Carlo Francesco Nuvolone

Carlo Francesco Nuvolone (Milan, 1609 – 1662) was an Italian painter of the Baroque period, active mainly in Lombardy. He was nicknamed Guido della Lombardia.

He was born in Milan to a Cremonese father and mannerist painter, Panfilo Nuvolone. After working with his father, he studied under Giovanni Battista Crespi in the Accademia Ambrosiana in Milan. In that studio he would have encountered Daniele Crespi and Giulio Cesare Procaccini. Of particular interest is his depiction of himself as a painter surrounded by his family of artists, including his daughters playing musical instruments. Among his pupils were Giuseppe Zanata, Federigo Panza, Filippo Abbiati, and Pietro Maggi.

Carlo Francesco Nuvolone was born in Milan. His father Panfilo Nuvolone was a painter of frescoes and altarpieces, in a style still linked to late Mannerism, and of still lifes. Carlo Francesco had a brother called Giuseppe who also became a painter.

After working with his father, Carlo Francesco studied at the Accademia Ambrosiana in Milan under Giovanni Battista Crespi (il Cerano).In that studio he would have encountered Daniele Crespi and Giulio Cesare Procaccini.

He later worked in Milan and its environs. During the 1650s, Nuvolone painted frescoes for the Cappella di San Michele in the Certosa di Pavia and contributed to the decorations of the sacro monte (hillside shrine) at Varese, an important local pilgrimage site. He later also painted frescos at the Sacro Monte di Orta. His brother occasionally assisted him with his fresco work.

His first signed work is the Miracle of Santa Marta, now preserved in the Archbishop’s Seminary of Lower Venegono. In 1631 he painted Madonna with the Child between St. Anne and Saint Joseph, appears to St. Vincent – oil on canvas 255×160 in 1631 – placed in the chapel of Sant’Anna, right transept, of the parish church of Saint Vincent and Anastasia to Varallo Pombia. In 1645 he painted the Purification of the Virgin, a painting preserved at the Civic Museum of Piacenza. He worked at the Certosa of Pavia, in particular at the chapel of St. Michael, and painted many canvases with sacred subjects and portraits. He worked at the Sacro Monte di Varese performing the frescoes of the III and V chapels, and at the Sacred Mount of Orta, painting the X and XVII Chapel.

Among his pupils were Giuseppe Zanata, Federigo Panza, Filippo Abbiati, and Pietro Maggi.

Carlo Francesco Nuvolone worked as an easel painter as well as a fresco artist. His subjects were mainly religious and he realised many altarpieces and devotional works. He also left a number of portraits.

His early works showed the influence of the latest developments in Lombard painting. He had in particular adopted from Giulio Cesare Procaccini the close attention to the handling of light and shadow as well as the careful study of facial expressions. Other early influences include Daniele Crespi and Francesco Cairo. His first signed and dated work, the Miracle of St Martha (1636, Venegono Inferiore, Seminario Arcivescovile) also shows the influence of Morazzone. The Death of Lucrezia, executed in several versions, reveals the soft, atmospheric quality of his art, often explained by Murillo’s work, although it is not clear where he would have seen Murillo’s works.

His altarpieces from the 1640s, such as the Assumption of the Virgin (Pinacoteca di Brera, Milan), demonstrate his interest in Anthony van Dyck. An outstanding example from this period is the The purification of the Virgin (1645, Museo Civico, Piacenza).

He also painted some chapels of the collegiate church of San Lorenzo in Chiavenna and some of his paintings are kept at the church of Santo Stefano in Appiano Gentile.

Nuvolone was also active as a portrait painter working in the Lombard style with its penchant for a strikingly detailed portrayal of the sitter’s features and garments and a lively depiction of the play of light and shadow. These portraits also show influences from portrait painting in Genoa, which in turn was influenced by the Flemish portrait painters such as van Dyck who had resided there.

His profane production, especially appreciated by the collectors, belong to the two beautiful canvases today kept at the Tadini Academy of Lovere representing Susanna with the elders and Joseph and Putifarre’s wife.

He painted, together with his brother, a portrait of the family Nuvolone showing him at his easel surrounded by his family, including his father and brother and a few young people playing musical instruments.

He died in Milan in 1662.