Giovanni Battista Piazzetta

Giovanni Battista Piazzetta, painter of religious, history and genre scenes; was an outstanding Venetian artist of the 18th century.

His art evolved from Italian Baroque traditions of the 17th century, to a Rococco manner in his mature style.

Piazzetta as an artist, sought little gain in his creations and as a result; he was relatively impoverished for much of his life. Indeed, in later life, he was compelled to produce innumerable drawings for sale, to support his large family.

In 1750, Piazzetta became the first director of the newly founded Accademia di Belle Arti di Venezia and he devoted the last few years of his life to teaching.



Giovanni Battista Piazzetta. Self-Portrait (c. 1930

Giovanni Battista Piazzetta. Self-Portrait (c. 1730)

(b. February 13th, 1682 – d. April 28th, 1754)



Giovanni Battista Piazzetta – BIOGRAPHY

Early life and influences. Giovanni Battista Piazzetta was born in Venice, the son of a sculptor Giacomo Piazzetta; from whom he had received early training in wood carving.

Soon after assisting the latter, to carve the still-surviving bookcases of the library of the Church of Santi Giovanni e Paolo in Venice; he abandoned the family profession and from 1697, began to study painting, under Antonio Molinari.

By Piazzetta’s own account, he went to Bologna, where he worked between 1703-1705; in the studio of Giuseppi Maria Crespi. However, there is no record by Crespi of formal tutelage.

Due to Crespi, Carlo Cignani’s influence reached Piazzetta. He did find inspiration in Crespi’s art, in which the chiaroscuro of Caravaggio; was transformed into an idiom of graceful charm, in his pictures of common folk. He was also greatly impressed, by the altarpieces created by Guercino; another Bolognese painter of a half-century earlier.


Return to Venice. Around 1710, he returned to Venice.

There he won recognition as a leading artist, despite his limited output and his unassuming nature. Ultimately however, he was less patronised, both in Venice and especially abroad; than two other eminent stars in Venetian late-Baroque/Rococo era – Ricci and Tiepolo.

Yet Piazzeta’s range of topics, was broader than that of these artists. Tiepolo, for example, never painted genre paintings and restricted himself to grand history and religious altarpieces.

Ricci and Tiepolo had a luminous palette and facile ease, that allowed them to carpet meters of ceiling with frescoes; although with a superficiality and glamour, that is absent from Piazzetta’s darker and more intimate depictions.

Nonetheless, Tiepolo, who collaborated with Piazzetta on some projects, was greatly influenced by the older artist. In turn, the luminosity and brilliance of Tiepolo’s palette; influenced Piazzetta in his later years.


Work highlights.

Little is known of the dating of Piazzetta’s paintings, especially those of his youth.

His “St. James Led to Martyrdom” (Venice) dates to 1717. At this period, he was a powerful influence on the young Giovanni Battista Tiepolo; who was to become the most famous Venetian painter of the 18th century.

In about 1725-27, he undertook his only ceiling painting, the “Glorification of St. Dominic”; for the Chapel of the Sacrament in Santi Giovanni e Paolo. (Left)

The Ecstasy of St. Francis,” perhaps his finest religious work, dates from about 1732, and some three years later he was commissioned to execute an “Assumption” for the elector of Cologne.

The celebrated Fortune Teller” is dated 1740. “The Pastoral” and the “Idyll by the Seashore,” both in the same Rococo-pastoral vein; must have been painted about the same time, or a little before. In his last years, he carried out a number of large-scale decorations, with subjects taken from classical history.



Piazzetta’s style. He created an art of warm, rich colour and a mysterious poetry. He often depicted peasantry, even if often in a grand fashion. He was highly original in the intensity of colour, that he sometimes used in his shadows and in the otherworldly quality, he gave to the light; which throws part of a composition into relief.

The gestures and glances of his protagonists hint at unseen dramas, as in one of his best-known paintings, “Fortune Teller” (1740); now in Gallerie dell’Accademia, Venice. He brought similar elusiveness to works of a religious nature, such as the “Sotto in su Glory of St. Dominic”; in the Church of Santi Giovanni e Paolo.

Slow but dependable. He was a very slow worker and in spite of his popularity, was compelled to produce innumerable drawings for sale; to support his large family.

Notable, are his many carefully rendered drawings of half-length figures or groups of heads; usually in charcoal or black chalk, with white heightening on grey paper. These are filled with the same spirit that animates his paintings and were purchased by collectors as independent works. He also produced engravings.

Left: The Fortune Teller (1740-45)

Regardless of the multiple iconographic interpretations (the title with which the work has been known since the late nineteenth century, as included in the Guide to Brera of 1891, was misleading), this painting describes a charming pastoral idyll which, in line with the contemporary Arcadian expressions of French painting, celebrates love and rural life. A summer light caresses the pearl-white complexion of this country goddess, who with her straw hat and revealing cream and pink dress; offers herself to our gaze.

Honoured. He was elected a member of the Bolognese Accademia Clementina in 1727. Among the painters in his studio were Domenico Maggiotto, Francesco Dagiu (il Capella), Johann Heinrich Tischbein, Egidio Dall’Oglio and Antonio Marinetti.

In 1750, Piazzetta became the first director of the newly founded “Accademia di Belle Arti di Venezia” and he devoted the last few years of his life to teaching.

The engraver Marco Pitteri, was affiliated with his studio and engraved many of his works. Among younger painters who emulated his style, are Giovanni Battista Pissati, Giulia Lama, Federico Bencovich and Francesco Polazzo (1683–1753).

He died in Venice on the 28th April, 1754.


His many drawings, two of which are shown below; are wonderful. Try to search them out online.

















 L: Head of a bearded man.  Drawing on paper.  Red and white chalk, on red-prepared paper.

R: Mathematician.  Drawing on paper. (c.1730-1754)



Please see my introductory post, on the Second Golden Age of Art: together with its most important artists: 

 Venetian Artists-18th Century

Foreign Artists working in Venice

Turner in Venice         Whistler in Venice

Monet in Venice


Giovanni Battista Piazzetta    Giovanni Battista Piazzetta    Giovanni Battista Piazzetta    Giovanni Battista Piazzetta

Pin It on Pinterest

Share This