Giacomo Francesco Cipper was born in 1664 in Feldkirch in Austria, very close to the Swiss border, which was then part of the Holy Roman Empire. It is not known where Cipper received his artistic training, or with whom, but by 1696 he is recorded as living in Milan. There he married and had 10 children, suggesting that he enjoyed considerable success as a painter. Cipper specialised in painting low-life subjects – beggars, street-sellers, vagabonds – a genre in which Giacomo Ceruti (1697–1767) also later excelled. Cipper’s earliest dated painting is a still life of 1700 (private collection) and a large number of his larger works also incorporate still-life elements in his compositions. Cipper died in 1736.
The artist’s nickname ‘il Todeschini’ is presumably a variation of ‘il Todesco’ (or ‘il Tedesco’, meaning ‘the German’), as Cipper sometimes signed his pictures, referring to his Northern European roots.