Messina, Antonello da

(active c. 1445-1479)
   Originally from Messina, Sicily, Antonello was trained by a Neapolitan artist named Colantonio. Little had taken place in Southern Italy in terms of artistic development since mosaicists from the 12th century had worked in the region and Giotto had served Robert D'Anjou from 1328 to 1334. Therefore, Antonello's stylistic formation depended not on contemporary developments but on the art owned by Southern Italian collectors, such as King Alfonso of Naples. Alfonso owned works by Jan van Eyck, Rogier van der Weyden, and other Flemish masters that Antonello may have studied, as indicated by the strong Early Netherlandish influence in his art. In 1456, Antonello is recorded working in the court of Galeazzo Maria Sforza in Milan at the same time as a Northern master thought to be Petrus Christus, van Eyck's follower. From his exposure to Flemish art, Antonello learned the oil painting technique of applying various layers of glaze to achieve a rich, velvety surface — a technique he is credited with introducing to Venice when he moved there in 1475.
   Antonello's St. Jerome in His Study (c. 1450-1455; London, National Gallery) shows the Flemish influence in his art, so much so that, in 1529, a Venetian who saw the work confused it with a van Eyck or a Hans Memlinc. Not only is the rich palette taken from Early Netherlandish prototypes but so is his interest in describing every object in great detail. Antonello's Virgin Annunciate (c. 1465; Palermo, Museo Nazionale) and Portrait of a Man (c. 1465; London, National Gallery) both follow the Early Netherlandish portrait format of using a half-figure set against a dark, undefined background. While Antonello influenced the Venetian masters, they taught him some lessons as well. His St. Sebastian (1476-1477; Dresden, Gemäldegalerie) demonstrates the influence of Andrea Mantegna. Here, his palette has changed from deep reds, ochers, and golden tones to soft pastels. His figure is idealized and set against a well-developed background. In this work, Antonello also shows a greater understanding of anatomy and perspective.

Historical dictionary of Renaissance art. . 2008.

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