Angelo Michele Colonna

Prince of Optical Illusions

Glory of San Lorenzo, by Colonna

Angelo Michele Colonna (1604-87) was born in Cernobbio near Como and moved to Bologna in 1617. The city was in the throes of becoming the centre of quadratura painting; first joining the workshop of Gabriello Ferrantini (nicknamed 'Big Eye') and then, more enduringly with Girolamo Curti (nicknamed 'Big Tooth'), the grand master of Baroque architectural illusionism. He worked for Cesare Malavasia (the 'Vasari of Bologna', author of the Felsina pittrice, a biography of Bolognese painters) and was soon up on the ceilings, painting fake statues and stuccoes as well as saints and gods frolicking in the fake clouds; early works include the Oratorio di San Rocco and San Michele in Bosco.

After the death of Curti in 1632, Colonna frequently collaborated with Agostino Mitelli, who also trained under 'Big Tooth'; together they painted the Chapel of the Rosary in San Domenico, the Palazzo d'Este in Sassuolo, the Palazzo Spada in Rome, the Pitti Palace in Florence and palaces in Lucca and in Spain for King Philip IV. Towards the end of his career he joined with Gioacchino Pizzoli to fresco the Sala Consiliare in Palazzo d'Accursio.

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