GUARDI, Gianantonio
(b. 1699, Wien, d. 1760, Venezia)


Italian painter (usually called Gianantonio Guardi), member of a family of artists. He was the elder brother of Francesco Guardi, who is famous for his views of Venice, and is the best-known member of the family. They collaborated on some religious paintings. Gianantonio presumably took over the studio in Venice at the age of 17, on his father's death. Various documents relating to him have been published: he was elected a founder-member of the Venetian Accademia in 1756 (whereas his brother Francesco was elected only in 1784); he inherited an estate in the Val di Sole in 1737 from his father's brother; in 1739 another member of the family, the priest Pietro Antonio Guardi, obtained from the family studio in Venice three lunettes - depicting the Sacrilegious Communion, the Washing of the Disciples' Feet and the Vision of St Francis - for his parish church in Vigo d'Anaunia, near Trento, and (probably a little later) the small altarpiece of the Virgin and Child and Four Saints (all still in situ).

From 1730 for the next 15 years Gianantonio was much employed by the German Graf Johann Matthias von der Schulenburg, Field Marshal of the Venetian armies, to paint for him numerous copies of Venetian masters (Titian, Tintoretto, Sebastiano Ricci and others) and of portraits of the ruling families of Europe. There are records, too, relating to altarpieces of the Virgin and Child with Saints at Belvedere (1746) between Aquileia and Grado, near Trieste, and Cerete Basso (1754) in the Bergamasque Alps (both in situ), which are now attributed to Gianantonio, as head of the studio.

The only certain work by Gianantonio is the Death of St Joseph (in Berlin): this was thought to have been destroyed in 1945, but reappeared in 1965.

Gianantonio was the head of the family studio. Giambattista Tiepolo married the to the sister of the Guardi brothers, and it was possibly through his influence that Gianantonio became a founder member of the Venetian Academy in 1756.

The major problem in Guardi studies concern the authorship of paintings representing The Story of Tobit that decorate the organ loft of S. Raffaele in Venice. Critical opinion is sharply divided as to whether these brilliant works, painted with brushwork of breathtaking freedom, are by Francesco or Gianantonio (there is dispute also over the dating), but if they are indeed by Gianantonio, he too must rank as a major figure.