Born at Pitigliano, in southern Tuscany, Zuccarelli began his apprenticeship in Rome in c. 1713–14 with the portrait painters Giovanni Maria Morandi (1622–1717) and his pupil Pietro Nelli (1672–1740), under whose tutelage he learned the elements of design while absorbing the lessons of Roman classicism. Francesco completed his first commission in Pitigliano in the years 1724–27, a pair of chapel altarpieces. With the sponsorship of the Florentine art connoisseur, Francisco Maria Niccolò Gabburri (1676–1742), in the late 1720s and early 1730s Zuccarelli focused on etching. He eventually produced at least 43 prints, the majority consisting of two series which recorded the deteriorating frescoes of Giovanni da San Giovanni (1592–1636) and Andrea del Sarto (1486–1531). During his Tuscan period, though preoccuppied with figurative subjects, he began to experiment with drawings in landscape, and according to non-contemporary sources his introduction to the latter genre was through the Roman landscape painter and etcher Paolo Anesi (1697–1773).
Venice and two stays in England (1732–71)
Italian Landscape with a Country Festival. No date. Drawing with body colour. British Museum.
In 1732, after a stay of several months in Bologna, Zuccarelli relocated to Venice. While continuing to paint religious and mythological works, he increasingly devoted his output to landscapes, his style at first taking after that of Alessandro Magnasco, and more lastingly, of Marco Ricci. Prior to his arrival in the Republic, the death of Marco Ricci in 1730 had created an opening in the field of landscape painting amid a marketplace crowded with history painters, and Zuccarelli's unique blend of countryside and Arcadia quickly achieved success. Francesco brought a more mellow and airy palette to the typically Venetian colors, and his rural scenes were populated with small figures reminiscent of Claude, whose work he had studied in Rome. He also occasionally created pastiches of various 17th-century Dutch masters. Zuccarelli enjoyed early patronage in Venice, from amongst others, Marshal Schulenburg, Consul Smith, and Francesco Algarotti, who recommended him to the Elector of Saxony, Augustus III of Poland. He often collaborated with other artists, including Bernardo Bellotto and Antonio Visentini. In the mid-1740s, under the auspices of Consul Smith, he produced with Visentini a series featuring neo-Palladian architecture, as can be seen in Burlington House (1746). Most charming of the Zuccarelli and Visentini collaborations is a set of 52 playing cards with Old Testament subjects published in Venice in 1748. The hand-colored scenes are treated in a light manner, the suit symbols are ingenious, and the cards begin with the Creation of Adam and end with a battle scene that has an elephant carrying a castle. The outstanding achievement of his Venetian years was a series of seven canvases, traditionally ascribed to the Genesis story of Jacob, and now located at Windsor Castle. The tall paintings are couched in a tender and dream-like poetic vein, and were most likely originally situated at Consul Smith's villa at Mogliano. Towards 1750, when Zuccarelli reached his peak, his paint handling was very responsive to mood, bright with regard to color, thinly laid on and yet vibrantly effective.
Francesco travelled to England to 1752, where his decorative talent resulted in diverse work, including the design of tapestries with the weaver Paul Saunders at Holkham Hall. Around 1760 he turned to Shakespeare, depicting a scene from Macbeth where Macbeth and Banquo encounter the witches, noteworthy as being one of the first paintings to portray theatrical characters in a landscape. Zuccarelli held a sale of his canvases in 1762 at Prestage and Hobbs in London before his departure for Italy. In the same year, King George III acquired twenty-five of his works through the purchase of much of Consul Smith's extensive art collection and library in Venice. In 1763 he became a member of the Venetian Academy, but Zuccarelli was soon induced to journey back to London in 1765 by his friend Algarotti's bequest of a cameo and group of drawings made to Lord Chatham. On this second visit to England, he was lauded by the English nobility and critics alike, and invited to exhibit at leading art societies; moreover, King George III is said to have commissioned the out-sized painting River Landscape with the Finding of Moses (1768). Francesco Zuccarelli was a founding member, in 1768, of the Royal Academy of Arts.
Final years in Italy (1771–88)
Upon his return to Italy in 1771, Zuccarelli was soon afterward elected President of the Venetian Academy. The work of his late maturity can broadly be characterized as "neo-Riccian", for in this period the artist's style recalls the precision of his youthful emulation of Marco Ricci. Francesco Zuccarelli eventually settled in Florence, and he died there in 1788.
A Landscape with Shepherds Resting Under a Tree by a Cascade. Mid-1700s. Black chalk, pen and brown ink, brown and gray wash heightened with white gouache. Getty Museum.
