Giovanni Battista Cipriani
Giovanni Battista Cipriani (1727 – 1785), Italian
Italy , officially the Italian Republic languages]] under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages. In each of these, Italy's official name is as follows:;;;;;;;;), is a unitary parliamentary republic in South-Central Europe. To the north it borders France, Switzerland, Austria and...

Painting is the practice of applying paint, pigment, color or other medium to a surface . The application of the medium is commonly applied to the base with a brush but other objects can be used. In art, the term painting describes both the act and the result of the action. However, painting is...

 and engraver, Pistoiese
Pistoia is a city and comune in the Tuscany region of Italy, the capital of a province of the same name, located about 30 km west and north of Florence and is crossed by the Ombrone Pistoiese, a tributary of the River Arno.-History:...

 by descent, was born in Florence
Florence is the capital city of the Italian region of Tuscany and of the province of Florence. It is the most populous city in Tuscany, with approximately 370,000 inhabitants, expanding to over 1.5 million in the metropolitan area....



His first lessons were given him by a Florentine of English descent, Ignatius Hugford
Ignazio Hugford
Ignazio Hugford, or Ignatius Heckford , was an Italian painter active mostly in Tuscany in an early Neoclassic style.- Life and work :...

, and then under Anton Domenico Gabbiani
Anton Domenico Gabbiani
Anton Domenico Gabbiani was an Italian painter and active in a late Baroque style.-Biography:Born in Florence, Gabbiani first apprenticed with the Medici court portrait painter Justus Sustermans, then with the Florentine Vincenzo Dandini; subsequently moved to Rome in 1673 he arrived in Rome,...

. He was in Rome
Rome is the capital of Italy and the country's largest and most populated city and comune, with over 2.7 million residents in . The city is located in the central-western portion of the Italian Peninsula, on the Tiber River within the Lazio region of Italy.Rome's history spans two and a half...

 from 1750–1753, where he became acquainted with Sir William Chambers
William Chambers (architect)
Sir William Chambers was a Scottish architect, born in Gothenburg, Sweden, where his father was a merchant. Between 1740 and 1749 he was employed by the Swedish East India Company making several voyages to China where he studied Chinese architecture and decoration.Returning to Europe, he studied...

, the architect
An architect is a person trained in the planning, design and oversight of the construction of buildings. To practice architecture means to offer or render services in connection with the design and construction of a building, or group of buildings and the space within the site surrounding the...

, and Joseph Wilton
Joseph Wilton
Joseph Wilton was an English sculptor and one of the founding members of the Royal Academy in 1768 .Born to a wealthy family in London, Wilton trained in Flanders, Paris, Rome and Florence...

, the sculptor
Sculpture is three-dimensional artwork created by shaping or combining hard materials—typically stone such as marble—or metal, glass, or wood. Softer materials can also be used, such as clay, textiles, plastics, polymers and softer metals...

, whom he accompanied to England
England is a country that is part of the United Kingdom. It shares land borders with Scotland to the north and Wales to the west; the Irish Sea is to the north west, the Celtic Sea to the south west, with the North Sea to the east and the English Channel to the south separating it from continental...

 in August 1755.

He had already painted two pictures for the abbey of San Michele in Pelago, Pistoia
Pistoia is a city and comune in the Tuscany region of Italy, the capital of a province of the same name, located about 30 km west and north of Florence and is crossed by the Ombrone Pistoiese, a tributary of the River Arno.-History:...

, which had brought him reputation, and on his arrival in England he was patronized by Lord Tilney, the duke of Richmond and other noblemen. His acquaintance with Sir William Chambers no doubt helped him on, for when this architect designed the Albany in London for Lord Holland, Cipriani painted a ceilings, He also painted part of a ceiling in Buckingham House, and a room with poetical subjects at Standlynch in Wiltshire
Wiltshire is a ceremonial county in South West England. It is landlocked and borders the counties of Dorset, Somerset, Hampshire, Gloucestershire, Oxfordshire and Berkshire. It contains the unitary authority of Swindon and covers...


Among his masterpieces were his work for Somerset House
Somerset House
Somerset House is a large building situated on the south side of the Strand in central London, England, overlooking the River Thames, just east of Waterloo Bridge. The central block of the Neoclassical building, the outstanding project of the architect Sir William Chambers, dates from 1776–96. It...

, built by his friend Chambers. He not only prepared the decorations for the interior of the north block, but says Joseph Baretti in his Guide through the Royal Academy (1780), "the whole of the carvings in the various fronts of Somerset Place — excepting Bacon's bronze figures — were carved from finished drawings made by Cipriani." These designs include the five masks forming the keystones to the arches on the courtyard side of the vestibule, and the two above the doors leading into the wings of the north block, all of which are believed to have been carved by Nollekens
Joseph Nollekens
Joseph Nollekens was a sculptor from London generally considered to be the finest British sculptor of the late 18th century. He was also a founder member of the Royal Academy in 1768.-Life:...

. The grotesque groups flanking the main doorways on three sides of the quadrangle and the central doorway on the terrace appear also to have been designed by Cipriani.

The apartments in Sir William Chambers's stately palace that were assigned to the Royal Academy
Royal Academy
The Royal Academy of Arts is an art institution based in Burlington House on Piccadilly, London. The Royal Academy of Arts has a unique position in being an independent, privately funded institution led by eminent artists and architects whose purpose is to promote the creation, enjoyment and...

