Piazzetta, John Baptist

, a modern artist, was born at Venice in 1683. He was the son of a statuary in wood, who probably gave him what foundation he had in design. He exchanged the gay and open manner in which he painted at first, for the dark and murky one that ever after characterised his works, from the contemplation of Spagnoletto’s and Guercino’s styles. He attempted to surprise by cutting contrasts of light and shade, and succeeded; such decision of chiaroscuro gave value to his drawings, and was eagerly imitated in prints; but his method of colouring destroyed its effect in a great measure on the canvas; increased and altered shades, faded lights, dingy yellows, produced dissonance and spots. When this is not the case, and in better-preserved pictures, the effect is novel, and strikes at first sight, especially in subjects that border on horror, such as the decollation of St. John in a dark prison, at Padua; a work painted in competition with the best painters of the state, and preferred. Piazzetta had no great vigour of mind for copious composition; he consumed several years in finishing a Rape of the Sabines, for a Venetian nobleman; and in the expressions of his altar-pieces he had certainly more devotion than dignity. His chief strength lay in busts and heads for cabinets. In caricatures he was perhaps unparalleled. He died in 1754, aged seventy-one. 2