BARNABA DA MODENA
(active 1361-1383 in Modena)

Biography

Italian painter. Although a native of Modena (Emilia), he was first recorded as a Genoese citizen, hiring Tuscan assistants in 1361 and 1362. He was paid for paintings for the Palazzo Ducale, Genoa, in 1364; a Virgin and Child (1367; Frankfurt am Main, Städelsches Kunstinstitut). His earliest certain painting is the damaged polyptych of the Virgin and Child with Saints (Genoa, Palazzo Bianco), signed, unlike later works, in capital letters. Its frame awkwardly combines the light Gothic arcading of Tuscan polyptychs with the continuous contour and simple gables of Emilian design. The incongruities of figure scale, the blackish undertone to the flesh painting and the small features and tall cranium of the Child all derive from Venetian painting, while the careful modelling of Mary's eyes and puckered lips show the influence of the Lorenzetti brothers and their Sienese followers. Another Virgin and Child (Boston, Museum of Fine Arts) by Barnaba reflects Sienese painting in its rounded faces and gold-striated highlights on Mary's mantle. His small Virgin and Crucifixion (Modena, Galleria & Museo Estense) and the St Bartholomew altarpiece (Genoa, S. Bartolomeo del Fossato), with simple architectural settings, brilliant colours and delicate goldwork, are probably from the 1360s.

He was invited to Pisa in 1380 to complete the fresco cycle by Andrea da Firenze depicting scenes from the Life of St Ranieri in the Camposanto. Although it seems unlikely that he carried out this work (which was completed by Antonio Veneziano some years later), he evidently went to Pisa around this time.

Barnaba witnessed the sale of a house in Modena in 1380 but had returned to Genoa by 1383. Commissions are also recorded in Sicily both for Barnaba and his follower Nicola da Voltri, who perpetuated Barnaba's imagery and much of his style in Liguria into the 15th century.



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