Document Type


Date of Award



Drawing, Italian, Drawing, Baroque, Italy, Genoa

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Art History

First Advisor

Irving L. Zupnick

Second Advisor

Vincent J. Bruno


Genoese Baroque Painting has been neglected and obscured in the general panorama of the history of painting. At a time when artistic leadership vanished from Venice and Florence, the many dissimilar tendencies in Genoa merged and created an artistic culture with its own characteristics of color and light. This phenomenon produced an activity more alive and vital than in almost any other part of Italy. Rubens and Van Dyck were among the many artists attracted to the patronage of this rich maritime city whose strong economic ties with Spain had proved fruitful for developing its metropolitan status. In relation to Bologna, Rome and Naples, Genoa emerged with a special quality worthy of her assumed title “La Superba.” Yet, in spite of this, the literature is fragmentary and no book covers the entire field in the way which Roman Baroque Painting is treated by Hermann Voss and Ellis Waterhouse.

Why has this subject been overlooked? Certainly it is not due to the lack of interest in the field. The earliest investigator of this period was Raffaele Soprani, who published in 1674 detailed biographies of many of the early Seicento artists in Genoa. Moralizing and anecdote sometime swamp the essential facts of Soprani’s eyewitness accounts and his chronology is somewhat erroneous, but his Vite is the only contemporary source on which to base our understanding of the work and style of each artist. Soprani’s valuable study was updated by Carlo Giuseppe Ratti in two volumes. These books dated 1768-9 include the lives of artists active in Genoa through the Settecento, concluding with Gio. Battista Chiappe. Guided by Soprani and Ratti, Federico Alizeri proceeded in 1846-7 to describe in detail, church by church, palace by palace, the treasures to be found in Genoa. Others followed. Charting a course for twentieth century scholars, William Suida rediscovered and wrote in 1906 about the splendor of Genoa, then virtually unknown to anyone outside Italy. Orlando Grosso’s 1910 book on the frescoes in Genoese palaces and his 1910 drawing exhibition in Milan also helped introduce the artistic heritage of Genoa to Europe. During the last few decades, a number of monographs have served to clarify the merits of Genoese painters: Suida’s Cambiaso (1958); Enggass’ Baccicio (1964); Gavazza's Lorenzo de Ferrari (1965); Mortari’s Strozzi (1966); Percy’s Castiglione (1971) and Manzitti’s Valerio Castello (1972). The interest in Genoese art has extended to comprehensive exhibitions of the Genoese baroque period assembled in 1938 by Grosso, Bonzi and Marcenaro; in 1947 by Morassi; in 1962-3 and 1964-55 by the Mannings; in 1969 by Marcenaro; in 1972 by Newcome; and in 1973 by Godi.

Yet in spite of the dedication of many art historians to penetrate the subject, Genoa remains in relative artistic seclusion in comparison to other Italian cities. Part of the reason is that the Genoese still manage to keep their treasures to themselves, a prerogative which has its merits. Perhaps this is why there exists in Genoa the remains of picture collections such as survive in no other Italian city. The artistic wealth contained in the palaces is jealously guarded, and many doors are still tightly closed. Poor security, expensive insurance and an unstable government compound the Genoese penchant for privacy and secrecy. The bombings of World War II that destroyed the Greek section close to the harbor and portions of the palaces along the via Garibaldi have further increased the low visibility of Genoese painting. Many frescoes laid in ruins and pictures vanished after their removal in 1940. However, an unforeseen blessing came from the war when four palaces were restored and opened as museums to the public—the Palazzi Rosso, Bianco, Reale and Spinola.


In a discussion of Genoese Baroque Painting, it is necessary to go both forward and backward in time. Much of the style of the early seventeenth century was already determined by the end of the sixteenth, and the baroque influence, though diminished considerably, extends into the early nineteenth century. This study is therefore divided into two broad sections: Part I spans from c. 1550-1657 to include the Bergamasco-Cambiaso era and the early Seicento when a new generation of Genoese painters began to absorb and develop a variety of artistic trends from northern Europe, Lombardy, Florence, Siena, Venice and Rome. Part II goes from 1657 to the French Revolution taking into account the age of decorative, lyrical painting when the Roman manner and the French occupation of Genoa influenced the Genoese-Cortonesque tradition and Genoese painting was virtually controlled by the Piola and Ferrari families. Part II also includes a final phase of Genoese Baroque discussing the expressionism of Magnasco, the rococo prettiness of Lorenzo de Ferrari and the academic refinement of Ratti.