Girolamo Savoldo (1480-1548)

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Old Man Stringing a Lute

Girolamo Savoldo also called Girolamo da Brescia was an Italian High Renaissance painter. Savoldo was born in Brescia, but little is known about his early years. By 1506 he was in Parma, and by 1508, he had joined the Florentine painter’s guild. In this period he finished the Rest at the Flight from Egypt (Augsburg), the Elijah Harassed by a Crow (National Gallery of Art, Washington), and a Deposition.

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The Transfiguration

In 1515 he painted the Portrait of a Clad Warrior, wrongly identified with Gaston de Foix. Also from the same period his Temptation of St. Anthony, which appears to show the influence of the Flemish Hieronymus Bosch. The works was appreciated by the commissioners from Venice, where Savoldo relocated before 1520.

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The Temptation of St. Anthony

On June 15, 1524 he signed a contract for an altarpiece for the church of San Domenico in Pesaro (now in the Brera, Milan). In 1527, he completed a St. Hieronymus for the Brescian family Averoldi, probably the one at National Gallery of London. From the 1530s dates a Nativity at the National Gallery in Washington DC, which seems influenced by the lambent contemporary Corregio painting on the same topic. In 1533 Savoldo painted a Madonna with Four Saints in the church of Santa Maria in Organo ( in Verona), while in 1537-1538 he executed the altarpiece for the main altar of Santa Croce, Brescia (destroyed during World War II). From 1540 are the two Nativity paintings for the church of San Giobbe of Venice and the church of San Barnaba of Brescia, as well as the famous Magdalen painting.

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Portrait of a Woman 1525

Savoldo may have spent some years of his life in Milan. He had a Dutch wife. The exact date of Savoldo’s death is not known: in 1548 he was cited as still living in Venice, though vecchione (“Very old”).

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The Death of St. Peter the Martyr

Savoldo’s paintings show eclectic influences, using Venetian coloration with Lombard modeling to obtain a quiet lyricism. They have an idiosyncratic silvery lining to the figures that gives them a neon-light like glow. He appears to be influenced by Titian and Lorenzo Lotto and, for what concerns his preoccupation with clearly defined shapes in light, by Cima da Conegliano and/or Flemish painters.

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Adoration of the Shepherds 1540

His Magdalen (1540) is a masterpiece of lighting effects, cloacked in an enigmatic white gown, almost completely veiled all but the visage, but a faint sliver of red cloth sleeve emerging in a paradoxically alluring fashion. A Matthew and the Angel prefigures Caravaggio’s famous painting in the Contarelli Chapel in Rome, with a luminescent gown standing in contrast to the dark background.

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Magdalene at the Tomb

Anthology of Works:

  • Elijah in the Desert
  • St Anthony and St Paul as Hermits
  • Madonna with St Francis and St Jerome
  • Adoration of the Child with Donors
  • Flautist
  • Lady as St Margaret
  • Gaston de Foix (Louvre)
  • Magdalen (National Gallery, London)

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Shepherd with a Flute

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