Skip to main content

Antonello da Messina

active 1456; died 1479
Antonello da Messina
Image: Antonello da Messina

Antonello was the main early Renaissance painter of southern Italy. He was important in bringing oil painting to Italy according to Vasari; modern scholarship disputes this.

He was probably trained in Naples, which had strong links with the Netherlands. Works in oil by Van Eyck and van der Weyden are recorded there from an early date. Antonello visited Venice from 1475 to 1476. While there he painted an altarpiece for the church of San Cassiano, which set the pattern of the great altarpieces of Giovanni Bellini.

From Netherlandish painting Antonello derived an interest in landscapes, and this was also important for the Venetian tradition. In his figures and his landscapes, his work to some extent prefigures that of Giorgione. Antonello was chiefly famous for his portraits, but like his Netherlandish precursors, was equally gifted as a painter of religious subjects in small, cabinet pictures like 'Saint Jerome in his Study'.

The use of oils enabled him to make small-scale works with miniaturist detail and subtle variations of tone and colour.