Giovanni Benedetto Castiglione was known as Grechetto, probably because he was born in a parish in Genoa with a sizeable Byzantine-Greek community. After his apprenticeship in the leading studios in Genoa, his career took him to the most important centres of Italian Baroque. After a trip to Rome in his youth, he went to Naples, Venice and lastly to Mantua, where he worked at the court of the Gonzaga dukes. His style thus contains the influence of the latest in 17th-century culture: in Genoa he saw the works of Rubens and van Dyck, who were in the city in around 1620, while in Rome he took from Bernini, Pietro da Cortona and the two French artists Poussin and Lorrain. He combined their influence with a study of Rembrandt’s engravings.
Noah’s Sacrifice is one of a series of similar works by Castiglione. His output includes numerous paintings of biblical subjects interpreted in a lively descriptive style: especially in the so-called “travels of the patriarchs”, the artist took his cue from sacred subjects, creating rich compositions with animals, figures, still lives and landscape scenes. The caravan motif makes these paintings fully fledged genre scenes of the Flemish type which was fashionable at that time in Genoa and in other Italian cities in the early decades of the 17th century. Thus it is that, in the canvas with Noah, the foreground is entirely taken up by a precise description of the animals and the furnishings being taken from the Ark. In the background, we see the important biblical scene of the sacrifice performed by Noah at the end of the great Flood: once he had left the Ark, he offered up animals to God to consecrate the new alliance.