Giuseppe Angeli was born in 1712 in Venice and entered the shop of Giovanni Battista Piazzetta at an undetermined date, probably before he was twenty years old. By 1741 he was officially registered as an independent painter, but instead of establishing his own studio he became the director of Piazzetta's workshop. Among the painters employed by Piazzetta, Angeli was the most adept at imitating the master's style. Angeli soon succeeded, however, in cultivating his own circle of influential patrons in Venice and its mainland territories. He is not known to have left the city for study or work.
Early in his career, Angeli produced works of all the types turned out by Piazzetta's shop, including genre paintings, half-length devotional images, decorative cycles, and the large religious paintings that would be the major focus of his own career. His style derived primarily from his teacher's late manner, although he was receptive to other contemporary developments, particularly the refined elegance and lighter palettes of Giovanni Battista Tiepolo and Jacopo Amigoni (1682-1752). His earliest works, of the 1730s and 1740s, are the most indebted to his master. Angeli's evolving style of the 1750s and 1760s was influenced by the incipient neo-classical style and by new Enlightenment ideals among the Venetian ecclesiastics who were his chief patrons, and his altarpieces of this period tend to increased simplicity and clarity of outline. His last church commissions of the 1770s, however, return to his first style.
In addition to large altarpieces, Angeli also executed decorative commissions in palaces and villas; in these he was less innovative, simply reworking earlier treatments of historical and mythological scenes. He was repeatedly employed by the Scuola di San Rocco, where he executed a number of ceiling paintings, restored works by Jacopo Tintoretto (1518-1594), and even repainted unrestorable compositions by Tintoretto and Pordenone (1483/1484-1539). In the 1770s he returned to small devotional images and turned as well to painting portraits of his influential patrons, following the conventions of official portraiture as practiced by Alessandro Longhi (1733-1813).
Elected drawing master in 1756, Angeli was long a leading member of the Venetian Academy until the later 1770s. He received a medal of honor from the Venetian government in 1774 for his accomplishments in religious painting. Thereafter, however, his art was less and less in demand due to the religious and social upheavals that preceded the fall of the Venetian Republic in 1797. He died in Venice in 1798. [This is an edited version of the artist's biography published in the NGA Systematic Catalogue]
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De Grazia, Diane, and Eric Garberson, with Edgar Peters Bowron, Peter M. Lukehart, and Mitchell Merling. Italian Paintings of the Seventeenth and Eighteenth Centuries. The Collections of the National Gallery of Art Systematic Catalogue. Washington, D.C., 1996: 3.