Bernardino Parenzano
Prominent Istrians

ernardino Parenzano, the painter, is also known under a number of variations of his name, most notably Bernardo Parentino. He was born in Parenzo (Pazin) ca. 1450, and died in Vicenza ca. 1500. 


born in Parenzo
c. 1450

In the past, the biography of the painter Bernardino has been confused and superimposed, with damaging effects, with that of an Augustine monk and prophet who was his namesake, and was also called Fra Lorenzo. The monk was born in 1437 and died in 1531 at the Monastery of St. Michael in Vicenza. The credit goes to Maria Pia Billanovich for giving this artist a more precise identity based on the numerous and oftentimes arbitrary attribution of his cataloged works.

Bernardino was probably educated in Parenzo, Istria, where he studied antique inscriptions. From Parenzo he probably moved to the political and cultural capital of the region, Capodistria. Here, during what appears to have been a prolonged stay, he was able to study other inscriptions and to indulge his passion for antiquity. During this early period he may have been in contact with Giorgio Schiavone, possibly at Zara, as well as with other Dalmatian artists from the group around Francesco Squarcione, for example Marinello da Spalato of the second half of the 15th century. (Source: Billanovich, 1981.)  In 1496 he was appointed to the Gonzaga Courtin Mantua (including the decoration of the Studiolo of Isabella d'Este)..

The style of this painter of Istrian origin is highly unusual. Active in Mantua and Padua, his work reveals the influence of Andrea Mantegna (1431-1506), one of the foremost north Italian painters of the 15th century who was a master of perspective and foreshortening. Mantegna made important contributions to the compositional techniques of Renaissance painting.together with some elements drawn from Ferrarese painting. 

Luigi Antonio Lanzi, in his  says that he approached so near to Mantegna that his work might easily be mistaken for those of the master. At the cloiser of Santa Giustina, at Padua, are the ten Acts from the Life of St. Benedetto, with several little histories in chiaro-oscuro representing upon each the portrait of a Pontiff of the name Benedict, which are highly commended by Lanzi who said "non vidi pittura di chiostro religioso così bene ideata in ogni sua parte" (I have seen no painting adated to a religious cloister so well conceived in every part); and further states that it is known that it was superintended by a distinguished scholar of that learned order, the Abate Gaspero da Pavia. Attached to it is the name Parentino and the dates of 1489 and 1494.

The works of Parenzano is characterized by a care for detail, perhaps exaggerated, and by miniaturistic tendencies in a Northern European manner that find expression in a crystalline and metallic lincarity. The angular, skeletal landscape, bathed in a leaden light and ruthlessly cleared so that it looks devastated, creates a sense of anguish in its snapshot-like fixity, as if the events were taking place in a human terrarium from which all the air has been evacuated. 

There are three panels in the Galleria Doria Pamphilj illustrating the life of St. Anthony Abbot (251-356), the founder of monasticism, as recounted in the 4th century in St. Athanasius's popular book. Two of the panels hang in the private apartments and one is on show in the Gallery (illustrated here).

Panel 1 has an old inscription on the back: DEC. ORA. PRI, which can perhaps be interpreted as Decet Oratio Principem (i.e.: Prayer Suits the Prince). It illustrates how Anthony, after the death of his parents and at the age of between eighteen and twenty, "sold... all the other goods and chattels he possessed and distributed the large sum of money he obtained to the poor." 

Panel 2 is devoted to the temptations of the saint. The trees have lost their leaves, and their black, rigid trunks, slender marks against the luminous sky, look like etchings against the dark walls of the mountains. On the broken ground, the devil first tries to lure Anthony away from his spiritual exercises by conjuring up memories of riches, desire for money, vainglory, and the pleasures of the palate: he then appears on the desert road, concealed in an enortnous silver vase, an episode that had never been depicted before and is here combined with the previous one.

The temptations of St. Anthony. c. 1494 (3rd of 3 panels). 46.4 x 58.2 cm.
Galleria Doria-Pamphilj, Rome

Panel 3 of the predella, the great and terrible power of Evil is revealed with the worst characteristics of the human race, in all its innate repulsiveness and horrifying folly. Exorcisers appear on the rock, in the form of skulls, and Satan is transformed into malignant shapes and ferocious beasts. However, a ray of light descends toward Anthony and a voice declares: "I was here, Anthony, but I wished to see your struggle, and since you have withstood and have not been defeated, I shall always succor you".

This is the moral of the cycle. We do not know whether it is complete or whether other elements are missing, such as the leave-taking of his sister, the erotie visions, or the meeting with Paul. 

The Temptations of Saint Anthony, a theme that has fascinated artists from Bosch to Griinewald, Schongauer, and Flaubert, is cited as the work of Mantegna in the fidei commissary list of 1819, while it was recorded, along with the other two parts, in an inventory of the palace in Piazza Navona drawn up on the death of Camillo Pamphilj in 1666. 

At the Accademia in Venice there is an Annunciation which has been attributed to Alvise, but which the official catalog assigns to Bernardo Parentino. Here also is his Angel Gabriel, and Jesus on the Cross. In the gallery in Padua there is the Argonauts; at the Borromeo of Milan is the Amazonsò in the first sacristy of the Dome of Padua is a Madonna with St. John (attributed). There is also a painting in Vienna. His Group of Musicians (tela 33x51) at the Berlin Museum shows that he specialized in musical paintings dalla maniera secca e tagliente derivata dal grande mantovano. A large number of his works in Padua have been lost.

