Giovanni Battista CASTELLO
(Genoa 1547 - Genoa 1639)
Saint Jerome in Prayer
149 x 117 mm. (5 7/8 x 4 5/8 in.)
Castello was back in Genoa by 1586, and for much of the remainder of his long career – he died when he was in his nineties - was at the peak of his artistic activity. His small, highly finished religious scenes on parchment or vellum were often framed in ebony frames as independent works, and are sometimes referred to as ‘quadretti da letto’ in household inventories of the period. Often inspired by Northern prints, these devotional miniatures were praised by his first biographer Raffaello Soprani as ‘coloriti con esquisitezza maravigliosa’, and found an appreciative audience of collectors and connoisseurs not only in Genoa and Liguria, but throughout Italy and in Spain. As Mary Newcome has noted of Castello, ‘Writers and poets praised the beauty and naturalism of his work which has been confused and compared with the miniatures by Giulio Clovio and which was highly admired at the Spanish court of Philip II.’ (A further measure of his success is seen in the fact that, when a special tax on municipal guild members was levied in Genoa in 1630, Castello was assessed the highest tax liability of the 142 artists then active in the city, since his miniatures, and their elaborate frames, were counted as luxury goods.) Castello also assembled a private collection of drawings and miniatures, including several works by Giulio Clovio, that was eventually inherited by his son and is today in the Galleria Regionale della Sicilia in Palermo.