PIAZZETTA Giovanni Battista
Giovanni Battista Piazzetta was trained by his father Giacomo Piazzetta (1640- 1705), a modest wood carver and sculptor, before he became the pupil of Antonio Molinari (1665- 1727).
At an early age, Giovanni Battista left Venice for Bologna, where he entered the studio of Giuseppe Maria Crespi (1665- 1747) in about 1703 in order to receive further training. From the 90s onwards, Crespi was considered the principal master of the Bologna School of Painting: His oeuvre can mainly be distinguished by its combination of the classical ideal of the Carracci brothers and Guido Reni (1575- 1642) with the composition and colours of Guercino (1591- 1666). In Bologna, Piazzetta also studied Caravaggio's (1573- 1610) realistic chiaroscuro painting and Guercino's figure ideal.
In 1711, the artist returned to Venice, where he remained until his death. Piazzetta was known to his contemporaries for the numerous oil paintings that he was commissioned to paint, but also for his fine drawings and his book illustrations.
Shepherd Boy/Peasant Girl (Peasant Girl see Piazzetta Inv. no. 475)
Piazzetta's unusual way of depicting a "Peasant Girl" and a "Shepherd Boy" is evidenced first of all by his choice of a transverse oval picture format. Only a partial view of the boy is given, and his face, which is aligned slightly rearwards, is partly covered by a large hat. In his frontal view of the sleeping girl, the artist underlined the intimate, lascivious character of the picture by giving her a low-cut dress.
Piazzetta's style is distinguished by clearly offset chiaroscuro, sound colour composition and vibrant flesh tones. The half-length paintings of the girl and boy are modelled on the half-length figures of Caravaggio. The artist was indebted to Crespi for the genre elements and the down-to-earth realism of the depictions as well as for its traditional rustic character. The erotic element was already to be found in 17th-century Dutch painting.
Two comparable companion pieces are to be found at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. Both pictures are dated to about 1720, other, similar works to the 20s of the 18th century. The paintings in Salzburg still exhibit the influence of Piazzetta's time in Bologna and can, therefore, be assumed to have been executed not much later than the examples mentioned above. Hence it would seem justifiable to date them to the early 20s.
Gabriele Groschner, Thomas Habersatter, Erika Mayr-Oehring (Ed.): Masterworks. Residenzgalerie Salzburg. Salzburg 2002, p. 68