Pietro Antonio Novelli

  • 1729 - 1804
  • Artist
  • Italian

Pietro Antonio Novelli considered himself a history painter--an artist creating ambitious, large-scale works for the nobility and the Church. But today, he is best known for his fanciful, often humorous, works on paper. Novelli produced designs for poetry, theater, and literature, moving effortlessly between pen and ink, watercolor, and on occasion, red chalk. His prodigious output as a draftsman reflected both a personal interest in literary culture (Novelli was affiliated with the Venetian Literary Academy) and the burgeoning publishing industry in eighteenth-century Venice. He also produced a remarkable number of preparatory drawings for paintings and altarpieces.

Novelli trained with the Venetian painter Giovanni Battista Pittoni but was equally influenced by Francesco Guardi and Giovanni Battista Tiepolo. In 1768, he was accepted as a member of the Accademia in Venice for which he painted an Allegory of the Arts. During the following decade, Novelli produced altarpieces and frescoes throughout northern Italy and his patrons included Catherine the Great, empress of Russia. He settled in Rome around 1779 where he remained until the end of the century. Much of what is known about Novelli's life and career comes from his memoirs, which were published posthumously in 1834.