Italian painter, Venetian school (b. 1699, Venezia, d. 1766, Venezia)
Peter the Apostle
Oil on canvas, 85 x 61 cm
Italian painter. Recorded as a member of the Venetian guild of painters from 1726 onwards, he is traditionally thought to have been trained under Antonio Balestra, although it is more likely that his true master was Giovanni Battista Piazzetta. From his earliest known works, the four Heads (before 1736; Stockholm, Nationalmuseum) painted for the patron and collector Count Carl Gustav Tessin, it is evident that Nogari was influenced by the portraits of Rosalba Carriera and in particular the work of Rembrandt, whose drawings Nogari knew when they were in the collection formed by Zaccaria Sagredo. Nogari would also have known the Rembrandt prints owned from 1720 by Anton Maria Zanetti the elder.
By the end of the 1730s Nogari’s fame had spread to collectors in Germany, who acquired several works of a predominantly religious nature (all untraced). Between 1736 and 1739 as many as 14 Heads (all untraced) were sent back to Germany by Johan Matthias von der Schulenburg. From 1739 to 1742 Nogari painted four Heads for the Savoy family (Turin, Galleria Sabauda) and then contributed to the decoration of the Palazzo Reale in Turin, with allegories celebrating the glory of his patrons (now divided between the Palazzo Reale and the smaller palace of Stupinigi). These reveal an interest in the Rococo style and the work of Jacopo Amigoni. After his return to Venice in 1743, Nogari worked for Francesco Algarotti, then acting for Frederick-Augustus II, Elector of Saxony, painting two Philosophers and three Heads (all Dresden, Gemäldegalerie). During the same period, he also worked for the British Consul in Venice, Joseph Smith, producing two Heads and seven Portraits of Artists (London, Hampton Court, Royal Collection; Edinburgh, Palace Holyroodhouse, Royal Collection). For German collectors he produced two Allegories (both before 1749; Kassel, Gemäldegalerie).
During the early 1750s Nogari worked on several altarpieces for churches in the Veneto, notably Christ Giving the Keys to St Peter in the cathedral at Bassano and the Miracle of St Joseph of Copertino in the Frari in Venice. In 1756 he was invited to become a member of the Venetian Accademia di Pittura e Scultura. In the 1750s he also continued to work for the German market and executed, for example, six paintings for Sigismund Streit (1687-1775), of which four Allegories survive (Berlin, Gemäldegalerie). Nogari’s most significant pupil was the portrait painter Alessandro Longhi.
Nogari lived his whole life in Venice and in 1756 became a member of the Accademia di Pittura e Scultura. From the 1730s he became widely known among collectors north of the Alps for his allegorical and religious portraits done as half-length and head studies. He also painted a number of altarpieces in his native city.
The present work shows Peter as the bringer of God’s word. His right hand points to the Bible, while his gaze is directed in the diametrically opposite direction to the light entering from the upper left, which embodies the source of divine inspiration. The apostle holds a key of bronze and one of gold, thus underlining his authority as the ‘rock’ upon which Christ will build his church (Matthew XVI, 18).
Peter died a martyr’s death at a great age. Nogari emphasises the apostle’s age in his picture, skilfully revealing his elderly body. Peter’s right shoulder, his face, worked in thick paint, and his wispy grey hair are placed most fully in the light and stand out boldly from the dark, diffuse background.