Verona 1666 - Verona 1740


The son of a wealthy merchant in Verona, Antonio Balestra was trained in the Venetian studio of Antonio Bellucci from 1687, and completed his studies with Carlo Maratti in Rome, where he settled around 1690. His time in Maratti’s studio was of particular importance in the development of his later style. In 1694 he won first prize in a drawing competition at the Roman Accademia di San Luca with a drawing of The Fall of the Giants. After a brief period in Naples, Balestra returned to the north of Italy and spent the remainder of his career working mainly between Venice and his native Verona, where one of his first important paintings was an Annunciation for the church of the Scalzi, executed in 1697. Balestra painted easel pictures for private clients and larger works for local churches in the Veneto and Lombardy, his canvases displaying a synthesis of the classical style of the Roman, Bolognese and Neapolitan Baroque traditions with Venetian colouring. Many of his paintings were reproduced as engravings, which spread his fame beyond the Veneto - to Tuscany, Lombardy and Germany - while he also produced a number of etchings himself. Balestra worked mainly in Venice between 1700 and 1718, but by 1719 had settled for good in Verona. His patrons included the Marchese Scipione Maffei, who also encouraged the artist to produce book illustrations. Among his final significant works were an extensive series of frescoes of scenes from the Aeneid for the main hall of the Villa Pompei Carlotti at Illasi, near Verona, painted in 1738. A distinguished teacher, Balestra opened an academy of life drawing from the nude and trained several fine pupils and followers, notably Giuseppe Nogari and Pietro Longhi in Venice and Giambettino Cignaroli and Pietro Rotari in Verona.