Giulio Campagnola was born at Padua, in about 1482. His father Girolamo was a distinguished writer, and an amateur painter. Giulio, it seems, showed precocious artistic talent, and efforts were made to place him in the Gonzaga Court at Mantua, so that he could study painting under Andrea Mantegna. Instead, he went to the Court of Ercole I, Duke of Ferrara, although some accounts mention him as one of Giovanni Bellini’s pupils. An archetypal ‘Renaissance Man’, Campagnola was a painter, sculptor, poet, musician and scholar. It is as an engraver, however, that he is best remembered.
Campagnola’s graphic work shows the influence of Dürer, Mantegna and, above all, of Giorgione. The landscape in the background of Saturn (above), was, for example, apparently copied from a work of Dürer’s. Giorgione was a near-exact contemporary of Campagnola’s, and several of the latter’s engravings echo the Venetian painter’s figure-in-a-landscape compositions, and seem to strive to emulate his subtle handling of light. It has been suggested that Campagnola and Giorgione were friends and artistic collaborators, and, whilst this is certainly possible, the most that can be said with any certainty, thanks to the laconic nature of the surviving documentary evidence, is that the two knew of each other, and had acquaintances in common.
My source for the present images was a book entitled Four Early Italian Engravers by one Tancred Borenius. In the book, which was published in 1923, Borenius wrote that, Campagnola’s contemporary renown as a painter notwithstanding, there was only one painting whose attribution to the artist could be accepted with any certainty. This canvas, The Lovers and the Pilgrim, was then in a private collection in London. Its attribution rested on the likeness of its background with that of Campagnola’s engraving The Old Shepherd (above). Sadly, I was unable to locate an image of this painting, or even determine its current whereabouts, on-line.
The engraving known as The Astrologer (above) is probably Campagnola’s most famous image. It is the only one of his works that is dated: 1509. The odd-looking monster is, according to Jaynie Anderson’s monograph on Giorgione, a dragon: such beasts, she writes, were often depicted in connection with lunar eclipses, and indeed there were two such events in that year.
There is apparently some evidence to suggest that Campagnola entered the priesthood at some point in the early 1510s. He must still have been known as a working engraver, though, as there is a stipulation in the will of the renowned printer and publisher Aldo Manuzio, dated January 1515, that states:
In addition, since there is still to be refined that cursive character that we call chancery, I appeal to my father-in-law Andrea that he have it re-worked and perfected by Giulio Campagnola who should execute the capitals that have to accompany the chancellery letters.
There is no evidence, however, that Campagnola ever completed this commission, and it is supposed that he himself died shortly afterwards.
Click on the images above to open enlarged versions of the same.Posted by misteraitch at July 15, 2004 12:40 PM | TrackBack