Massacre of the Innocents
Black and white chalk; incised with stylus, on two pieces of blue paper, faded to gray green
18 7/8 x 31 3/8 inches (478 x 797 mm.)
Gift of Janos Scholz, 1980
With the death of his teacher and father-in-law, Girolamo Romanino, in 1560, Gambara became the leading artist in Brescia. Completed in 1573, the frescoes in the nave arcade and internal facade of Parma cathedral depicting scenes from the life of Christ were his most prestigious commission. This is a late compositional study for one of those scenes, Massacre of the Innocents, which includes The Flight into Egypt as a vignette at upper left. The daringly foreshortened horse and rider at right reveal the influence of Pordenone.
At the beginning of the sixteenth century, Venice's mainland possessions, called the terraferma, stretched westward from Udine nearly all the way to Milan and included Padua, Vicenza, Verona, Brescia, and Bergamo. These Venetian strongholds ensured a continuous food supply and safeguarded trading routes to the north. Even though Venice's enemies combined to form the League of Cambrai and defeated the city in 1509, much of the mainland territory was recovered within a decade.
Venice's political independence and unified territories allowed artists considerable mobility. Some preferred to return to their native cities in Lombardy, Friuli, or the Veneto, where they established flourishing workshops. Distinctive local traditions—such as the realism of the Lombard painters of Bergamo and Brescia—also endured. The Veneto area in particular served as a country retreat for Venice's patrician families, who erected idyllic villas in the classical tradition designed by Andrea Palladio.