Giuseppe Assereto

Genoa 1626?-1657?

Portrait of Three Children, One Playing a Flute



Oil on pine panel. Bears initials in brown ink on the verso: G.A.N.P. and an inscription: Procacin.

27.8 x 41.3 cms. (11 x 16 ¼ in.)


PROVENANCE: Bears wax seal with a 19th century Gothic monogram.


The biography of Giuseppe Assereto, son of Gioacchino (1600-1650) was recorded by Raffaele Soprani in his collection of the Lives of Genovese artists: Giuseppe Axereto [sic]his son learnt the principles to follow a profession as a painter from his father and in fact showed an extraordinary ability to follow his father’s style. He drew very accurately …’1. In the inventory taken on Gioacchino’s death, a few of Giuseppe’s own works were also present and from other archival records it appears that he inherited his father’s studio as well as some incomplete projects. His dates of birth and death are not recorded but can be deduced from documents and he probably died from the plague which swept through Genoa in 1657. Until recent years, his artistic personality was completely unknown. The first reconstruction of his activity was made by Tiziana Zennaro in 20092 and this was added to by the same author’s monograph on Gioacchino Asserto and his school3, where a corpus of around fifty paintings was established, of which the most important is the large Preaching of St. James, in the oratory of San Giacomo alla Marina in Genoa, probably installed in place of the Last Supper commissioned from Gioacchino, which remained unfinished on his death. Evidently, Giuseppe was considered as the most suitable of Gioacchino’s pupils and contemporaries to receive such an important commission, for an oratory in which many of the best Genoese artists of the time had worked, such as Valerio Castello, Domenico Piola and Giovanni Benedetto Castiglione. A gifted painter, Giuseppe absorbed the naturalistic style of his father and other contemporary masters but in an absolutely personal manner and with a particularly successful expressivity.

The three children are captured with a vivid spontaneity and naturalism typical of Gioacchino Assereto and his studio4. This sketch is painted on a panel with a thin preparation which is left visible, as part of the construction of the heads, between the areas of thicker impasto executed in rapid brushstrokes - a lively technique which adds to the vitality of the work.

Newly identified, the present picture is a significant addition to the artist’s œuvre, and its particular quality reasserts the creative talent of this until recently forgotten artist. Giuseppe Assereto’s fine draughtsmanship, lauded by Soprani, is visible in the dark outline brushstrokes used to define the faces. Particularly typical of Giuseppe’s style is the manner in which he builds up a vibrant surface with small but rapid brushstrokes, in an almost ‘impressionistic’ style. The head of the young boy playing the flute is stylistically similar to the youth in the background of the Ecce Homo in the church of  Genova-Bolzaneto4 and to the angel in the Christ and the Adulteress5, in the church of the Cappuccini in Voltaggio, as well as to the Saint Francis of Assisi in Ecstasy6, also in Voltaggio. Furthermore, the young adulteress in the latter work is painted in a manner very similar to the young girl on the left of this panel. The rich impasto formed from tightly meshed brushstrokes, is here more reminiscent of il Grechetto than Gioacchino as can be seen in a substantial number of works which have now been reattributed to Giuseppe from Gioacchino.  The physiognomy of the three children is also consistent with Giuseppe Assereto’s facial types: the child in profile harks back to Gioacchino while the other two faces are of a type in Giuseppe’s work closer to Giovanni Andrea de Ferrari. Although only one of Giuseppe Assereto’s paintings can be dated, the present work would seem to belong to the same period as the Preaching of Saint James7, around 1650.


Tiziana Zennaro


1. See Soprani, Le vite de’ Pittori, Scoltori e Architetti Genovesi e de’forestieri che in Genova operarano, Genova 1674, p.172: ‘Giuseppe Axereto suo figlio apprese I principij del Padre per sroseguire la pressione della pittura, & invero mostrava straordinaria disopsizione di seguitare lo stile Paterno. Dissegnava molto aggiustato …’

2.’Il “Ritrovamento della coppa nel sacco di Beniamino” e una traccia per la ricostruzione del catalogo del Maestro di San Giacomo all Marina (Giuseppe Assereto?)’, Tre opere de La Pinacoteca, Napoli 2009, pp.29-78.

3. Tiziana Zennaro, Gioacchino Assereto e i pittori della sua scuola, Soncino 2011, 2 vols., I, pp. 80-84, vol. II, pp.585-624, catt. E1-E47.

4.  See the witness involved in the trial of Giuseppe Assereto who was asked to complete some paintings left incomplete by his father. The works referred to were described as “designate solo di terra” (cfr. Tiziana Zennaro, 2011, pp.777-779, docc. 55,56).

5. See Zennaro, op. cit., 2011, pp.609-610, cat.E31, Fig.E31, pl.CXXXVI.

6. See Zennaro, op.cit., 2011, p.599, cat.E18, fig. E 18, pl. CXXVI.

7. See Zennaro, op. cit., 2011, p.605, ca.E26, fig.E26, pl.CXXX-CXXXII.

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