Northern Italy

The regions of the Veneto, Lombardy and Piedmont produced remarkable artists who often moved to the cities of Venice, Milan and Turin for their training. As their skill and fame grew, some travelled to specific churches or palaces to paint altarpieces, frescoes or portraits. Cities with cultivated rulers were magnets for painters—the Sforza family, Dukes of Milan, built palaces and chapels, and famously invited Leonardo da Vinci to create the fresco of The Last Supper. Leonardo’s disciples adopted his technique of building volume through sfumato, the smoky shadows that both define and blur the forms.

Bergamo itself became a centre for artists. Lorenzo Lotto remained there for thirteen years, his longest time in one place, fulfilling many important commissions. Lotto’s altarpieces, as well as those by followers such as Andrea Previtali, are still found in Bergamo’s churches. The following generation of painters was dominated by the great Giovan Battista Moroni. His quiet yet eloquent style of portraiture fulfilled the requirements of the Counter Reformation for a more austere art in response to the Protestant criticisms of excess in the Catholic Church.