On the death of Bernardo Parentino, Girolamo da Padova, or Girolamo dal Santo, celebrated for his miniatures, as it is recorded by Vasari and Ridolfi, was commissioned to continue the admirable works executed that master in a cloister in the monastery of Santa Giustina.In these, Lanzi says Padova showed himself greatly inferior to Parentino in design and expression; but he commends Padova's elegant accessories of his art, "more particularly in his study of ancient costume, an acquisition ias general in this, as rare in the Venetian School".

At the Accademia in Venice, there is an Annunciation which has been attribed to Alvise, but which is obviously by a later artist. The official catalog assigns it to this Bernardo Parentino.

Other works:

  • Scena di Battaglia - Padova, Abbazia Benedetta di S. Giustina, pittura murale su aricciato e ontonaco marmorino lisciato.
  • (10) Episodes in the life of St. Benedict - Padova, Benedictine Abbey of St. Giustina
  • Monaco in paesaggio - Padova, Benedictine Abbey of St. Giustina.
  • Combattimento di cavalieri romani, Pavia, Castello Visconteo
  • Life of Saint Louis (Rome, Galleria Doria)
  • Procession of the Magi
Procession of the Magi | 1916.790

Procession of the Magi (late 1400s)

This work is the front side of a cassone, a large, richly decorated chest that was made for newly married couples in late medieval and Reinaissance Italy. Thi panel was probably part of a travel chest, which were usually less lavish than those meant for display in the home. The subject, the Procession of the Magi, was commonly used for travel chests. It illustrates the eastern kings journeying to greet the newborn Christ child. The castle in the background helps place this work in the late 15th century, the building recedes into space at an angle, showing an attempt at vanishing point perspective.

Tempera on wood
47.5 cm x 53.8 cm
Cleveland Museum of Art
Holden Collection 1916.790

Baccus playing pipes (about 1485)

Pen and brown ink
7-15/16 in. x 4-1/16 in.
Getty Museum

Playing his pipes, the long-legged figure of Bacchus seems to dance along on the balls of his feet. The god is naked except for the skin of a lion, with its claws and tail still attached, that hangs over his left shoulder. The figure's proportions and position resemble those of classical sculpture. Deftly handling the point of the pen, the artist, perhaps Bernardo Parentino, indicated both the lighting and the volume of Bacchus's body with a delicate network of hatching and cross-hatching. Numerous fine lines suggest the muscles on his legs and torso and create texture on the lionskin.

Tre nudi, penna, mm 158 x 140 (Valutazione £ 7.000-10.000)

"Putti Dancing Around a Vase" or "Grimacing Cherubs" (c. 1482); drawing is approx. 7-1/2" x 8" (19 x 20.3 cm), on chained lined and water marked with a bow and arrow. Ref. Le Louvre des Antiquaires: Catalogue (?date: 82); A page from a collector's album known as the "Moscardo Album", belonging to the Veronese Badile family of artists.

The album includes various sketches and drawings executed in brown ink with red wash. Three grumpy putti cavort around an urn, one holding a slender, flared duct-flute. The window/labium is clearly visible, and the instrument has a turned and beaded foot. A collectors blind stamp located at lower left corner, possibly "HL" or "FL" in a squared stamp. Perimeter of paper has been adhered to wove paper to protect the edges and this has archival tape where it's been tipped onto backing mat board.

Condition: Small pin hole near center, cut from album, water damage and faint red staining to left of center. Water marked paper, archival matting. Perimeter of paper has been adhered to wove paper to protect the edges and this has archival tape where it's been tipped onto backing mat board.

Estimated value of $5,000-7,000, it is still for sale.  Aspire Auctions Works on Paper, Lot 88 (2002).

See also:

  • Od Poreca do luvra (Hrvatski)
  • Tentazioni di sant'Antonio abate (Italiano)
  • C.M. Brown, "Little Known and Unpublished Documents Concerning Andrea Mantegna, Bernardino Parentino, Pietro Lombardo, Leonardo da Vinci and Filippo Beniniendi (Part One)", in L'Arte, VI (1969), p. 152-164.


  • Biography - Web Galelry of Art -
  • Text and color image - and also Galleria Doria Pamphilj - (page no longer available)
  • - article derived from The Grove Dictionary of Art -
  • Art Encyclopedia - ( page no longer exists)
  • Cleveland Museum of Art - Procession of the Magi -
  • Tre nudi - Venezia Cinquecento, Studi di storia dell'arte e della cultura, Opere venete in asta a luglio 2002 -
  • Gino Sabazio - Artisti Agostiniani d'Italia -
  • FGC: Pitture murali nel Veneto - Indice delle opere -
  • Cherubs drawing -
  • Cherubs drawing -
  • Luigi Antonio Lanzi, History of Painting in Italy: The school of Venice, Vol. III (of six), W. Simpkin and R. Marshall (London, 1828), p. 72.
  • John McClintock, Cyclopaedia of Biblical, theological, and eccesiastical literature, Vol. 7, p. 516 and 672.
  • Thomas Okey, History of Venice, J. M. Dent & Co. (London, 1905), p. 348.
  • Mrs. (Anna) Jameson, Legends of the Monastic Orders, as Represented in the Fine Arts, Houghton, Mifflin and Co. (Boston and New York, 1894), p. 31.
  • Luca Leoncini, Il codice detto del Mantegna, Kunstbibliothek (Berlin, 1993)

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Created: Monday, June 09, 2003; Last Updated: Saturday, July 18, 2015
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