Sphinx Fine Art
Antonio Tempesta was an Italian painter, draughtsman and printmaker. Enrolled at the Accademia del Disegno in Florence on 8 December 1576, he was a pupil of Santi di Tito, then of Joannes Stradanus, with whom he worked under Giorgio Vasari on the interior decoration of the Palazzo Vecchio in Florence. He then went to Rome, where he again had links with artists from the Netherlands. He and Matthijs Bril were commissioned by Pope Gregory XIII to paint the Transfer of the Relics of St Gregory of Nazianzus (1572) and other religious scenes in the loggias on the third floor of the Vatican Palace. In Tempesta’s frescoes in the Palazzina Gambara at the Villa Lante in Bagnaia (1578–9), the hunting and fishing scenes, sweeping landscapes and urban backdrops again reveal the influence of Netherlandish art. From 1579 to 1583 Tempesta participated in the decoration of the Palazzo Farnese in Caprarola, notably of the Scala Regia. He is also known to have collaborated on the frescoes in the Villa d’Este at Tivoli.
At S Stefano Rotondo in Rome in 1583–5 Tempesta, again working for Pope Gregory XIII, executed a series of frescoes on the entrance wall and interior of the chapel of SS Primus and Felicianus. Subjects include the Massacre of the Innocents, and the Seven Sorrows of the Virgin, in which the Virgin is surrounded by seven swords, each with a tondo at the tip. This motif, rare in Italy, was derived from the south Netherlandish artist Bernard van Orley. In the frescoes in the interior of the chapel, which depict the martyrdom of the two saints, the architectural settings are impressive, and Tempesta’s interest in depicting nature, particularly animals, is evident. Other works by Tempesta, including hunting and battle scenes, are in the Palazzo Giustiniani and the casino of the Palazzo Rospigliosi, both in Rome. He also produced panel paintings, including two versions of the Crossing of the Red Sea (Budapest, Museum Fine Arts; Rome, Galeria Doria–Pamphili), Pearl-diving in India (Paris, Louvre), Tournament on the Piazza del Castello in Turin (1620; Turin, Galeria Sabauda) and a Resurrection (1620–25; Florence, S Felicità).
Between 1589 and 1627 Tempesta made over 1000 prints, which were widely circulated in Europe during his lifetime. Apart from single sheets, these were mainly series of engravings and book illustrations of which the following are particularly outstanding: 220 engravings for the Old Testament (London, British Museum; b. 14–233); 12 engravings illustrating the deeds of Alexander the Great (1608; New York, Metropolitan Museum; b. 545–56); 36 etchings of the War of the Batavians against the Romans (1612; New York, Metropolitan Museum; b. 560–95); 150 illustrations for Ovid’s Metamorphoses (1606; London, British Museum; b. 638–787); and three series c. 1620 and 1627 illustrating Torquato Tasso’s Gerusalemme liberate (b. 1188–247).
Tempesta’s prints were often used as models by other artists. Scenes in Francesco Allegrini’s ceiling paintings in the Palazzo dei Conservatori in Rome (ex-Pal. Mattei) were based on Tempesta’s illustrations for Tasso. Guercino and his assistants used his prints for their frescoes (1615–17) in the Casa Pannini in Cento. Tempesta’s engraving of the French king Henry IV on horseback (1593; b. 636) served as a model for portraits of Henry by numerous artists, including Jacques Callot, Peter Paul Rubens and Diego Velázquez. Tempesta became a member of the Accademia dei Virtuosi al Pantheon in Rome in 1611 and of the Accademia di S Luca in Rome by 1623, though probably earlier.
Tempesta is represented in the following collections: State Museums of Florence; Courtauld Institute of Art, London; British Museum, London; Metropolitan Museum, New York; Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco; Indianapolis Museum of Art; Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; Art Gallery of Greater Victoria, British Columbia; Cleveland Museum of Art, Ohio; Harvard University Art Museums, Massachusetts, amongst others.