Giovanni Battista Castello
- Giovanni Battista Castello
a portable altarpiece, with the virgin and child enthroned, flanked by two angels, pope pius V and various saints in adoration; the central image surrounded by twenty three smaller scenes
Gouache heightened with gold on vellum; the central scene stretched over a copper plate.
- Central image: 289 by 226 mm; 11 3/8 by 8 7/8 in, overall dimensions including frame: 790 by 490 mm; 31 1/4 by 5/16 in
An unidentified stamp F.G in a heart below a crown on former backboard;
sale, London, Christie's, 1 July 1997, lot 40 (as Flaminio Allegrini, the above mentioned backboard was with the drawing at the time of this sale);
with Rubinacci Antiquariato, Florence, Venti dipinti Genovesi del XVII e XVIII secolo (catalogue by Anna Orlando), 1999, p. 13, no. 7, fig. 3
Giovanni Battista Castello was one of the most renowned miniaturists of his time. In the 1580s, he was commissioned to illuminate the choir books of El Escorial by King Philip II of Spain. Castello's teacher, Luca Cambiaso, was working in Spain in 1584 and probably played a part in recommending Castello for this prestigious project.
Castello was back in Genoa by 1588 where he continued to produce highly finished religious scenes on parchment and vellum. The majority of his religious images were executed for the purpose of private devotion and the present altarpiece would have functioned as a personal, devotional work. Many altarpieces, prints and devotional objects depicting the Virgin of the Rosary were being produced in Italy towards the end of the 16th century, fuelled by the defeat of the Turkish forces by the Holy League at the naval battle of Lepanto in 1571, where the Virgin of the Rosary was believed to have appeared above the Christian fleet.
The present work may be compared to Antonio Tempesta's engraving of The Madonna and Child Enthroned with Saints Dominic and Catherine of Siena, 1590, where the central scene is surrounded by smaller scenes from the Mysteries of the Rosary.1
The elaborate ebony frame of this work is most likely to have been designed by the artist specifically for the piece, as several other gouaches by Castello are framed in this manner. It has been suggested that Castello's early training as a goldsmith allowed him to design and produce these often complicated architectural frames.
1. Bartsch XVII, 328 (134) and 267-290 (132-133); S. Buffa, ed., The Illustrated Bartsch, Vol. 35: Antonio Tempesta, New York, 1984, p. 106, No. 328 and pp 90-93 (nos. 276-290).