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Francesco Londonio (1723-1783) was an Italian painter, engraver and scenographer, active mainly in Milan and working in a late-Baroque or Rococo style which was always pervaded by realism. Londonio trained as a painter under Ferdinando Porta and Giovanni Battista Sassi and studied engraving with Benigno Bossi in Milan. He is best known for his paintings and endearing etchings of rustic and pastoral landscapes and subjects, with both animals and peasants playing a dominant role over the landscape. This focus on genre themes was popular among the wealthy patrons of the time, especially in Northern Italy.
Londonio is also known for his scenography. An example, of this poorly conserved art form that still exists is a nativity scene using cut wooden shapes, for the church of San Marco in Milan. The effect is a cheaper version of the naturalistic Sacri Monti scenes, which involved painted stucco statuary. The work at San Marco prompted Empress Maria Theresa of Austria to appoint Londonio as art designer for La Scala, the legendary Milanese opera house.
Londonio spent his life in Milan and died there in 1783. Despite his artistic prowess, relatively little has been published about him. Art historian Roberta J. Olson admires Londonio's 'sympathetic portrayal of animals and their co-existence with human beings in serenely simple compositions which are at the same time realistic, reflecting his position on the cusp of the change resulting from the Enlightenment'.
Te Papa currently has 19 etchings by Londonio in its collection, all depictions of animals and peasants in Italianate landscapes, and all but one of them presented to the Colonial Museum in 1869 by Bishop Ditlev Monrad. This etching is Plate 3 of a series of 14 or more that depict rustic scenes and farm animals, all of which are numbered. Here, three sheep are pictured; in the foreground a sleeping sheep partially obscures a closely huddling darker sheep, while a standing sheep looks on benignly.
Roberta J. Olson, 'Review: Francesco Londonio', Print Quarterly, 13, 1 (1996), pp. 73-76.
Wikipedia, 'Francesco Londonio', https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Francesco_Londonio
Dr Mark Stocker Curator, Historical International Art April 2019
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