• NameStefano Magnasco
  • Activity/Titlepainter
  • Sexmale
  • Variant namesStefano Magnasco
  • Nationality/DatesItalian, born ca 1635, dead between 1665 and 1674
  • PlacesPlace of death: Genova, Italien
    Place of death: Genova, Italien
BiographyStefano Magnasco was a follower of Valerio
Castello (1624–1659) and the father of the
better- known painter Alessandro Magnasco
(1667–1749). His life was brief and he would
perhaps have become a more notable artist, like
his son Alessandro, had it been longer. He was
born in Genoa in the parish of Sant’Agnese, in the
vicinity of the church of L’Annunziata del Vastato
(Guastato). He married Livia Caterina Musso, in
all likelihood before 4 February 1667, which has
been established as the date of birth of Alessandro.
Stefano must have begun his apprenticeship
to Valerio Castello at quite an early age, perhaps
as early as 1650–55, since it is documented that he
moved to Rome in 1656 to avoid the plague that
hit Genoa that year. Returning to Genoa after his
Roman sojourn in 1660, he had only about another
decade of professional activity before his untimely
death. His autograph work consists of around
sixty paintings, which in number are testament to
his short career, and in style to his quite diverse influences.
His early work is naturally characterized
by the influence of his master Castello: notably,
a certain golden lustre in combination with a
pronounced colouristic sfumato rendered through
quick and easy brushwork. Yet from early on Magnasco’s
work was distinct from his master’s, especially
due to its more pronounced naturalism. His
compositions are also clearer, often divided into
distinct planes of foreground and background,
typical of the Genoese work of Giovanni Benedetto
Castiglione (il Grechetto, 1609–1664) at that
time. He may also have shared earlier influences
with Castello, such as Parmese masterworks of the
16th century and the late Mannerist style of Giulio
Cesare Procaccini (1574–1625). Familiar with
Rubens’s Genoese work, he must also have studied
his output in Rome, the influence of which we can
see, for example, in Susanna and the Elders in a
private collection, Genoa. His classicist influences
seem to have come predominantly from the work
of Pietro da Cortona and his followers, such as
Pietro Testa. When Magnasco returned to Genoa,
many studios had closed due to the ravages of the
plague. His master Castello, for instance, had died
at the age of 35, and the disease can be said to have
forced a more rapid generational change amongst
artists in Genoa. At quite an early age, artists such
as Magnasco had to take on commissions that
would previously have been given to the likes of
Castello, Giovanni Paolo Cervetto (1630–1657) and
Bartolomeo Biscaino (1632–1657).