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Antonio de Saliba


1466 / 1467 in Messina
after 1535

One Work by Antonio de Saliba


Like his brother Pietro (active between 1497 and 1530), Antonello da Saliba belonged to an artist family from Messina. The most important member of the family was their uncle Antonello da Messina, who died in 1479; it is possible that Antonello da Saliba was married to his daughter. A relatively rich documentary record informs us about the life and numerous - mostly lost - works of the artist, who in 1480, at the age of fourteen, entered the workshop of his cousin Jacobello d'Antonio, Antonello da Messina's son. Nothing is known about the length of his apprenticeship, but immediately afterwards Da Saliba must have stayed in Venice for an extended period. In this time, presumably around 1490, he was likely in close contact with Giovanni Bellini, whose pictorial inventions he repeatedly borrowed. One of these works, a Madonna that was destroyed in Berlin in 1945, showed the influence of his uncle Antonello da Messina along with that of Giovanni Bellini. The signature "Antonello Messanesis p[inxit]" used there - and on a number of other works indebted in style or composition to Antonello da Messina - has occasionally led to the erroneous attribution of these pictures to the older painter. To this day it is disputed whether the signature is meant to indicate the execution by Antonello da Saliba or the pictorial invention by Antonello da Messina for some of these paintings. Similarly unclear even now is the relationship between the works of Antonello da Saliba produced during this time in Venice and those of his brother Pietro. For example, the attribution of the numerous versions of 'The Martyrdom of St Sebastian', the original of which goes back to Antonello da Messina, between the two brothers is debated. In 1494 Antonello da Saliba appears to have returned to Sicily; a large altarpiece in Spoleto (now in the Pinacoteca Comunale), said to have formerly been inscribed with that date, was probably painted there on his return journey. We only reach secure ground again with the artist's masterpiece, the signed 'Madonna Enthroned', dated 1497, in the Museo Civico di Castello Ursino in Catania. The activities of Antonello and his local workshop can be traced with verified works up to 1531. Presumably owing to both the wishes of more conservative patrons and the loss of immediate contact with artistic developments in Venice, the works produced in Sicily reveal an increasingly simplified imagery along with the continuing exploitation of impressions received in Venice. Characteristically, even the signature on the last signed work by Antonello da Saliba, a partially preserved polyptych in the Duomo Nuovo in Milazzo, was no longer written in Latin, but rather in the local Sicilian dialect.