Francesco Zuccarelli was one of the few Venetian painters of his era to win universal acclaim, even from critics who rejected the concept of Arcadia. He was especially popular among the followers of Rousseau. Francesco Maria Tassi (1716–1782), in his Lives of the Painters, Sculptors, and Architects of Bergamo remarks that Zuccarelli paints "landscapes with the most charming figures and thus excels not only artists of modern times but rivals the great geniuses of the past; for no one previously knew how to combine the delights of an harmonious ground with figures gracefully posed and represented in the most natural colours". With the move to more representational modes of depicting landscape in the 19th century, a reaction set in, and his works were to be the subject of the most disparaging invective. A reappraisal of the artist began in 1959 with a landmark article by Michael Levey, "Francesco Zuccarelli in England", which helped explain the appeal of his works to his contemporaries by drawing a parallel with the affection of the 18th century English for pastoral poetry. Everyone could recognize a pleasing convention when they saw one, in this case, a fairyland where "the skies are forever blue, the trees forever green." The exaltation of the rural life as a retreat from the noise of urbanity had the sanction of a long and distinguished history; as Levey writes, "Virgil recommended it, Petrarch practiced it, and Zucccarelli illustrated it." Further important contributions to scholarship have been the publication of an artistic biography and sixty paintings by Federico dal Forno in 1994, and more recently, the appearance of a catalogue raisonné. In a wider cultural context, modern historians have considered Zuccarelli to be a figure of interest with his love of escapism, seen as not untypical of the late Baroque.
Identification of works
His paintings, rarely signed with a 'FZ' monogram or signature, often contain a bottle gourd that was held at the waist by rural Italian women, a punning allusion to his surname, which signifies "little pumpkin"'. A defining touch found consistently across the long span of Francesco Zuccarelli's career is a serene and vaguely sweet expression on the rounded faces of his figures.
Landscape with the Penitent Magdalene. c. 1728. Drawing. British Museum.
Roman Capriccio with Triumphal Arch, the Pyramid of Cestius, St. Peter's Basilica and the Castle of the Holy Angel.Bernardo Bellotto and Francesco Zuccarelli. Mid–1740s. Galerie Nazionale, Parma.
Rape of Europa. Mid–1740s. Galleria dell'Accademia, Venice.
Burlington House.Antonio Visentini and Francesco Zuccarelli. 1746. Windsor Castle, London.
Landscape with a Waterfall. 1747–8. Accademia Carrara, Bergamo.
Old Testament Playing Cards. Francesco Zuccarelli and Antonio Visentini. Venice, 1748. British Museum.
Pastoral scene. Early 1750s. Hermitage Museum, St. Petersburg.
Margherita Tassi. 1751. Accademia Carrara, Bergamo.
Landscape with Milking Scene. Mid–1750s. Ca' Rezzonico, Venice.
Landscape with Girls at a River. Mid-1750s. Galleria dell'Accademia, Venice.
Macbeth and the Witches. c. 1760. Private collection (Spadotto no. 304).
River Landscape with the Finding of Moses. 1768. Windsor Castle, London.
Bull Hunting. Early 1770s. Galleria dell'Accademia, Venice.
^Tassi, Francesco Maria Vite de' pittori, scultori e archittetti bergamaschi. Vol II. Bergamo, 1793. p. 86. Tassi died in 1782, and the work was published posthumously.
^ abcdefghijkSpadotto, Federica. Francesco Zuccarelli. Catalogue raisonné. Preface by Filippo Pedrocco. Bruno Alfieri, Milan. 2007.
^Massar, Phyllis Dearborn (September 1998). "The Prints of Francesco Zuccarelli". Print QuarterlyXV.
^Lanzi, Luigi. La storia pittorica della Italia inferiore, o sia delle scuole fiorentina, senese, romana, napolitana. Firenze, Stamperia di Ant. Gius. Pagani, 1792; and Lanzi, L. Storia pittorica della Italia dal Risorgimento delle Belle Arti fin presso la fine del XVIII secolo. Bassano, Remondini, 1795–1796. There is a difference in wording between the 1792 and 1795 editions. In 1792, Lanzi wrote "Nel 1788 morì in Firenze di anni 86 Francesco Zuccherelli di Pitigliano, ammaestrato nella capitale (=Florence) dall'Anesi, poi in Roma dal Morandi e dal Nelli" (p. 147); then, in 1795, "Molti quadri di vedute campestri son per Firenze dipinte da Paolo Anesi, e ve n'è copia anche in Roma. Da questo fu incamminato nell'arte Francesco Zuccherelli..." (p. 270). See note on p. 319 in Michel, Olivier; "Recherches Biographiques sur Paolo Anesi." In: Vivre et Peindre à Rome au XVIIIe Siėcle'. Ècole Française de Rome, Palais Farnèse, 1996. It seems likely that Zuccarelli already knew Anesi from Rome, or met him in Florence through their common friend Gabburi, whose collection of paintings were devoted almost exclusively to landscape and included five by Anesi, and notably, in light of later developments, four from Marco Ricci. Both Zuccarelli and Anesi exhibited at the Accademici del Disegno on the occasion of the festival of St. Luke in Florence in 1729.
