Originally from the Austrian province of Carinthia, the Widmann family had been active as merchants in Venice since the sixteenth century. Lodovico Widmann was born in 1611, and was with his father, Giovanni, and his brother, Paolo, ennobled in Austria, and in 1646 admitted to the Venetian nobility upon payment of 100,000 ducats for the Republic's war against the Turks in Crete. They were the wealthiest among the new nobility and were richer even than many older Venetian noble families.
In keeping with their increasingly elevated social station, the family sought to distinguish themselves in their art and architectural patronage. Giovanni limited his patronage mainly to architecture and commemorative sculpture. Lodovico, the son responsible for the administration of the family's lands and fortune, continued his father's projects and emphasis on public manifestations of the family's wealth and status. During the reconfiguration of the family's palace at San Canciano in the 1630s he oversaw the construction of the main ceremonial rooms and probably also the commissioning and collecting of important works for their decoration. That Lodovico was a major collector during these years is inferred from references by later writers to the extraordinary nature of the collection, and a 1659 inventory shows that it included not only Venetian "old masters", but also diverse foreign and Italian "modern" artists whose presence was unusual in Venetian collections of this time. Many of the artists included were active in Rome, and the composition of the collection reflects in fact Roman rather than Venetian taste. The artists of which the collection is primarily composed were active in the 1620s and 1630s, and it is probable that it was formed at that time. The portrait of Lodovico painted by Tiberio Tinelli and in the NGA's collection (NGA 1946.6.1) was probably painted in 1637.
In 1657 Lodovico began the family's grandiose country house in Bagnoli, and in 1661 rented for his own residence one of the most impressive Venetian villas of the sixteenth century, Ca' Trevisan on the island of Murano. The villa was decorated by Paolo Veronese, and most probably designed by Daniele Barbaro. Like Venetian aristocrats of his own generation, however, Lodovico supplemented the commissioning of palaces and tombs with self-conscious activity as an amateur of painting. During the 1660s he was the major promoter of a group of artists who formed an emergent vanguard of Venetian taste. An inscription of 1667 dedicating a print to him emphasizes his wise patronage and sound judgment of painting. Lodovico Widmann died in 1674. [Compiled from sources and references recorded on CMS]
Rösch-Widmann, Eva. I Widmann: le vicende di una famiglia veneziana dal Cinquecento al Ottocento. Venice, 1980: 10, 25.
Magani, Fabrizio. "Alcuni ragguagli e novità sul collezionismo dei Widmann tra Seicento e Ottocento attraverso un inventario redatto di Pietro Edwards." Atti dell'Istituto Veneto di Scienze, Lettere ed Arti... 148 (1989-1990): 5-16.
Magani, Fabrizio. Il collezionismo e la commitenza artistica della famiglia Widmann, patrizi veneziani, dal Seicento all'Ottocento. Venice, 1989: 13-18, 23-28, 33-38.
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: 318-321.