Niccolò Frangipane

1563 - 1597

  • Christ Bearing the Cross


There are very few indisputable facts regarding the biography of this painter. Neither his origins nor his dates of birth and death are known for certain. Documentary sources and the location of his known works have led scholars to situate his artistic activity in the second half of the 16th century in the regions of Veneto and the Marche. On various occasions it has been suggested that he might have been born in Venice, Rimini or Udine; a historian from Friuli called Liruti (1762) claimed that he was born in Tarcento where, according to him, he had been a pupil of Titian. But in the light of the most recent research it seems that he may have belonged to a family of Paduan origin and may have been born between 1540 and 1545, as he is documented as having received a commission as an independent painter in 1563. That year he was living in Venice, in the neighbourhood of Birri, close to where Titian had had his workshop since 1531, and was commissioned to produce an altarpiece for the church of the convent of Santa Eufemia, on the island of Mazorbo, in the Venetian lagoon. Although he produced some paintings for churches in the city of Rimini in the 1580s, in 1594 he joined the Fraglia dei Pittori in Venice, a fact which may suggest that he lived regularly in that city.

Frangipane was trained in the circle of the Venetian school and his compositions and models sometimes recall those of Giorgione and Titian, whose formal language he helped spread in the province. He devoted himself chiefly to religious painting that was classical in inspiration but consonant with the requirements of Counter-Reformation ideology. He also produced some secular works closely related to Giorgioni’s motifs and burlesque pictures in which he mixed references to the Flemish models of the circle of Quentin Metsys with comic and grotesque elements borrowed from the Ferrara circles who had taken up Leonardo’s legacy, the painters of Cremona and particularly the work of the Campi brothers. For this activity, which is known chiefly through literary sources, he was praised in the 17th century by the treaty writer Marco Boschini, who admired the whimsical fantasy of his models. This dual nature of his production, with clear differences in artistic style, caused great confusion in the 18th and 19th centuries and gave rise to the idea of the existence of two different painters with the same name in order to account for the variety and changes in his aesthetic principles, although this hypothesis has been rejected by the latest research carried out on the artist. At present his known oeuvre is composed of about thirty paintings, some of which are signed and dated. The earliest work is a Christ Carrying the Cross in the Museo Civico in Udine, dated 1572, and the latest is Allegory of Autumn, executed in 1597 and belonging to the same museum. Among his religious output, the most important works are the Martyrdom of St Stephen of 1581 in the church of the Purification in Pesaro; the Entombment, signed and dated 1593, in the sacristy of the church of Frari in Venice; and the Christ Carrying the Cross and Veronica in the Galleria Doria Pamphilj in Rome. His most important secular works are the Bacchus in the Galleria Querini Stampalia in Venice and the Gallant with a Flute in Charlecote Park (Stratford-upon-Avon).

Trinidad de Antonio