Cerano (Giovanni Battista Crespi)

Dates1575 - 1632

The son of a minor Milanese fresco painter, Cerano became one of Milan's leading painters and designers of church facades, sculpture, and engravings. In the mid-1590s he went to Rome, where he adopted certain pink and yellow tones, most likely after having seen Federico Barocci's paintings. He established himself in Milan by the late 1590s, where his many patrons included the Borromeo family.

Cerano's paintings representing Saint Charles Borromeo's life, completed in 1604, are still displayed in Milan Cathedral on the saint's feast day. Considered among his greatest achievements, these sumptuously colored and sensitively patterned scenes display a highly emotional, somewhat mystical tone. Influenced by a local tradition of religious intensity and popular devotion, Cerano humanized religious experience in his art. For Saint Charles Borromeo's canonization ceremony at Saint Peter's basilica in Rome in 1610, Cerano produced banners, embroidery designs for vestments and altar frontals, and six paintings depicting the saint's miracles. These Roman works presented simpler, more balanced and symmetrical compositions and larger, less contorted figures, possibly reflecting contact with Giulio Cesare Procaccini's art.

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