Giovanni Francesco Romanelli

Giovanni Francesco Romanelli, known as Viterbese or Raffaellino (Viterbo, 1610 – 1662), was a major Italian painter of the Baroque period, celebrated for his use of bright, vivid colors and also for his clarity of detail. Many of his works are on display in the Louvre.

Romanelli was trained in Rome in the studio of Pietro da Cortona, the leading painter of his day.

Born in Viterbo to Laura de Angelis and Bartolomeo Romanelli, he went to Rome at age 14 to study to become an artist, and within a few years became part of the household of Cardinal Francesco Barberini. He was a pupil in the painting studio of Pietro da Cortona, the leading painter of his day, but the two eventually quarreled and so Romanelli left.

In 1639 he was elected director of the prestigious Academy of Saint Luke. With the death of Urban VIII and the accession of Innocent X, the Barberini family fell from favour and Romanelli’s patronage ebbed.

He was then summoned to work in Paris by Cardinal Mazarin, for whom he painted a fresco cycle based on Ovid’s Metamorphoses. He also painted the Salle des Saisons and the Queen’s Cabinet of the Louvre for Anne of Austria, mother of Louis XIV.

During a second visit to Paris from 1655 to 1657, he took part in the decoration of the apartments of Queen Anne of Austria at the Palais du Louvre (cycle of the History of the Romans and the Jews), as well as that of the Castle of Raincy. After the dismissal of Mazarin, he made a frieze to decorate the episcopal palace built by Cardinal Alexandre Bichi in Carpentras.

He was named Knight of the Order of St. Michael by King Louis XIV.

Among his paintings are Deposition from the Cross in Sant’Ambrogio della Massima, Presentation in the Temple, which was transferred to a mosaic altarpiece for the Basilica of St. Peter’s, and Venus Pouring a Balm on the Wound of Aeneas, on display in the Louvre. He also painted the The Israelites gathering up Manna (Louvre); The Finding of Moses (Indianapolis Museum of Art); and a “Sibilla” in the Museo di Capodimonte of Naples.

When the Barberini were removed from power on the death of Urban VIII Romanelli was called to Paris by Cardinal Mazarin from 1645 to 16471. He painted for him a cycle of Metamorphoses d’Ovide for his Parisian hotel.

In the last years of his life he returned to Viterbo where he performed his last works.

Giovanni Moneri and his own son Urbano Romanelli were his pupils. The latter entered the studio of Ciro Ferri in Rome, after the death of his father. He painted in Rome and in churches of Velletri and Viterbo.