and 1747 Diziani painted a series of mythological frescoes for the Palazzo Avogadro in Castelfranco Veneto, and the following year completed a fresco cycle for the Palazzo Spineda in Treviso. The succeeding decade found the artist at the peak of his activity and success, beginning with a monumental ceiling fresco painted for the church of San Bartolomeo in Bergamo and continuing with other vault frescoes in the Palazzo Contarini, the church of the Angelo Raffaele and the Palazzo Widmann in Venice. Apart from his early activity as a stage designer in Dresden, Rome and Venice, Diziani also produced drawings for book illustrations, notably for Palladio’s Quattro libri dell’architettura and a 1757 edition of Dante’s Divina Commedia. One of the founding members of the Accademia in Venice, Diziani was elected its principe in 1760 and again in 1766, although he died suddenly the following year, before completing his term. As one modern scholar has commented, ‘in a manner which is not unique in the Venetian Settecento, [Diziani] emerges as a more interesting and gifted artist in his drawings than in his paintings.’ While Diziani’s drawings often display the particular influence of the draughtsmanship of his master Sebastiano Ricci, they also show stylistic similarities with the pen manner of his slightly younger Venetian contemporary, Giovanni Antonio Pellegrini, and the drawings of all three artists have long been confused. Diziani was a prolific draughtsman, and the largest surviving group of drawings by the artist, numbering almost two hundred sheets, is today in the Museo Correr in Venice; most of these come from an album assembled by the late 18th century Venetian collector Ascanio Molin. Other significant holdings of drawings by Diziani are in the Louvre in Paris, the Hermitage in St. Petersburg and the Albertina in Vienna, while another fine and varied group is in the Städel Museum in Frankfurt.