CASTIGLIONE, Giovanni Benedetto
(b. 1609, Genova, d. 1664, Mantova)
In Front of Noah's Arkc. 1650
Oil on canvas, 145 x 195 cm
When studying in Genoa under Giovanni Battista Paggi (documented in 162627), Castiglione was in contact with the colony of northern artists in the city, above all with the Flemings Lucas and Cornelis de Wael, as well as with Anthony van Dyck. From these painters Castiglione developed a realistic style of great immediacy, concentrating above all on animals and still-lifes set mostly in landscapes with religious staffage. This expertise is clearly seen in the painting depicting Noah's story.
Before the Flood, Noah was charged by God to build an ark and to save a male and a female of every species (Genesis VII, 19). Castiglione skilfully depicts only part of the event and part of the wooden ship, so that the immensity of its size and the enormity of the number of animals is left to the viewer's imagination. Noah arranges the entry of the animals, which have assembled in two lines parallel to the picture plane. Curiously they consist only of European indigenous animals, many of them domestic.