Piombo, Sebastian Del

, was called also Venetiano, from Venice, the place of his birth, which occurred in 1485. He was renowned, in early life, as a musician, and particularly for his skill in playing upon the lute. While he was yet in his youth, he abandoned that science, and was taught the rudiments of the art of painting by Giovanni Bellini; but Giorgione da Castel Franco having just then exhibited his improved mode of colouring and effect, Sebastian became his disciple and most successful imitator. His portraits, in particular, were greatly admired for the strength of resemblance, and the sweetness and fulness of style, which made them be frequently mistaken for the work of Giorgione. His portrait of Julio Gonzaga, the favourite of cardinal Hippolito di Medici, is by many writers mentioned in the highest terms. Being induced to go to Rome, he soon attracted public notice; and in the contest respecting the comparative merits of Raphael and M. Angelo, Sebastian gave the preference to the latter, who in consequence favoured him on all occasions, and even stimulated him to the rash attempt of rivalling Raphael, by painting a picture in competition with that great man’s last great work, the Transfiguration; which had just been placed, with great form, in the church of St. Pietro a Montorio. The subject Sebastian chose was the resurrection of Lazarus; for which Michael Angelo is supposed to have furnished the design, or at least to have considered and retouched it. The picture is of the same size as Raphael’s; and, when completed, was placed in the same consistory, and was very highly applauded. The cardinal | di Medici sent it to his bishopric of Narbonno, and it became the property of the Duke of Orleans. It is now in England, and in possession of J. Angerstein esq. who gave 2000 guineas for it to the proprietors of the Orleans collection. Although it is a work of profound skill, and highly preserves the reputation of its author, yet, in our opinion, it is not to be compared with the great work it was intended to rival, either in design, in expression, or effect, whatever may be said of its execution.

Sebastian continued to exercise his talents, particularly in portraiture, with great industry and success, till he obtained the office of Frate del Piombo, when he ceased to paint for profit, and was henceforward known by the name of Sebastian del Piombo. He lived in great esteem with pope Clement VII. whose portrait he painted with great power and fidelity, as well as that of the infamous satirist Aretine, and those of many persons of rank and renown. He obtained great praise for having discovered a mode of preventing oil-colours, employed on plaster, from becoming dark; which he did, by applying, in the first instance, a mixture of mastic and Grecian pitch. Having passed through a life of great honour and emolument to the age of 62, he died in 1547. 1


Pilkington, by Fuseli.—Rees’s Cyclopædia.—D’Argenville, vol. I.