Mechelen c.1550 - Treviso 1603/5


Almost nothing is known of Lodewijk Toeput’s career before his arrival in Venice in the early 1570s, although he may have trained with Hans Bol in his native city of Mechelen and with Marten de Vos in Antwerp. Almost all of his career was spent working in Italy, where he was known as Pozzoserrato (a literal Italian translation of his Dutch surname, which means ‘closed well’). He spent several years in Venice where, according to the 17th century biographer Carlo Ridolfi, he worked in the studio of Tintoretto, painting the landscape backgrounds in the master’s canvases. (Interestingly, he is also recorded in 1576 as a gioielliere, or jeweler, on the Rialto.) He also visited Rome in 1578 and 1581, and may also have spent some time in Florence. Highly regarded in particular for his imaginary landscapes - Ridolfi described the artist as ‘eccelente ne’paesi’ - Pozzoserrato worked as a fresco painter in various villas and palaces of the Veneto, his paintings combining a Flemish interest in nature with the spirited brushwork of his Venetian contemporaries. (An example of his work of this type are the frescoes of the Seasons in the Villa Chiericati-Mugna in Logna di Schiavon, near Vicenza.) Ridolfi also noted of the artist that ‘He delighted in painting distant objects, pleasing the eye with the haziness of the air strewn with orange and vermilion clouds, with the burgeoning dawn, the rising sun, and sometimes rain, whirlwinds and storms.’ In 1582 Pozzoserrato left Venice to settle in Treviso, some 27 kilometres north of the city, becoming a citizen of the town in 1585 and remaining there until his death. He provided altarpieces and paintings for churches in and around Treviso, such as for the Capella dei Rettori in the church of the Monte di Pietà, and also produced a number of easel pictures. Establishing a stylistic chronology for Pozzoserrato’s oeuvre has been made more difficult by the fact that only a relatively few extant works by the artist are dated. As an artist, Pozzoserrato was arguably more original, and more distinctive, in his drawings than in his paintings or frescoes. Around fifty landscape drawings by him are known, the earliest known of which is dated 1573, together with a much smaller number of figure studies. Difficult to date with any accuracy, the artist’s drawings are almost always in pen and ink, and display a preference for landscape or townscape subjects, perhaps reflecting his Flemish origins. This was, however, tempered with such characteristic elements of Venetian draughtsmanship as a freedom in the handling of wash and a bold, spirited penwork. Pozzoserrato executed a number of panoramic views of towns and cities, and was also fond of landscape drawings which incorporated elegant genre scenes of the Venetian nobility at leisure in the elaborate gardens and villas of the terraferma.