CASTELLO, Valerio
(b. 1624, Genova, d. 1659, Genova)

Ceiling painting

1657-58
Fresco
Palazzo Balbi Senarega, Genoa

The picture shows the ceiling painting with simulated portico in the Salone Principale on the third floor in the Palazzo Balbi Senarega, Genoa. The centre panel with the Four Ages of Man was executed by Valerio Castello, while the painted architecture is the work of Andrea Sighizzi (active 1630-1684) from Bologna.

For Baroque fresco decorations it was necessary to create 'quadratura' - perspective produced with the aid of a grid of squares - based on architectural principles. Most painters of quadratura, whether for stage sets or in the context of decorative painting, were either architects or specialists in the proper rendering of foreshortened architecture. They were accordingly ill-equipped for the depiction of figures, the very reason for the existence of ceiling pictures. Consequently, they were required to collaborate with figure painters (pittori figuristi), and there were any number of such collaborations in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries: Tassi and Domenichino, Tassi and Guercino, Colonna and Albani, Haffner and Canuti, and Mengozzi Colonna and Tiepolo, to name only a few. Teams like these frequently worked together for years.

One advantage of the division of labour between the 'quadraturista' and the 'figurista' was that there was no urgent need for the two painters to work at the same time. The painting of the Salone Principale in the Palazzo Balbi Senarega, Genoa appears to be a case in point. Here the quadratura painter Andrea Sighizzi produced an imaginary portico with a centre opening which is overlapped by several of the figures of the tumultuous allegory painted by Valerio Castello showing the four ages of man subjected to the passage of time. This would indicate that the two parts of the commission were for the most part executed independently of each other.