Giovanni Battista Castello (il genovese)

Genoa, 1547 – 1637

The Stoning of Saint Stephen
Temple and gold on parchment
25 x 18 cm.
Dated in 1580

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Giovanni Battista Castello was born in Genoa in the bosom of a traditionally artistic family. He was the elder brother of the painter Bernardo Castello(1557 – 1629); and to be distinguished from Giovanni Battista Castello ‘Il Bergamasco’ (1509 – 1569), Giovanni was called as ‘Il Genovese’.

He spent his formative years at the workshop of Luca Cambiasso (1527-1585), who was considered the most prolific artist of Genoa at the time. Very quickly Giovanni Battista Castello stood out from the rest of the apprentices and would soon distinguish himself as an independent artist and one of the leading illustrators in the city.

He specialized in miniatures and illuminations with temple on parchment, a technique that allowed him to show his mastery and virtuosity, as shown in the beautiful work which is shown here.

As a miniaturist, he became so reputable that it was not long until reaching the ears of King Phillip II, who hired him in 1584 as illuminator for the Royal Books of the Chorus of el Escorial.

There is documentary evidence that in 1590 Castello returned to Genoa where he received a commission from Margaret of Austria, Consort Queen of Phillip III, to copy an icon for the church of Saint Bartholomew of the Armenians.

The most prolific period in his career was between the last decades of the 16th century and the first decades of the 17th century. To understand the enormous prestige obtained by Castelli as an artist at the time, one can just read the words that Raffaello Soprani dedicated him in his Vite de Pittori, Scoltori et Architetti Genovesi (1674), praising his ‘painting with an unique exquisiteness’.

The work shown here can be compared to the ‘Adoration of the Magi’, signed and dated in 1588 which is kept in the Wildenstein Collection in Paris.

VVA. Boccardo Piero, Colomer José Luis, Di Fabio Lario. Spain and Genoa: Works, artists and collectors. CEEH. Spain (2004)

VVA. Castello Battista-Giovanni, Di Fabio CLario, Gio.Battista Castello, “I´l Genovese”: miniature e devozione a Genova fran cinque e seicento. Comune di Genova. Italy (1990).

Scheleier-Newcome Mary. Disegni Genovese Dal XVI al XVIII secolo. L.S. Olschki. Italy (1989).

Published in:
DE LAURENTIIS, Elena.  Il pio Genovese. Giovanni Battista Castello.
Alumina, miniate page, n.37. April-June 2012. Pp. 26 – 35, rep. 26