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Roman Carnival by Jan Miel, 1653 Miel-carnaval-prado.jpg
Roman Carnival by Jan Miel, 1653

The Bamboccianti were genre painters active in Rome from about 1625 until the end of the seventeenth century. Most were Dutch and Flemish artists who brought existing traditions of depicting peasant subjects from sixteenth-century Netherlandish art with them to Italy, [1] and generally created small cabinet paintings or etchings of the everyday life of the lower classes in Rome and its countryside. [2]

Netherlands Constituent country of the Kingdom of the Netherlands in Europe

The Netherlands is a country located mainly in Northwestern Europe. The European portion of the Netherlands consists of twelve separate provinces that border Germany to the east, Belgium to the south, and the North Sea to the northwest, with maritime borders in the North Sea with Belgium, Germany and the United Kingdom. Together with three island territories in the Caribbean Sea—Bonaire, Sint Eustatius and Saba— it forms a constituent country of the Kingdom of the Netherlands. The official language is Dutch, but a secondary official language in the province of Friesland is West Frisian.

Dutch and Flemish Renaissance painting

Dutch and Flemish Renaissance painting represents the 16th-century response to Italian Renaissance art in the Low Countries. These artists, who span from the Antwerp Mannerists and Hieronymus Bosch at the start of the 16th century to the late Northern Mannerists such as Hendrik Goltzius and Joachim Wtewael at the end, drew on both the recent innovations of Italian painting and the local traditions of the Early Netherlandish artists. Antwerp was the most important artistic centre in the region. Many artists worked for European courts, including Bosch, whose fantastic painted images left a long legacy. Jan Mabuse, Maarten van Heemskerck and Frans Floris were all instrumental in adopting Italian models and incorporating them into their own artistic language. Pieter Brueghel the Elder, with Bosch the only artist from the period to remain widely familiar, may seem atypical, but in fact his many innovations drew on the fertile artistic scene in Antwerp.

Cabinet painting Small-scale painting, originally made for a curiosity cabinet

A cabinet painting is a small painting, typically no larger than about two feet in either dimension, but often much smaller. The term is especially used of paintings that show full-length figures at a small scale, as opposed to say a head painted nearly life-size, and that are painted very precisely, with a great degree of "finish". From the fifteenth century onwards wealthy collectors of art would keep such paintings in a cabinet, a relatively small and private room, to which only those with whom they were on especially intimate terms would be admitted.


Typical subjects include food and beverage sellers, farmers and milkmaids at work, soldiers at rest and play, and beggars, or, as Salvator Rosa lamented in the mid-seventeenth century, "rogues, cheats, pickpockets, bands of drunks and gluttons, scabby tobacconists, barbers, and other 'sordid' subjects." [3] Despite their lowly subject matter, the works found appreciation among elite collectors and fetched high prices. [4]

Salvator Rosa Italian painter and poet

Salvator Rosa was an Italian Baroque painter, poet, and printmaker, who was active in Naples, Rome, and Florence. As a painter, he is best known as "unorthodox and extravagant" as well as being a "perpetual rebel" and a proto-Romantic.


Hunter at Rest by Pieter van Laer Pieter van Laer - Hunter at Rest.jpg
Hunter at Rest by Pieter van Laer

Many of the artists associated with the Bamboccianti were members of the Bentvueghels (Dutch for 'birds of a feather'), an informal association of mainly Dutch and Flemish artists in Rome. It was customary for the Bentvueghels to adopt an appealing nickname, the so-called 'bent name'. The bent name of the Dutch painter Pieter van Laer was "Il Bamboccio", which means "ugly doll" or "puppet". This was an allusion to van Laer's ungainly proportions. [3] Van Laer is regarded as the initiator of the Bamboccianti style of genre painting and his nickname gave the genre and the group of artists its collective name. He became the inspiration and focal point around which likeminded artists congregated during his stay in Italy (16251639). [5]

Bentvueghels artist society in Rome, Italy

The Bentvueghels were a society of mostly Dutch and Flemish artists active in Rome from about 1620 to 1720. They are also known as the Schildersbent.

Dutch Republic Republican predecessor state of the Netherlands from 1581 to 1795

The Dutch Republic, or the United Provinces, was a confederal republic that existed from the formal creation of a confederacy in 1581 by several Dutch provinces—seceded from Spanish rule—until the Batavian Revolution in 1795. It was a predecessor state of the Netherlands and the first Dutch nation state.

Pieter van Laer painter and engraver from the Northern Netherlands

Pieter Bodding van Laer was a Dutch painter and printmaker. He was active in Rome for over a decade and was known for genre scenes, animal paintings and landscapes placed in the environs of Rome.

