There is no doubt that the fact Schiavone, as the inventor of a new, synthetic style, with an almost ‘informal’ touch and stroke, did not receive the recognition he deserved until much later was because so little is known about his beginnings: in particular his training in his hometown Zara (in Croatia), Central Italy (Bologna? Florence? Rome?), and his fi nal destination, Venice. And yet his works achieved amazing heights; his paintings, drawings and prints adorned the homes of the most important Venetian patricians and ended up in important royal collections in Europe; his services were sought a er for the decorations of numerous churches and many ancient reproductions of his creations are testimony to the success of his inventions.
It was Vasari who conditioned his successive biographies, describing Schiavone as an exponent of “a certain practice that is common in Venice, with splashes or real sketches, without being properly finished”: today one would call him a forerunner of the informal. Although Vasari criticised the artist, before he came to Venice in ’42 he commissioned him with a portrayal of a Battle of Tunis for Ottaviano de’ Medici.
Considering his opinion of the city’s painters there is something exceptional about this, although it might be explained by the mediation of Aretino, their common friend, unless he wanted to prove either his superiority or that of the Florentine school. What is sure, as Enrico Maria Dal Pozzolo points out in the catalogue, is that the Saint Jerome that Vasari painted for Ottaviano the following year, now in Palazzo Pitti and on display here in Venice for this occasion, would appear “the exact opposite of the linguistic proposal that Schiavone was diff using” in those years.
Numerous fi gures inveighed against Vasari’s comments and came to Schiavone’s defence (Giulio Cesare Gigli even placed him at the head of the procession “De’ Veneziani” following the wagon of Triumphant Painting (1615): for example, great artists such as Annibale Carracci and El Greco, and critics with Marco Boschini at the head who wrote, in reply to Vasari: “O machie senza machia, anzi spendori/che luse più de qual se sia lumiera”!
It was the Dalmatian’s fury”, with a brush as quick as an arrow. A force of nature.
And while Ridolfi wrote in his Marvels of Art (1648) that he remembered that Jacopo Tintoretto kept on saying “that that Painter deserved to be rebuked. That he had no painting by Andrea in his house”, just a few years later Boschini wrote – according to his son Domenico – that Tintoretto even “had a painting by this Artist in front of him, as an example, so struck was he by that great Character of Colour, so powerful and marked”.
Today there is no doubt regarding the infl uence Schiavone had on Jacopo Robusti and evidence of their frequent meetings has now been accepted (this was not the case in the past as there was considerable confusion as regards the attribution of their works); today critics also agree that the Dalmatian artist’s painting was the key driver behind the diff usion Parmigianino’s work in the Veneto area.