As far as Schiavone’s fame and the interest he aroused in Venice is concerned, it was Vasari who wrote that “Most of his works were paintings, that were in the homes of gentlemen” in a description of the artist in the second edition of Lives, thus underlining how Schiavone’s works were appreciated – examples of which also included small formats of friezes and chests in Venetian palazzi. In the seventeenth and eighteenth century Meldola’s works were being collected beyond the Venetian borders.
In 1654 Leopoldo de’ Medici purchased a ‘large’ painting by Schiavone, identifi ed as the Cain and Abel from the Galleria Palatina, on display at the Correr Museum, and which was admired for its “formidable colouring that arouses amazement”; Leopold Wilhelm of Habsburg’s collections also had numerous works of his, today in the Kunsthistorisches Museum in Vienna, six of which are on display in this exhibition. The main collectors of Schiavone’s work in those years included two merchants: Bartolomeo Dalla Nave, friends with many artists and in charge of a fl ourishing dye shop – who also appears to have purchased Schiavone’s works from the sculptor Alessandro Vittoria, a colleague, friend and collector of his works; another collector was Jan Rynes, a wealthy Dutchman who settled in Venice in 1652.
The list goes on. Together with Tintoretto, Schiavone appears to be the most frequent sixteenth-century Veneto artist in Francesco Algarotti’s personal collection. The latter, as advisor to August III of Poland had been summoned to fi nish the Dresden Museum and acquired an impressive Young Boy Between the Graces, which has only recently been recognised as the Infancy of Jupiter in the Earl of Wemyss’s collections.
Exhibited for the first time in Scotland in 2004, the presence of this painting in this exhibition is of particular value, together with the two small canvases from the London National Gallery, Arcade and Jupiter seducing Callisto; also from Algarotti’s private collection, they are displayed together with the central part of the chest portraying Diana and Callisto that they probably belonged to, on loan from Musée de Picardie, Amiens.
The myth of the Venetian Renaissance has therefore found another great protagonist, one who brought to Venice a new, audacious kind of painting, made of colour, light and movement; a painting consisting of ‘informal’ strokes that was to surprise Titian, anticipate Rembrandt and perceive some of the discoveries of the greatest painting of the twentieth century.