(Venice 1697 - 1756)
Cupids playing
Oil on canvas, 85 x 175 cm
Milan, Giorgio Baratti Collection
This depiction of three joyous cupids - two who are fighting over an arrow taken from the sheath between them, while a third is standing with his back to the viewer with a bow in his left hand - has an immediately clear Venetian pictorial imprint, with which on the one hand there is a refined chromatic intensity, modulated by a penetrating light that brightens the colour, and on the other there is a strong formal construction exalted by the florid carnality of the three naked children. Two aspects that bring us back to the fundamental lesson of Piazzetta, brilliantly combined, however, with the eminently colourful aspects of the Rococo current of Venetian painting of the beginning of the 18th century, started by Sebastiano Ricci and continued by Jacopo Amigoni and Giovanni Antonio Pellegrini often up to the point of liquefying the shapes, to the benefit of pure painting. This way of conciliating these two main ascendants leads us directly to the author of “our” painting, that is to Giambattista Crosato (Venice 1697 - 1756), whose paternity finds a vast and accurate answer not only with his personal stylistic and interpretative figure, but also with the direct and clear typological responses to many of his similar figures. In addition, the curriculum of Crosato reached full maturity through a direct experience in Bologna with G. M. Crespi, and, thanks above all to his two prolific stays in piedmont in the 30s, during which he had the opportunity to train in the climate of Juvarrian Turin, he was in direct contact with several heads of schools of the time: in particular the Neapolitans De Mura and Giaquinto, whose indirect inflections can be seen in this painting. 
Infact, the comparisons are more than convincing, both from a strictly figurative point of view and from a painting one, here magnificently clear in the drawing of the nudes, but also in the definition of the details, from the wings to the hair, from the arrow holder to the leaves, to the large vase with foliage hanging out of it, all rendered with a fluid but constructive stroke. There are numerous comparisons that could be made with many of Crosato’s works in which there are similar figures. We can mention the “Allegories” of “Spring” and of “Autumn” in the western loggia, and of “Summer” and “Winter” in the Eastern loggia of the Hall of the Villa della Regina in Turin, the “Baby Jesus with the Cross and Angels”, in the parish of Zeminiana; but even small putti which appear in larger compositions such as in the frescoes of the Church of Santa Maria della Visitazione in Pinerolo, and many others, including, in addition to extensive decorations made in Turin and province, his major works carried out at home, in Cà Pesaro and his great final task in Cà Rezzonico. 
For the above comparisons and for a full examination of the work of Crostato consult the recent detailed and exhaustive monograph compiled by D. Ton (Giambattista Crosato. Pittore del Rococò europeo, Fondazione Giorgio Cini, Scripta Edizioni, Venice 2012), accompanied by a rich repertoire of illustrations. The importance of the figure of Crosato had already been highlighted and duly revalued by G. Fiocco in his earlier monograph, focused on Crosato’s activities in Turin (Giambattista Crosato. Pittore di Casa Savoia, Le tre Venezie ed., Venice, 1941); and it a general but concise disseration was also written by R. Pallucchini (La pittura nel Veneto. Il Settecento, Electa ed., Milan 1995, I, pp. 129-148), emphasizing his beginnings in the context of the Venetian figurative culture in the first half of the 18th century, worthy of collaborating with the two Ricci, Amigoni and Pellegrini and, albeit with due distance, with Tiepolo.

Giancarlo Sestieri
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