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Tanzio da Varallo

Riale d'Alagna 1575/80 - 1632/33 Novara
Price range
500,000 – 3,000,000 USD
Tanzio is ‘best known for his dramatic oil paintings executed in a unique style of Caravaggesque realism modified by the elegance of Lombard Late Mannerism’.

Tanzio came from the Piedmontese town of Varallo, however he is usually grouped with his Milanese baroque contemporaries, especially Il Cerano (1575–1632) and Morazzone (1573–?1626). Tanzio is ‘best known for his dramatic oil paintings executed in a unique style of Caravaggesque realism modified by the elegance of Lombard Late Mannerism’ (Frangi, op cit.). Tanzio is recorded as having left Varallo for Rome in the Holy Year of 1600 and is not recorded back in Lombardy until 1611. During his travels he would have seen the works of Caravaggio and his followers such as Orazio Gentileschi (1563–1639). In 1616 these influences show themselves in his earliest large-scale commissions, notably St Carlo Borromeo administering the Sacrament to Plague Victims (Domodossola) and his first chapel, devoted to Christ before Pilate, for the sacromonte in Varallo in which he contributed the frescoes and his brother sculptures. These frescoes also show the influence of the more archaic style of Gaudenzio Ferrari (1475/80–1546), a high renaissance artist influenced by Leonardo. At around this time, he also painted the spectacular David with the Head of Goliath (Museo Civico, Varallo) which exemplifies Tanzio’s highly personal fusion of Caravaggesque intensity and Mannerist elegance.

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Selected Artworks

Top 3 auction prices

106,250 $
205,299 $
250,000 $


The sales are: Sotheby’s New York – 29 Jan 2016 lot 506, Sotheby’s Florence – 27 Nov 1989 lot 297 (271,200,000 LIRA), and Sotheby’s New York 1 Feb 2018 lot 59.
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Further explore
Notable exhibitions

Naples, Palazzo Zevallos Stigliano, Tanzio da Varallo incontra Caravaggio: pittura a Napoli nel primo Seicento, 24 October 2014 – 11 January 2015. Curated by Maria Cristina Terzaghi.

Cremona, Museo Civico Ala Ponzone, Painters of Reality: The Legacy of Leonardo and Caravaggio in Lombardy, 14 February – 2 May 2004; travelled to New York, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 27 May – 15 August 2004. Curated by Andrea Bayer, Mina Gregori and Ivana Iotta.

Milan, Palazzo Reale, Tanzio da Varallo: realismo, fervore e contemplazione in un pittore del Seicento, 13 Apreil – 16 July 2000. Curated by Marco Bona Castellotti.

Milan, Palazzo Reale, Il Seicento Lombardo, 1973. Curated by Giulio Bora.

Turin, Palazzo Madama, Mostra del Manierismo piemontese e lombardo del Seicento, 6 May – 26 June 1955. Curated by Giovanni Testori.


Books on Tanzio da Varallo

Virginia Brilliant, Faithful to Nature, Eleven Lombard Paintings 1530-1760, exh. cat., New York, 2019.

Andrea Bayer ed., Painters of Reality: The legacy of Leonardo and Caravaggio in Lombardy, exh. cat., New York, 2004.

Marco Bono Castellotti ed., Tanzio da Varallo: realismo, fervore e contemplazione in un pitture del Seicento, Milan, 2000.

Francesco Frangi, ‘Tanzio da Varallo’, Grove Dictionary of Art, ed. Jane Turner, vol. 30, pp. 302-305.

Francesco Porzio, ‘Tanzio da Varallo’, Pinacoteca di Brera, scuola lombarda, ligure e piemontese, 1535–1796, Milan, 1989.

Giovanni Testori, Tanzio da Varallo, exh. cat., Turin, 1959.

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