Jean-Luc Baroni Ltd

Battista Franco

(Italian, b. ca. 1510–1561)

an extensive landscape with figures fishing in a bay by battista franco

Battista Franco

An Extensive Landscape with Figures Fishing in a Bay

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Biography

Timeline

A painter, draughtsman and engraver, Battista Franco spent the first years of his independent career in Rome, but by 1536 had settled in Florence. He was back in Rome by 1542, when he painted a fresco of the Capture of Saint John the Baptist for the Oratorio di San Giovanni Decollato. In 1545 he was summoned by Duke Guidobaldo II da Montefeltro to Urbino, where he painted frescoes in the tribune and apse of the Duomo (destroyed in the collapse of the cathedral in the 18th century) and also executed numerous designs for the majolica factory at Casteldurante. The last ten years of his career were spent in his native Venice, where among his significant works are a Baptism of Christ for San Francesco della Vigna and the ceiling decoration of the Sala dell’Estate in the Fondaco dei Tedeschi and the Biblioteca Marciana. He also worked at the Doge’s Palace and the Libreria Vecchia. One of his last projects was the fresco decoration of the Grimani chapel in San Francesco della Vigna, left unfinished at his death and eventually completed by Federico Zuccaro.
Franco is better known, and has usually been more highly regarded, as a draughtsman rather than as a painter. Vasari, for one, found fault with Franco’s paintings, and noted somewhat critically that he drew obsessively, with an ‘obstinate adherence to a certain opinion that many others hold, who persuade themselves that draughtsmanship is enough for him who wishes to paint’. Nevertheless, more recent scholars such as A. E. Popham found much to praise in ‘Franco’s extraordinary skill as a draughtsman, with his rather scratchy but effective line, and his combination of Michelangelesque and Raphaelesque forms.’ Among the most prolific of Cinquecento draughtsmen, Franco was also an assiduous copyist, and among his drawings are numerous studies of antique subjects, usually taken from reliefs on Roman sarcophagi.