Prospero Fontana - Encyclopedia




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PROSPERO FONTANA (1512-1597), Italian painter, was. born in Bologna, and became a pupil of Innocenzo da Imola. He afterwards worked for Vasari and Perino del Vaga. It was probably from Vasari that Fontana acquired a practice of offhand, self-displaying work. He undertook a multitude of commissions, and was so rapid, that he painted, it is said, in a few weeks an entire hall in the Vitelli palace at Citta di Castello. Along with daring, he had fertility of combination, and in works of parade he attained a certain measure of success, although his drawing was incorrect and his mannerism palpable. He belongs to the degenerate period of the Bolognese school, under the. influence chiefly of the imitators of Raphael - Sabbatini, Sammachini and Passerotti being three of his principal colleagues. His soundest successes were in portraiture, in which branch of art he stood so high that towards 1550 Michelangelo introduced him to Pope Julius III. as a portrait-painter; and he was pensioned by this pope, and remained at the pontifical court with the three successors of Julius. Here he lived on a grand scale, and figured as a sort of arbiter and oracle among his, professional brethren. Returning to Bologna, after doing some work in Fontainebleau and in Genoa, he opened a school of art, in which he became the preceptor of Lodovico and Agostino Caracci; but these pupils, standing forth as reformers and innovators, finally extinguished the academy and the vogue of Fontana. His subjects were in the way of sacred and profane history and of fable. He has left a large quantity of work in Bologna, - the picture of the "Adoration of the Magi," in the church of S. Maria delle Grazie, being considered his masterpiece - not unlike the style of Paul Veronese. He died in Rome in 1597.

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