MAGNASCO, Alessandro
(b. 1667, Genova, d. 1749, Genova)

The Observant Friars in the Refectory

c. 1740
Oil on canvas, 176 x 143 cm
Museo Biblioteca Archivio, Bassano del Grappa

The Genoese Alessandro Magnasco was taught by his father Stefano and a little known Milanese painter, Filippo Abbiati, and began by painting in a conventional seventeenth-century style. During his stay in Florence at the beginning of the eighteenth century, however, he became acquainted with the work of Salvator Rosa and the etchings of Callot, and under their influence developed a content and style of his own. His themes were bizarre, different from anything to be seen in Genoa, Milan, or indeed anywhere in Italy; nor did his manner of painting resemble that of any other artist in Italy. He depicted imaginary scenes, capriccios in many of which monks are seen in strange settings or tiny figures in stormy landscapes. In his paintings, which are usually small, the figures are oddly elongated, the strokes of the brush vibrating and restless; indeed, everything seems to be in flickering movement.

The number of people depicted in this painting and the richness of the decorations lead us to think that this may have been the General Chapter of the Franciscan Order.