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Lomazzo, Giovanni Paolo

    Full Name: Lomazzo, Giovanni Paolo

    Gender: male

    Date Born: 1538

    Date Died: c. 1600

    Place Born: Sorano, Grosseto, Tuscany, Italy

    Home Country/ies: Italy

    Subject Area(s): biography (general genre)


    Biographer of artists (1590); painter and art theorist. Lomazzo was raised in a family of moderate social status. He trained under the painter Gaudenzio Ferrari (1470-1546). During this time he came into contact with the famous doctor and autobiographer Girolamo Cardano (1501-1576) and the heir to and owner of Leonardo’s notebooks, Francesco Melzi. After becoming an independent master, he received a steady stream of commissions for murals and altarpieces, many the auspices of Giuliano Goselini (1525-1587), a secretary to successive dukes of Milan. Lomazzo made a tour in 1562 to various countries, studying art. In 1568 he became “Prince” (‘Abbot’ or ‘Nabad’) of the Accademia della Balle del Blenio. By 1571, however, Lomazzo had become completely blind and he turned to art writing. His most important work for scholars today, Trattato della pittura, was published in 1584. An autobiography, Rime, appeared in1589. The following year, 1590, Idea del tempio della pittura was issued. This book, organized around the concept of a temple whose architectural components signify the seven parts of painting, included artists’ biographies. Thus Lomazzo emerged as a proto-historian of art. His other writing remained in manuscript. His most famous pupil, Figino, was the subject of a 1592 dialogue-style work by Canon Antonio Comanini (d. 1608).Lomazzo is studied by art historians today for his metaphysical theories of artistic creation. His discussions rival in complexity of those from any period. His Trattato, a seven-book (or part) neo-Platonic work shows the influence by the thinking of Marcello Ficino. A conspicuous figure in artistic and intellectual circles in northern Italy, Lomazzo’s contemporary reputation was as much as a painter as theorist, reaching beyond his native Milan. His treatises were not reprinted for several hundred years, though translations, such an English one by Richard Haydocke of parts of the Trattato was published in 1598; a French translation in 1649. In the 20th century, the art historians Erwin Panofsky, Gerald M. Ackerman, Robert Klein and Roberto Ciardi brought his writings back to light and works to a new audience.

    Selected Bibliography

    Trattato dell’arte de la pittura. Milan: Paolo Gottardo Pontio, 1584, English, A Tracte Containing the Artes of Curious Paintinge, Carvinge & Buildinge. Translated by Richard Haydocke. Oxford: Printed by I. Barnes, 1598; Rime . . . divise in sette libri, nelle quali ad imitatione de’ grotteschi usati da’ pittori, ha cantato le lodi di Dio . . . con la vita dell’autore. Milan: Paolo Gottardo Pontio, 1587; Idea del tempio della pittura. Milan: Paolo Gottardo Pontio, 1590; Della forma delle muse cavate dagli antichi autori greci e latini: Opera utilissima a’ pittori e scultori. Milan: Paolo Gottardo Pontio, 1591.


    Lomazzo, Giovanni. Rime divise in sette libri, nelle quali ad imitatione de’ grotteschi usati da’ pittori, ha cantato le lodi di Dio con la vita dell’autore. Milan, 1587; Ackerman, Gerald M. The Structure of Lomazzo’s Treatise on Painting. Ph.D. dissertation, Princeton University, 1964; KGK, 47-8; Kemp, Martin. “Giovanni Lomazzo.” Dictionary of Art; Webb, Nick. “Giovan Paolo Lomazzo and Federico Zuccaro.” in Key Writers on Art. Chris Murray, ed. London/New York: Routledge, 2003, vol. 1, pp. 82-89.


    "Lomazzo, Giovanni Paolo." Dictionary of Art Historians (website).

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