Catholic Encyclopedia (1913)/Giovanni Antonio Pordenone

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Catholic Encyclopedia (1913), Volume 12
Giovanni Antonio Pordenone

by George Charles Williamson

Italian painter, b. at Pordenone, 1483; d. at Ferrara, January, 1539. He is occasionally referred to by his family name Licinio, at times as Regillo, but usually as Pordenone, from his birthplace, and by that name some of his works are signed. He is believed to have been a pupil of Pellegrino da San Daniello. Most of the information respecting him is derived from Carlo Ridolfi, who states that Pordenone's first commission was given him by a grocer in his native town, to try his boast that he could paint a picture as the priest commenced High Mass, and complete it by the time Mass was over. He is said to have executed the given commission in the required time. Most of his early work is to be found in the form of fresco decoration in the churches around Pordenone, where he spent most of his time. There he married twice. His work was in great demand in Mantua, Cremona, Treviso, and Spilimbergo, where his rich and elaborate fresco work, as well as decorations for the fronts of organs, and altar-pieces, are found. About 1529 he went to Venice, but little of his work remains in that city, save the two panels representing St. Christopher and St. Martin in the church of Saint Rocco. He then journeyed to Piacenza, Genoa, Ferrara, and other places, doing fresco decoration, and receiving warm welcome at each place. Returning to his native city, he received the honour of knighthood from King John of Hungary, and from that time was frequently styled "Regillo". In 1536 he was again in Venice, carrying out some commissions for the Council of Ten, and decorating the ceilings of three of their halls. These works were so thoroughly approved that further commissions were given him by the Senate, but unfortunately everything carried out by Pordenone at that time has perished. From Venice he went to Ferrara, to execute certain commissions for Ercole II, Duke of Ferrara, but he was there a short time when he died.

Rumours were that he had been poisoned by one of the Ferrarese artists, who was jealous of his reputation, but other reports state that he caught a severe chill after eating, and a third statement says that he died from an epidemic at that time raging in the city. A contemporary artist, however, gives his family name as Cuticello and not Licinio. He states definitely that the artist was poisoned by Ferrarese artists at the Angel Inn, Ferrara. His tomb is in the church of San Paolo in Ferrara. Better than most of his contemporaries, he was acquainted with the laws of perspective, and his fresco work is always well drawn, learned, agreeable, and pleasant. He possessed great facility and considerable power of originality, and being a man of strong and very determined religious opinions, devoted himself heartily to church decoration, and carried it out with exceedingly fine results. There was a strong competition between him and Titian in Venice, and there are statements in Venetian MSS. of the time which imply that certain works of Pordenone's were intentionally destroyed by persons who were jealous of the honour and position of Titian. At the present day, to understand his painting, it is necessary to visit the various churches round Pordenone, as the quality of his workmanship cannot be appreciated from the few frescoes which remain in Venice, nor from the small number of easel pictures which can be attributed to him with any definite authority. He had many pupils who copied his work cleverly, and who probably did most of the smaller pictures attributed to him. Perhaps his finest are those in the cathedrals of San Daniele, Spilimbergo, Treviso, and Cremona; in Munich there is a portrait of himself with his pupils, and there is another of himself in a private gallery in Rome. He appears to have founded his ideas in Venice very much on those of Giorgione and Titian, but in the cathedrals already mentioned his work is more natural and original.

RIDOLFI, Le Maraviglie dell'Arte (Venice, 1648), and the Mottensi MS., in the Venice Library.

GEORGE CHARLES WILLIAMSON