Sebastiano del Piombo

A Venetian painter in Rome

Clement VII, by Sebastiano del Piombo

A native of Venice, Sebastiano del Piombo (born Sebastiano Luciani; 1485–1547), had an especially varied career. He trained as a lutanist and played for the great families of Venice, before showing a knack for painting.

He trained under Giovanni Bellini and Giorgione, becoming a rich autumnal colourist. The latter was such a strong influence that his first known painting, of St John Cristostomo in San Giovanni Crisostomo was thought by many to be Giorgione himself.

He went on to a career in Rome, where he worked alongside Raphael, combined his Venetian colouring with a more Roman monumental style of composition. To advance his career he became a friar (in spite of being married and the father of two) and in 1523, was made chief notary of the Vatican, in charge of the lead seal (piombo). It was a very lucrative position that allowed him to give up painting altogether, except for the occasional commission. One of these was his famous portrait of the handsome but calamitous Medici pope, Clement VII, painted in 1526, a year before the Sack of Rome.

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