Lanfranco, Giovanni

, an eminent Italian painter, was born at Parma, in 1581. His parents, being poor, carried him to Placenza, to enter him into the service of the count Horatio Scotte. While he was there, he was always drawing with coal upon the walls, paper being too small for him to scrawl his ideas on. The count, observing his disposition, put him to Agostino Caracci; after whose death he went to Rome, and studied under Annibale, who set him to work in the church of St. Jago, and found him capable of being trusted with the execution of his designs; in which Lanfranco has left it a doubt whether the work be his or his master’s. His genius lay to painting in fresco in | spacious places, as appeared by his grand performances, especially the cupola of Andrea de Laval, in which he has succeeded much better than in his pieces of a less size. His taste in design he took from Annibale Caracci; and as long as he lived under the discipline of that illustrious roaster, he was always correct; but, after his master’s death, 'he gave a loose to the impetuosity of genius, without regarding the rules of art. He joined with his countryman Sisto Badalocchi, in etching the histories of the Bible, after Raphael’s painting in the Vatican; which work, in conjunction with Badalocchi, he dedicated to his master Annibale. Lanfranco painted the history of St. Peter for pope Urban VIII. which was engraved by Pietro Santi; he executed other performances, particularly St. Peter walking on the water, for St. Peter’s church, and pleased the pope so much, that he knighted him.

Lanfranco was happy in his family: his wife, who was very handsome, brought him several children, who, being grown up, and delighting in poetry and music, made a sort of Parnassus in his house. His eldest daughter sang finely, and played well on several instruments. He died in 1647, aged sixty-six. His genius, heated by studying Correggio’s works, and, above all, the cupola at Parma, carried him even to enthusiasm. He earnestly endeavoured to find out the means of producing the same things; and, that he was capable of great enterprizes, may be discovered by his performances at Rome and Naples. Nothing was too great for him: he made figures of above 20 feet high in the cupola of St. Andrea de Laval, which have a, very good effect, and look below as if they were of a natural proportion. In his pictures he endeavoured to join Annibale’s firmness of design to Correggio’s taste and sweetness. He aimed also at giving the whole grace to his imitation; not considering, that nature had given him but a small portion. His ideas indeed are sometimes great enough for the greatest performances; but his genius could not stoop to correct them, by which means they are often unfinished. His easel pieces are not so much esteemed as what he painted in fresco; vivacity of wit and freedom of band being very proper for that kind of painting. His grand compositions are full of tumult but the expression is neither elegant nor moving. His colouring was not so well studied as that of Annibale the tints of his carnations and his shadows are a little too black. He was ignorant of | the elaro oscuro, as well as his master; though, as his master did, he sometimes endeavoured to practise it. He was, as M. Fuseli has observed, “a machinist in art of the first order, and taught his successors the means of filling the eye at a great distance, by partly painting and partly leaving it to the air to paint.1


D’Argenville, vol. II.—Pilkington and Strutt.—Reynold’s Works.