Piazzetta was an artist who sought little gain in his
creations, and as a result he was impoverished for much of his
life. Albeit, his paintings and drawings were renowned for their
Rocco style, with subtle coloring and curvaceous forms in religious
and genre subjects. Born in Venice to a sculptor, Piazzetta studied
woodcarving with his father and went on to train as a painter with
Antonio Molinari (1655–1704). Molinari was a Venetian Baroque
painter, whose influence merged in Piazzetta with that of the
Bolognese painter, Giuseppe Crespi (1665–1747), who certainly
influenced Piazzetta and may have trained him some.
Piazzetta's works can be seen a strong development of
Crespi's genre painting, and it is said that he implored the
bold contrasts, or Chiaroscuro, of the master painter Caravaggio
(1571–1610). That Piazzetta also largely redefined drawing,
as opposed to just painting, as an art form; there is a noted
influence on him from the Emilian artist, Guercino
(1591–1666). Guercino's influence is also seen the
religious pieces that Piazzetta executed.
While not receiving
many commissions throughout his career, Piazzetta also made ends
meet by illustrating books with drawings, which have a noted
impression from the art of Rembrandt (1606–1669). In all his
works, Piazzetta created complex worlds where the subject was never
obvious and his characters where engaged in more than it seemed.
This layering of meaning in his subjects can be seen in genre
pieces, such as Rebecca at the Well, The Soothsayer, and Susanna
and the Elders, which now hangs in the Uffizi Gallery. This
dramatic element is also seen in his religious works as well, such
as Saint James Brought to Martyrdom and The Guardian Angel with
Saints Anthony of Padua and Gaetano Thiene.
His elusive subtext
lent itself well to his reputation of being regarded as a darker
artist than his Venetian contemporaries. Much of his later years
were spent teaching, and although not wealthy, was a well respected
artist. He was invited into the Bolognese Accademia Clementina in
1727 and later he was appointed as director of the Scuola di Nudo,
(School of the Nude) in 1750. He died in 1754.
The image accompanying
this article is a self-portrait done in 1735. It is housed at Albertina,