Denis Calvaert  

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Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel
Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel

Denis (or Denys) Calvaert (1540 – 16 April 1619) was a Flemish painter born at Antwerp, but lived most of his life in Italy, where he was known as Il Fiammingo (the Fleming). Calvaert was a profound student of architecture, anatomy, and history, exceedingly accurate in perspective and graceful in design. His colouring is full and rich, his execution suave and accurate and, although there is something of an awkward stillness in the movements of his figures and an academic mannerism in his grouping, yet in composition he was far ahead of his rivals and in colouring undoubtedly their superior. His principal works are to be seen at Bologna, Florence, St. Petersburg, Parma, and Caen, and many of his pictures have been engraved. His life was one of great devotion to his art and his faith, and he was greatly respected in Bologna.

After studying landscape-painting for some time in his native city (the Antwerp "Record of Artists" or "Liggeren" (1556–57), gives his name as Caluwaert), he first studied under Christiaen van Queecborn.

He then went to Bologna, where worked under Prospero Fontana. His paintings acquired the mannerism of Flemish art and appeared to be the work of an Italian. From Bologna he went to Rome in 1572, where he assisted Lorenzo Sabbatini in his works for the papal palace of the Vatican.

He returned to Bologna and founded a studio. He had a number of prominent young apprentices, including Guido Reni, Giovanni Battista Bertusio, Francesco Albani and Domenichino. But these were soon lured by Annibale Carracci to work in prominent commissions in Rome. Vicenzio Gotti and Giacomo Semenza also worked in his studio, but then went to work with Guido Reni. Vincenzo Spisanelli and Gabriello Ferrantini also worked in his studio.

Calvaert was respected by his colleagues, Ludovico Carracci, the leader of the rival studio, attended his funeral in the Servite church and brought with him all his pupils. His works are especially admired for the power of grouping and coloring which they display.

His masterpiece is "St Michael" in St. Peter's, Bologna and most of his works are in the national museum of Bologna.

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