On this day in history: Artist Michelangelo Cerquozzi born

History of Italy News

Michelangelo Cerquozzi, often dubbed ‘Michelangelo delle Battaglie’ for his prowess in depicting battle scenes, was a celebrated Italian Baroque painter born on February 12th, 1602, in Rome.

Cerquozzi’s oeuvre encompasses a wide array of genres, including genre scenes, battle paintings, religious and mythological works, and still lifes. His genre scenes were notably influenced by the Flemish and Dutch genre artists known as the Bamboccianti, who portrayed the everyday life of Rome’s lower classes.

Born to Marcello Cerquozzi and Lucia Vassalli, both affluent Roman citizens, Cerquozzi started his artistic apprenticeship at the age of 12 under the tutelage of Giuseppe Cesari, a prominent history painter.

Throughout his career, he fostered close ties with Flemish and Dutch artists in Rome, including Jacob de Hase, Paulus Bor, and Jan Harmansz. Despite initial disdain from preeminent Italian painters, Cerquozzi’s acceptance into the prestigious Accademia di San Luca in 1634 marked a significant milestone in his career.

Wide repertoire of compositions

Cerquozzi’s artistic repertoire spanned religious and mythological compositions, with his religious works characterized by naturalistic landscapes and non-idealised figures. Notably, his mythological canvases often depicted peasant life, grounded in a realistic setting.

However, it was Cerquozzi’s battle paintings that earned him widespread acclaim, earning him the moniker ‘Michelangelo delle Battaglie.’ His dynamic battle scenes exhibited an immediate, almost brutal language, pushing the boundaries of the genre with intense cavalry conflicts and whirlwind movement.

In addition to his prowess in battle painting, Cerquozzi demonstrated proficiency in genre scenes, drawing inspiration from the Bamboccianti’s portrayal of Roman life. His compositions often featured scenes of humble daily life set amidst Rome’s ruins, taverns, and countryside.

The trough by Michelangelo Cerquozzi
The trough

Furthermore, his still lifes, characterised by realism and Caravaggesque influences, garnered considerable acclaim and frequently appeared in 17th and 18th-century inventories.

Still Life with pumpkin, grapes and pears by Michelangelo Cerquozzi
Still Life with pumpkin, grapes and pears. 1650

Cerquozzi’s legacy endures as a testament to his artistic versatility and innovative approach to genre painting. Despite facing initial scepticism from his contemporaries, his ability to capture the essence of everyday life and infuse it with emotional depth cemented his status as one of the leading painters of the Italian Baroque period.

Michelangelo Cerquozzi - The Rehearsal, or A Scene from the Commedia dell'Arte
The Rehearsal, or A Scene from the Commedia dell’Arte

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