^Gabburri, Franceso Maria Niccolò. Vite de' pittori. 4 Vols. Unpublished Ms. Biblioteca Nazionale Centrale, Florence. Cited in Spadotto (2007). In Bologna, Zuccarelli published a book of prints dedicated to an unknown Florentine friend.
^There is some disagreement about the timing and extent of Zuccarelli's movements from his Florentine period in the late 1720s to his arrival in Venice, which a few commentators date to 1730. See Spadotto (2007), pp. 12–15.
^ abcdeTheodoli, Olimpia (Contributor). (1995). Martineau, Jane and Robinson, Andrew, ed. The Glory of Venice: Art in the Eighteenth Century. New Haven: Yale University Press.
^Michael Levey (1964) writes of 3 works showing a mid-17th century Dutch influence in the Royal Collection. Landscape with a Wayside Tavern, (possibly a pastiche of Wouvermans), Hampton Court; Landscape with Ruins and Beggar, (a more obvious pastiche of Berchem), Windsor Castle; and Landscape with a Sleeping Child and a Woman Milking a Cow, noted in the Italian List (Cust, 1913) as being a pendant to a work formerly attributed to Rembrandt, and "in his stile (sic)", at Holyroodhouse. Citations from Levey, Michael. The Later Italian Pictures in the Collection of Her Majesty the Queen. The Phaidon Press: London, 1964.
^John Thomas Smith (1766–1833), Keeper of the Prints and Drawings in the British Museum, states that "...the latter artist (Canaletto) frequently painted the buildings in Zuccarelli's Landscapes." See "Francesco Zuccarelli, R.A." in Nollekens and His Times: Comprehending a Life of That Celebrated Sculptor; and Memoirs of Several Contemporary Artists, from the Time Of Roubiliac, Hogarth, and Reynolds, to that of Fuseli, Flaxman, and Blake. Edited and annotated by Wilfred Whitten. Vol II. London: Henry Colburn, 1829.
^The cards are rather rare (Massar 1998). The set in the Collection of The United States Playing Card Company, in Cincinnati, Ohio, is of particular interest because the collection contains Zuccarelli's original drawings for them. The medium is graphite, and Massar writes that the drawings exemplify Zuccarelli's soft, feathery touch.
^ abcZampetti, Pietro. "Zuccarelli Francesco" In A Dictionary of Venetian Painters. Vol. 4. 18th Century. F. Lewis: Leigh-on-Sea, 1971.
^Knox, George (June 1996). "Consul Smith's villa at Mogliano: Antonio Visentini and Francesco Zuccarelli". Apollo. CXLIII: 32–38.
^ abcdefghLevey, Michael (1959). "Francesco Zuccarelli in England". Italian StudiesXVI.
^Prestage and Hobbs (1762). Pictures, of Mr. Zuccarelli, painted by himself, consisting of variety in landscapes, history. London.
^Cust, Lionel. "Notes on Pictures in the Royal Collections-XXV." (The Italian List) Burlington Magazine Vol XXIII, 1913. pp. 150–62.
^Levey, Michael. The Later Italian Pictures in the Collection of Her Majesty the Queen. The Phaidon Press: London, 1964.
^West, Shearer. Zuccarelli, Francesco. In: Turner, Jane; ed. The Dictionary of Art. Vol. 33. Macmillan: London, 2002.
^Pyne, W.H. The history of the royal residences of Windsor Castle, St. James's Palace, Carlton House, Kensington Palace, Hampton Court, Buckingham House, and Frogmore. Illustrated by one hundred highly finished and coloured engravings, fac-similes of original drawings by the most eminent artists. A. Dry: London, 1819. Cited in Levey, Michael (1964). The Crown paid Zuccarelli ₤428.8s for 2 pictures and 2 frames on 12 January 1771. (Source: Georgian Papers in the Royal Archives at Windsor, 17253; cited by Levey, who suggests the pictures may have been A Harbour Scene with Ruins, Figures and Cattle, and Landscape with a Temple and Cascade, both at Windsor Castle).
^ abHaskell, Francis. Patrons and Painters: A Study in the Relations between Italian Art and Society in the Age of the Baroque. 2nd ed. Yale University Press: New Haven and London, 1986.
^Tassi (1793). Quotation from Zampetti, Pietro (1971).
^Dal Forno, Federico. Francesco Zuccarelli pittore paesaggista del Settecento. Arti Grafiche Colombo: Verona, 1994.
^Castagno, John. Old Masters: Signatures and Monograms, 1400-born 1800. The Scarecrow Press, Inc: Lanham, Md. & London, 1996.
