Spagnoletto, Joseph Ftibera

, so named in Italy, and usually so called, was born in 1589, at Xativa, a city in Spain, about ten leagues from Valentia. Though his parents were not in circumstances to give him the education in painting which his early genius deserved, he contrived to travel into Italy, and there applied to his art under the greatest masters. He first resided at Parma, where he so completely studied the works of Correggio, as to be able to imitate his style and colouring with great success. He then removed to Rome, where he changed his manner altogether, and adopted Caravaggio as his model. Like that master, he painted with bold and broad lights and shadows, and gave so extraordinary a degree of force to his pictures, that the works of most other artists, when placed near them, appear comparatively tame and feeble. In his colouring he is esteemed equal to Caravaggio, and superior to him in correctness of design; yet inferior in sweetness and mellowness of touch. It is said, that a cardinal having become his patron at Rome, and given him apartments in his own palace, he became indolent, and unable to exert his talents; in order to do justice to which, he found it necessary to return to that poverty in which he was bred, and therefore voluntarily renounced this asylum, and fixed himself at Naples. Here his works being greatly admired, and his pencil being, after a time, constantly employed by the viceroy of Naples, and other potentates of Europe, he gradually rose to that affluence, the sudden acquisition of which, had produced so bad an effect. It was not so now; he continued to paint historical pictures, and sometimes portraits, which are dispersed throughout Europe; but he rarely worked for the churches or convents. His principal works are at Naples, and in the Escurial in Spain.

The genius of Spagnoletto naturally inclined him to subjects of horror, which, therefore, he selected from sacred and profane history; such as the martyrdoms of saints, the torments of Ixion and Prometheus, or Cato tearing out his own bowels. He also delighted in designing old men | emaelated by mortification, such as saints and hermits, his pictures on which subjects were much admired by the Spaniards and Neapolitans. “St. Jerome was one of his darling subjects; he painted, he etched him, in numerous repetitions, in whole lengths and bait figures. He delighted in the representation of hermits, anchorets, prophets, apostles, perhaps less to impress the mind with gravity of character, and the venerable looks of age, than to strike the eye with the incidental deformities attendant on decrepitude, and the picturesque display of bone, vein, and tendons, athwart emaciated muscle. As in design he courted excrescence or meagreness, so in the choice of historic subjects he preferred to the terrors of ebullient passions, features of horror, cool assassination, and tortures methodized, the spasms of Ixion; and St. Bartholomew under the butcher’s knife.” An extraordinary story is related by Sandrart, of the effect of one of his pictures on the imagination of a pregnant woman, and on her child; but as the possibility of such effects is by no means ascertained, we shall not venture to relate it. The force of his colouring, the extraordinary relief of his figures, and the singular strength of his expression, certainly make his pictures likely to affect the mind as powerfully as those of any master who can be mentioned. 1


Argenville, vol. II. Pilkingtou, by Fusili.