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Gioacchino Assereto

Gioacchino Assereto (1600 – Jun 28, 1649) was an Italian painter of the early Baroque period, active in Genoa.

He initially apprenticed with Luciano Borzone and later Giovanni Andrea Ansaldo. He painted two vault frescoes in the church of Santissima Annunziata del Vastato: David and Abimelech and Santi Giovanni and Pietro healing the lame. He also shows the influence of Bernardo Strozzi, a tenebrism moderated by venetian coloristic effects and garbing the subjects in modern peasant garb, in paintings such as Moses obtaining water from the Rock. Orazio de’ Ferrari may have worked with Assereto in Ansaldo’s studio.

Paintings by Gioacchino Assereto can also be seen at the Detroit Institute of Art and the Museum of Fine Arts in Budapest,Hungary.

Most of Assereto’s works depict religious and history subjects, although he also produced some portraits. Throughout the decade in which he was a student, Assereto produced many works in a Baroque idiom, which were close in style and genre. He incorporated drama and emotion in his paintings with the aid of the chiaroscuro and sfumato techniques. He continued to improve his technique and style during his twenties and thirties. During his visit to Rome in 1639 he discovered a flourishing interest in realism and Caravaggism. His interest in realism and encouraged him to continue with his detailed description of heads and hands. It may also have revealed to him the possibilities of compositions that depend on chiaroscuro rather than on colour.

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In 1640 Assereto painted The Lamentation (Cummer Museum of Art and Gardens), a powerful picture which uses a black background and intense shadows to give dramatic effect to Christ’s dead body that almost seems to shimmer in the darkness. A work also showing this Caravaggist influence is the Death of Cato (Musei di Strada Nuova, Palazzo Bianco, Genoa), in which Assereto moved away from his refined style with vivid colours to a bolder, more powerful style where theatrical effects of flaming torches and candlelight emphasize violent emotions. The work also shows the influence of northern Caravaggesque painters such as Gerrit van Honthorst and Matthias Stom.

In the 1640s he devoted himself to an in-depth study of the works of Rubens and Anthony van Dyck. As a result his compositions became more lively and agitated. He also introduced a greater emotional involvement in his works through the use of lights and colours that reveal the knowledge of the Venetian school. His Ecce Homo (1640s, Auctioned at Sotheby’s on 10 December 2015, London, lot 174) shows in the broad and phlegmatic figure of Christ the influence of the Ecce Homo painted by Anthony van Dyck in Genoa circa 1625.

His late works often depict figures at three-quarter-length and are characterised by a sober realism, a delicate psychological tension between the figures and the grave beauty of the still-lifes. These works have been compared to works by Velázquez and Murillo. An example is Esau sells his birthright (c. 1645; Palazzo Bianco, Genoa).

Gioacchino Assereto was also active as a fresco painter. In the 1640s he painted frescoes for the Palazzo Granello and commissioned works for the Sant’Agostino church. Only fragments of these frescoes have been preserved.

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