DIANA, Benedetto
(b. ca. 1460, Venezia, d. 1525, Venezia)


Italian painter, originally Benedetto Rusconi. In 1482 he was listed as a painter on the rolls of the Scuola della CaritÓ in Venice; in 1485 his wife and his mother made a joint will. On this basis, his birth is usually placed c. 1460 but may be somewhat earlier. He is thought to have been a pupil of Lazzaro Bastiani.

In 1485-86 he completed a fresco of The Flood begun by Bartolomeo Montagna for the Scuola Grande di San Marco in Venice. The influence of Montagna, Bastiani and Giovanni Bellini is evident in Diana's first surviving painting, a Virgin and Child Enthroned between Two Saints and Donors (Venice, Ca' d'Oro), commissioned in 1487 for the Venetian Mint by its magistrates. Its colour is characteristic of his work: a pale, luminous tonality achieved by the subtle gradation and relation of unsaturated cool hues. In terms of light and volume it is radically sophisticated: space is conceived as no less a presence than the forms it separates; and there is a calculated play of geometrically conceived forms: squat against slim, dense against ethereal. The background shows an astonishing mastery of the optical effects of a summer landscape seen through haze and of buildings reduced to geometry by light and shadow.

The Confraternity of the Scuola Grande di San Giovanni Evangelista in Venice called upon the most respected Venetian painters of the period, including Pietro Perugino, Vittore Carpaccio, Gentile Bellini, Giovanni Mansueti, Lazzaro Bastiani and Benedetto Diana to paint nine canvases for the Great Hall of their headquarters showing the Miracles of the Holy Cross, the story of the miracles performed by the fragment of wood from the Cross on which Jesus was crucified. Eight paintings of this series, among them Diana's, survived and are now displayed in the Gallerie dell'Accademia in Venice.

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