He was born at Rovato, in Brescian territory, and studied first under
Fioravante Ferramola. Others state he trained with Vincenzo Foppa. His brothers
Pietro and Jacopo were also painters. The 1911 Britannica claims he apprenticed
with Titian in Venice and that Moretto modelled his earlier portrait-painting
style on the Venetian style. On the other hand, the style also resembles that of
Giorgione or late Bellini. The 1911 Britannica also states that he conceived a
great enthusiasm for Raphael, though he never traveled to Rome; on the other
hand, his classical serenity resembles that shown by Leonardo and his followers
in Lombardy such as, for example, Bramantino. He may have consulted with his
contemporary Girolamo Savoldo.
Moretto excelled more in sedate altarpieces than in narrative action, and more
in oil-painting than in fresco, although he painted fine frescoes depicting the
lollygagging daughters of Count Martinengo in one of the palaces near Brescia.
In 1521, he worked with Girolamo Romanino in the Cappella del Sacramento in the
old cathedral of Brescia, where Moretto completed a Last Supper, Elijah in the
Desert, and a Fall of Manna. He was active during 1522-24 in Padua.
He painted alongside with Lorenzo Lotto at Santa Maria Maggiore in Brescia. Also
in Brescia, he completed a Five Virgin Martyrs and his masterpiece, the
Assumption of the Madonna for the church of San Clemente; a Coronation of the
Madonna with four saints (c. 1525) for the church of Santi Nazaro e Celso; a St.
Joseph for Santa Maria della Grazie; and a St Nicholas of Ban for Santa Maria de
Miracoli. He collaborated with Floriano Ferramola in the decoration of the dome
of the cathedral in Brescia.
In the Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna is a St Justina (once ascribed to
Pordenone); in the Staedel Museum, Frankfort, the Madonna enthroned between Sts
Anthony and Sebastian; in the Berlin Museum, a colossal Adoration of the
Shepherds, and a large votive picture (one of the master's best) of the "Madonna
and Child," with infant angels and other figures above the clouds, and below,
amid a rich landscape, two priests; in the National Gallery, London, St
Bernardin and other saints and two impressive portraits.
Throughout his career his works display an internal oscillation between the
traditions of the Venetian and Central Italian schools. Simultaneously he looked
at the form and colour of Venetian artists such as Titian and Palma Vecchio
(1480-1528) whilst his classicising, sweet intensity earned him the name
'Raphael of Brescia'. Though there is some uncertainty regarding his studio, he
took on a number of pupils the most important of whom was the portraitist
Giovanni Battista Moroni (c.1520-1578). Il Moretto is stated to have been a man
of great personal piety, preparing himself by prayer and fasting for any great
act of sacred art, such as the painting of the Virgin-mother. His dated works
extend from 1524 to 1554, and he taught the portrait-painter Giambattista Moroni.
He also influenced Callisto Piazza.
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