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Michele Giambono

Venetian, active 1420/1462

Taddeo di Giovanni Bono, Michele di; Tambono, Michele di Taddeo di Giovanni

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Michele di Taddeo di Giovanni Bono (Zambono in Venetian dialect) probably belonged to a family of painters from Treviso and was probably born in the 1390s. By 1420 he was active as a painter and was already resident in Venice. In 1430 he was entrusted, along with two other painters, with the appraisal of a now lost panel of Saint Michael, painted by Jacopo Bellini for the church of San Michele in Padua. On 28 December 1440 he received the commission, together with the sculptor Paolo di Amadeo, for a large sculpted and painted polyptych for the church of San Michele in San Daniele del Friuli, also now lost. In 1447 he was commissioned to paint an altarpiece for the church of Sant'Agnese in Venice, with the stipulation that it had to be similar to the Coronation of the Virgin by Antonio Vivarini and Giovanni d'Alemagna in the church of San Pantalon; this is probably the Coronation now in the Gallerie dell'Accademia in Venice with the apocryphal signatures of Vivarini and his partner. In 1453 Giambono was called to Padua with three other masters to appraise the equestrian statue of Gattamelata by Donatello. He is recorded in documents for the last time in September 1462.

Of the many works by Giambono that have come down us--besides the Coronation of 1447, which is not unanimously recognized as his and is difficult to judge because of extensive retouching--only the frescoes of the Serego cenotaph in Sant'Anastasia in Verona bear a date (1432). Reconstructing the chronology of his production is thus an arduous task. His activity seems to have begun during the second decade of the quattrocento, in the circle of such Venetian painters as Nicolò di Pietro, Jacobello del Fiore, and Zanino di Pietro. Influenced at first by Gentile da Fabriano and then by Pisanello, he developed a florid and idiosyncratic pictorial language, sometimes indulging in precious and complex linear abstractions. Still, he was capable of expressions of strong feeling and acute observations of human behavior. Works from his earliest phase include several versions of the Virgin and Child (Museo Civico, Bassano del Grappa, and Museo di Castelvecchio, Verona), the Dormitio Virginis also in the Verona museum, a polyptych in the museum in Fano, and a Virgin and Child Enthroned in the J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles.

A direct acquaintance with Pisanello's fresco for the Brenzoni monument of 1426, in San Fermo in Verona, underlies the splendid fresco decoration Giambono realized for the Serego cenotaph in Sant'Anastasia in Verona, which reveals the painter's ability to create a convincing illusion of space in complex late Gothic architectural settings, but also shows how deeply rooted his vision was in Venetian figurative traditions. During the 1430s he painted devotional works including the signed Madonna in the Galleria Nazionale in Rome and altarpieces, of which a Virgin and Child Enthroned in the Ca' d'Oro in Venice and two full-length figures of saints in the Museo Civico in Padua survive. Probably dating to the 1440s are the Mystical Marriage of Saint Catherine in Nîmes and the Virgin Enthroned in Budapest. The mosaic decoration of the Mascoli chapel in San Marco in Venice, begun and partially executed by Giambono toward mid-century, confirms his success in Venice but also probably marks the time when his style began to appear obsolete; in fact, other, more progressive masters were entrusted with the completion of the mosaics. In this grandiose undertaking (whose critical evaluation is still controversial), Giambono executed the scenes of the Annunciation and the Presentation of Mary in the Temple (which he signed), while the other stories in the cycle were done or reworked by Jacopo Bellini's workshop, which was by that date better attuned to the patron's tastes. [This is the artist's biography published in the NGA Systematic Catalogue]

Artist Bibliography

Fiocco, G. "Michele Giambono." Venezia I (1920): 206-236.
Mariacher, G. "Bono, Michele." In Dictionario biografico degli italiani 12 (1970):285-287.
Land, Norman E. Michele Giambono: A Catalogue Raisonné. Ph.D. diss., University of Virginia, 1974.
Merkel, Ettore. "Michele Giambono." In La Pittura nel Veneto. Il Quattrocento. Edited by Mauro Lucco. 2 vols. Milan, 1989-1990: 1(1989):346.
Pesaro, C. "Michele Giambono." Saggi e Memorie di Storia dell'Arte 18 (1992): 15-69.
Franco, Tiziana. Michele Giambono e il monumento a Cortesia da Serego in Santa Anastasia a Verona. Padua, 1998.
Boskovits, Miklós, and David Alan Brown, et al. Italian Paintings of the Fifteenth Century. The Systematic Catalogue of the National Gallery of Art. Washington, D.C., 2003: 308.

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