^Knight, Charles. The English cyclopædia:a new dictionary of universal knowledge. Bradbury & Evans: London, 1858.
^Pen and brown ink with red chalk, and grey and brown wash, touched with white (British Museum description).
Gabburri, Franceso Maria Niccolò (1719–1741). Vite de' pittori. 4 Vols. Unpublished Ms. Biblioteca Nazionale Centrale, Florence. Cited in Spadotto (2007).
Pellegrino, Antonio Orlandi; and Pietro Guarienti (1753). Abecedario Pittorico del m.r.p. G.B. Pasquali: Venice.
Anon. (1762). Pictures, of Mr. Zuccarelli, painted by himself, consisting of variety in landscapes, history. Prestage & Hobbs: London.
Algarotti, Francesco; Count (1764–65). Opere. 8 vols. Marco Coltellini: Livorno.
Anon. (1789) Alcune Notìzie di Zuccarelli. Some Account of Zuccarelli. In: 'Mercurio Italico:o sia, Ragguaglio Generale intorno alla Letteratura, Belle Arti, Utili Scoperte, ec. di tutta l'Italia'. Vol. 1. Couchman & Fry.
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Tassi, Francesco Maria (1793). Vite de'pittori, scultori e architetti bergamaschi. 2 vols. Bergamo.
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Rosa, G. (1952). Zuccarelli. Gorlich: Milan. 2nd Ed.
Levey, Michael (1959). "Francesco Zuccarelli in England." In Italian Studies. Vol XIV. pp. 1–20.
Levey, Michael (April 1959). "Wilson and Zuccarelli in England", in Burlington Magazine. Vol CI. pp. 139–143.
Levey, Michael (1964). Later Italian Pictures in the Collection of Her Majesty the Queen. Phaidon Press: London.
Zampetti, Pietro (1971). "Zuccarelli Francesco" In A Dictionary of Venetian Painters. Vol. 4. 18th Century. F. Lewis: Leigh-on-Sea.
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Theodoli, Olimpia; contributor. (1995). Martineau, Jane and Robison, Andrew, ed. The Glory of Venice: Art in the Eighteenth Century. New Haven: Yale University Press.
Michel, Oliver (1996). "Recherches Biographiques sur Paolo Anesi." In: Vivre et Peindre à Rome au XVIIIe Siècle. École Français de Rome. Palais Farnèse: Rome.
Castagno, John (1996). Old Masters: Signatures and Monograms, 1400–born 1800. The Scarecrow Press, Inc: Lanham, Md. & London.
Knox, George (June 1996). "Consul Smith's villa at Mogliano: Antonio Visentini and Francesco Zuccarelli". Apollo. CXLIII: 32–38.
Massar, Phyllis Dearborn (September 1998). "The Prints of Francesco Zuccarelli". Print QuarterlyXV.
West, Shearer (2002). Zuccarelli, Francesco. In: Turner, Jane; ed. The Dictionary of Art. Vol. 33. Macmillan: London.
Delneri, Annalia (2003). "Il paesaggio arcadico di Francesco Zuccarelli", in: Delneri, Annalia; and Dario Succi; eds. Da Canaletto a Zuccarelli. Il paesaggio veneto del Settecento. Exhibition catalogue. Arti Grafiche Friulane Società Editrice: Tavagnacco (Udine). pp. 109–119.
Spadotto, Federica (2007). Francesco Zuccarelli. Catalogue raisonné. Preface by Filippo Pedrocco. Bruno Alfieri: Milan.
Spadotto, Federica (2009). "Zuccarelli tra emuli, imitatori e copisti". In L'impegno e la conoscenza: studi di storia dell'arte in onore di Egido Martina. Pedrocco, Filippo and Alberto Craievich, eds. Scripta edizioni: Verona. pp. 324–7.
"Francis Zuccarelli, R.A." in Anecdotes of painters who have resided or been born in England : with critical remarks on their productions; by Edward Edwards, deceased, late teacher of perspective, and associate, in the Royal Academy; intended as a continuation to The anecdotes of painting by the late Horace Earl of Orford. Edward Edwards. London : printed by Luke Hansard & Sons, for Leigh and Sotheby, W.J. and J. Richardson, R. Faulder, T. Payne, and J. White, 1808.
"Francisco Zuccarelli, R.A." in Nollekens and His Times: Comprehending a Life of That Celebrated Sculptor; and Memoirs of Several Contemporary Artists, from the Time Of Roubiliac, Hogarth, and Reynolds, to that of Fuseli, Flaxman, and Blake.John Thomas Smith Keeper of the Prints and Drawings in the British Museum. Edited and annotated by Wilfred Whitten. Vol II. London: Henry Colburn, 1829.