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Jacopo Palma il Vecchio

Painter and draughtsman

1479 / 1480 in Serina
1528 in Venice

2 Works by Jacopo Palma il Vecchio


The artist, said by Vasari to have been born around 1479/80, is first documented in Venice in March 1510, at which time he was already identified as a 'depentor' (painter). He appears more or less continuously in the city's archives until his death in 1528; it is only between 1514 and 1520 that there is a sizeable chronological gap. He apparently never lost contact with his home town of Serina, near Bergamo, where he had relatives and also acquired property; he delivered several altarpieces to the region around Bergamo, including a polyptych in 1520 with the resurrected Christ that is still at its original site, the church of SS. Annunziata in Serina. On 28 July 1528 the apparently unmarried Palma made his will in Venice, and two days later his death was listed in the register of the Scuola Grande di San Marco, to which he had belonged as well as to the Scuole of San Pierro Martire and Santo Spirito. The young artist had presumably apprenticed under Andrea Previtali, also from Bergamo, for his earliest surviving signed work, the 'Virgin Mary Reading' in Berlin's Gemäldegalerie from roughly 1508-10, reveals Previtali's dominant influence. In early 1514, Palma il Vecchio was paid for an 'Assumption of the Virgin' for Venice's Scuola di S. Maria Maggiore, now in the Accademia, which, like early works also attributed to him, still shows the influence of Venetian art of the late fifteenth century. From the early 1520s onwards, Palma was repeatedly able to secure patrons among Venice's 'cittadini' for monumental altarpieces, in which he definitely fulfilled the stylistic expectations of the time with his highly animated figures; Titian can be thought of as a persistent model. Between 1523 and 1526, Palma received payments for the altar painting in the Valier family chapel with Saints Vincent, Dominic and Helen, still in Venice's Madonna dell'Orto church to this day. In 1525/26 he produced an 'Adoration of the Kings' for the high altar in Sant'Elena in Isola, now in the Brera in Milan. Palma often varied such full-figure altarpieces as half-figure depictions of the Sacra Conversazione, apparently meant to be sold on the open market. Among Venice's art-loving patricians, another speciality of Palma's art found particular interest - half-figure, idealised depictions of young women with more or less pronounced erotic undertones. Thanks to notes written during his lifetime about the painter's works in Venetian collections by Marcantonio Michiel, we are at least informed about the subject matter of the pictures identified as works of Palma's, including depictions of Christ with the Adulteress, a nymph, and an Adam and Eve owned by Francesco Zio, and a painting of three women in the collection of Taddeo Contarini and a lute player in that of Girolamo Marcello. None of these pictures can be identified with any surviving work with absolute certainty, yet Michiel's notes indicate that even during his lifetime such works of Palma's were highly regarded.

Persons connected to Jacopo Palma il Vecchio