The initial Bamboccianti included Andries and Jan Both, Karel Dujardin, Jan Miel, Johannes Lingelbach and the Italian Michelangelo Cerquozzi. Sébastien Bourdon was also associated with this group during his early career. [6] Other Bamboccianti include Michiel Sweerts, Thomas Wijck, Dirck Helmbreker, Jan Asselyn, Anton Goubau, Willem Reuter, and Jacob van Staverden. [7]

Andries Both painter from the Northern Netherlands

Andries Both, was a Dutch genre painter. He was part of the group of Dutch and Flemish genre painters active in Rome in the 17th century known as the bamboccianti, who painted scenes from the everyday life of the lower classes in Rome and its countryside.

Karel Dujardin Dutch painter

Karel Dujardin was a Dutch Golden Age painter. Although he did a few portraits and a few history paintings of religious subjects, most of his work is small Italianate landscape scenes with animals and peasants, and other genre scenes. Dujardin spent two extended periods, at the beginning and end of his career, in Italy, and most of his paintings and landscape etchings have an Italian or Italianate setting.

Jan Miel Flemish painter

Jan Miel was a Flemish painter and engraver who was active in Italy. He initially formed part of the circle of Dutch and Flemish genre painters in Rome who are referred to as the 'Bamboccianti' and were known for their scenes depicting the lower classes in Rome. He later developed away from the Bamboccianti style and painted history subjects in a classicising style.

The Bamboccianti influenced Rococo artists such as Domenico Olivieri, Antonio Cifrondi, Pietro Longhi, Giuseppe Maria Crespi, Giacomo Ceruti, and Alessandro Magnasco. Their paintings of everyday Roman life continued into the nineteenth century through the works of Bartolomeo and Achille Pinelli, Andrea Locatelli and Paolo Monaldi. [8] A Bambocciante not yet identified painted also an Assalto d'armati (armed assault), now in the Forlì "Pinacoteca Civica" (City Art Gallery).

Rococo 18th-century artistic movement

Rococo, less commonly roccoco, or "Late Baroque", is a highly ornamental and theatrical style of decoration which combines asymmetry, scrolling curves, gilding, white and pastel colors, sculpted molding, and trompe l'oeil frescoes to create the illusions of surprise, motion and drama. It first appeared in France and Italy in the 1730s and spread to Central Europe in the 1750s and 1760s. It is often described as the final expression of the Baroque movement.

Domenico Olivieri or Olivero was an Italian painter, who painted genre scenes influenced by the Flemish Bamboccianti painters.

Antonio Cifrondi Italian painter

Antonio Cifrondi was an Italian painter of the late Baroque, mainly of genre themes. He was active in Brescia and near Bergamo.


Giovanni Battista Passeri, a seventeenth-century chronicler of art, described van Laer's work as an "open window" that provides an accurate representation of the world around him, characteristics applied to the Bamboccianti in general: [9] [10]

Giovanni Battista Passeri Italian painter

Giovanni Battista Passeri was an Italian painter of the Baroque period. He was a pupil of the painter Domenichino, as the latter worked at Frascati. He painted genre and still life paintings.

"era singular nel represetar la veritá schietta, e pura nell'esser suo, che li suoi quadri parevano una finestra aperta pe le quale fussero veduti quelli suoi successi; senza alcun divario, et alterazione."
The Small Limekiln (Landscape with Morra Players) attributed to Jan Both Jan Both - Landscape with Morra Players (The Small Limekiln).jpg
The Small Limekiln (Landscape with Morra Players) attributed to Jan Both
"[he] was unique in representing the truth, in its pure essence, such that his paintings appear to us like an open window through which we can see all that happens, without difference or alteration"

Passeri expressed here the traditional art historical view that the Bamboccianti paintings offered a realist "true portrait of Rome and its popular life" "without variation or alteration" of what the artist sees. [11] [12] However, their contemporaries did not generally regard the Bamboccianti as realists. An alternative view of the art of the Bamboccianti is that their works should rather be seen as complex allegories which are a commentary on classical art with a view to bringing the observer to contemplate elevated ideas. They thus stand in a long tradition of paradox in which low or vulgar subjects were the vehicle for conveying important philosophical meanings. For instance, the Bamboccianti regularly made paintings of gigantic limekilns outside Rome. These limekilns used the marble and travertine blocks of the Roman antique ruins as raw material and thus played a direct role in the destruction of Rome's ancient monuments. The limekilns themselves are painted in a grandiose way as if they were the new monuments of Rome. The kilns created something new from the ruins of ancient Rome and the lime they produced was used in the construction of new monuments in Rome. The paintings of these limekilns can therefore be read as a reflection on the transience of glory as well as the regenerative power of Rome. In other words, these paintings were intended to be read ironically and allegorically (even as paradoxes) and not as exact, realist depictions of life in Rome. [13]