, into which it moved in 1750, owed much to Cipriani's graceful, if mannered, pencil. The central panel of the library ceiling was painted by Sir Joshua Reynolds, but the four compartments in the coves, representing Allegory, Fable, Nature and History, were Cipriani's. These paintings still remain at Somerset House, together with the emblematic painted ceiling, also his work, of what was once the library of the Royal Society
Royal Society
The Royal Society of London for Improving Natural Knowledge, known simply as the Royal Society, is a learned society for science, and is possibly the oldest such society in existence. Founded in November 1660, it was granted a Royal Charter by King Charles II as the "Royal Society of London"...


It was natural that Cipriani should thus devote himself to adorning the apartments of the academy, since he was an original member (1768) of that body, for which he designed the diploma so well engraved by Bartolozzi
Francesco Bartolozzi
Francesco Bartolozzi was an Italian engraver, whose most productive period was spent in London.He was born in Florence...

. In recognition of his services in this respect the members presented him in 1769 with a silver cup with a commemorative inscription. He was much employed by the publishers, for whom he made drawings in pen and ink, sometimes coloured. His friend Bartolozzi engraved most of them. Drawings by him are in both the British Museum
British Museum
The British Museum is a museum of human history and culture in London. Its collections, which number more than seven million objects, are amongst the largest and most comprehensive in the world and originate from all continents, illustrating and documenting the story of human culture from its...

 and Victoria and Albert Museum
Victoria and Albert Museum
The Victoria and Albert Museum , set in the Brompton district of The Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea, London, England, is the world's largest museum of decorative arts and design, housing a permanent collection of over 4.5 million objects...

. His best autograph engravings are "The Death of Cleopatra," after Benvenuto Cellini
Benvenuto Cellini
Benvenuto Cellini was an Italian goldsmith, sculptor, painter, soldier and musician, who also wrote a famous autobiography. He was one of the most important artists of Mannerism.-Youth:...

; "The Descent of the Holy Ghost," after Gabbiani; and portraits for Hollis
Thomas Hollis
Thomas Hollis was an English political philosopher and author.-Early life:Hollis was educated at Adams Grammar School until the age 10, and then in St. Albans until 15, before learning French, Dutch and accountancy in Amsterdam. After the death of his father in 1735, his guardian was a John...

's memoirs, 1780. He painted allegorical designs for the Gold State Coach
Gold State Coach
The Gold State Coach is an enclosed, eight horse-drawn carriage used by the British Royal Family. It was built in the London workshops of Samuel Butler in 1762 and has been used at the coronation of every British monarch since George IV...

 — which is still in use and also The Lord Mayor's Gold Coach,built in 1762 and 1757 respectively — in 1782, and repaired Verrio's paintings at Windsor and Rubens's ceiling in the Banqueting House at Whitehall
Whitehall is a road in Westminster, in London, England. It is the main artery running north from Parliament Square, towards Charing Cross at the southern end of Trafalgar Square...


Some of his best work is the decoration of furniture
Furniture is the mass noun for the movable objects intended to support various human activities such as seating and sleeping in beds, to hold objects at a convenient height for work using horizontal surfaces above the ground, or to store things...

. He designed many groups, of nymph
A nymph in Greek mythology is a female minor nature deity typically associated with a particular location or landform. Different from gods, nymphs are generally regarded as divine spirits who animate nature, and are usually depicted as beautiful, young nubile maidens who love to dance and sing;...

s and amorini
Amoretti was a sonnet cycle written by Edmund Spenser in the 16th century. The cycle describes his courtship and eventual marriage to Elizabeth Boyle....

 and medallion subjects to form the centre of Pergolesi
Michael Angelo Pergolesi
Michael Angelo Pergolesi was an Italian decorative artist from the 18th century who worked mainly in England.Biographical details are almost entirely lacking,foofofgofoon but like Cipriani he was brought, or attracted, to England by Robert Adam after his famous continental tour...

's bands of ornament, and they were continually reproduced upon the elegant satin-wood furniture which was growing popular in his later days and by the end of the 18th century became a rage. Sometimes these designs were inlaid in marqueterie
Marquetry is the art and craft of applying pieces of veneer to a structure to form decorative patterns, designs or pictures. The technique may be applied to case furniture or even seat furniture, to decorative small objects with smooth, veneerable surfaces or to freestanding pictorial panels...

, but most frequently they were painted upon the satin-wood by other hands with delightful effect, since in the whole range of English furniture there is nothing more enchanting than really good finished satin-wood pieces. There can be little doubt that some of the beautiful furniture designed by the Adams was actually painted by Cipriani himself. He also occasionally designed handles for drawers and doors. Cipriani died at Hammersmith
Hammersmith is an urban centre in the London Borough of Hammersmith and Fulham in west London, England, in the United Kingdom, approximately five miles west of Charing Cross on the north bank of the River Thames...

 and was buried at Chelsea
Chelsea, London
Chelsea is an area of West London, England, bounded to the south by the River Thames, where its frontage runs from Chelsea Bridge along the Chelsea Embankment, Cheyne Walk, Lots Road and Chelsea Harbour. Its eastern boundary was once defined by the River Westbourne, which is now in a pipe above...

, where Bartolozzi erected a monument to his memory. He had married an English lady, by whom he had two sons.

Among the painters receiving instruction with Cipriani were John Alexander Gresse
John Alexander Gresse
John Alexander Gresse ,was a painter and drawing-master.Gresse was born in London in 1741. His father was a native of Rolle, on the Lake of Geneva, and owned a small property close to Oxford Street, on which the present streets, Stephen Street and Gresse Street, Rathbone Place, were built about 1771...

 (1741–1794); Charles Grignon (1754–1804); and Mauritius Lowe (-1793).
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