Roman Streetscene with a Young Artist by Michiel Sweerts Michiel Sweerts - Roman Streetscene with a Young Artist.jpg
Roman Streetscene with a Young Artist by Michiel Sweerts

During the 1640s and 1650s Jan Miel and Michelangelo Cerquozzi started to expand the scope of Bamboccianti compositions by paying more attention to the surrounding landscape and emphasising less the anecdotal aspects of city and country life. These works were repeatedly used as a model by the Bamboccianti from the second half of the century and by the genre painters working in Rome during the early 18th century. Miel's most original contribution to this genre are his carnival scenes. [14]

The painter Karel Dujardin brought a different variation to the genre by placing his genre paintings of peasants and charlatans in the idealized setting of the lofty ruins in the countryside around Rome. [15]

Critical reception

Although the Bamboccianti found success with their paintings, art theorists and academicians in Rome were often unkind as paintings of everyday life were generally regarded as being at the bottom rung in the hierarchy of genres. [16] The artists themselves were often admired: van Laer was known as an artist whose works could command a high price and Michelangelo Cerquozzi was able to gain access to aristocratic circles and befriend artists such as Pietro da Cortona. [17]

Among the collectors and patrons of the Bamboccianti one finds Cardinal del Monte, Vincenzo Giustiniani, papal families such as the Barberini and Pamphili and female patrons including elite Roman aristocrats and Christina, Queen of Sweden. The success of the genre was not confined to Rome, but extended to Florence and France, as seen in the patronage of figures like the Cardinals Leopoldo de' Medici and Mazarin. [18]

Soldiers Playing Dice by Michelangelo Cerquozzi Michelangelo Cerquozzi - Soldiers Playing Dice - WGA4657.jpg
Soldiers Playing Dice by Michelangelo Cerquozzi

The success of the genre is partly explained by a change in the mode of decorating the houses of the upper classes in Rome. Paintings on canvas or panel gradually gained preference over frescoes. This gave foreign artists who were specialized in this technique an advantage. Furthermore, as art lovers were looking for new topics there existed a favorable environment for the reception of Bamboccianti art. [18]

The fact that learned and aristocratic patrons continued to purchase works by these artists was frequently bemoaned by painters of histories and other genres within the accepted canon of the city's main artistic establishment, the Academy of St. Luke. [2] [19] For example, Salvator Rosa, in his satire on painting Pittura (c. 1650), complains bitterly about the taste of the aristocratic patrons and their acceptance of such everyday subjects: [19] [20]

"Quel che aboriscon vivo, aman dipinto."
"Those they abhor in life, are loved in paint"

As is reflected in Rosa's comment, such derision was usually directed not at the artists but towards those who bought the works. [21] Acceptance of the Bamboccianti in the Accademia di San Luca, the prestigious association of leading artists in Rome was not impossible, however. This is demonstrated by the fact that van Laer and Cerquozzi were associated with both (van Laer was also a member of the Bentvueghels). [22] Jan Miel was in 1648 even the first northern artist to be admitted to the Accademia di San Luca. [23]


A Party of Charlatans in an Italian Landscape by Karel Dujardin, 1657 Karel Dujardin - Les Charlatans italiens.jpg
A Party of Charlatans in an Italian Landscape by Karel Dujardin, 1657


  1. Levine, p. 570.
  2. 1 2 Haskell, pp. 132–134.
  3. 1 2 Levine, p. 569.
  4. Haskell, p. 135.
  5. Levine, p. 569-570.
  6. Brigstocke
  7. Slive, pp. 236–237; Briganti, ix.
  8. Briganti, 36.
  9. Briganti, pp. 6–12.
  10. Haskell, p. 132.
  11. Levine, pp. 569–570. The quotation is from Levine (p. 570).
  12. Briganti, p. 2.
  13. Levine, p. 574-581.
  14. Ludovica Trezzani. "Miel, Jan." Grove Art Online. Oxford Art Online. Oxford University Press. Web. 26 May. 2014
  15. In Loving Memory of the Book – Creators, Content & Context
  16. Haskell, pp. 131–145.
  17. Haskell, pp. 135–136.
  18. 1 2 Beatrix Ackx, Bentvueghels and Bamboccianti: The Patronage and Reception of Northern Artists Working in Rome 1620-1690 Archived 2013-12-11 at the Wayback Machine ., A dissertation presented to the History Faculty of the University of Oxford in candidacy for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy History of Art, 2012
  19. 1 2 Roworth, 611–617.
  20. Haskell, p. 134
  21. Haskell, p. 142.
  22. Haskell, pp. 20–21.
  23. Ludovica Trezzani. "Miel, Jan." Grove Art Online. Oxford Art Online. Oxford University Press. Web. 17 June 2016

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