Giovanni Odoni
Timeline: The Kalmar Union

Giovanni Odoni
Portrait of Giovanni Odoni

Born 7th July, 1513
Ragusa, Venice
Died 24th Septmber, 1571
Fjallasay, Vinland
Profession Artist

Giovanni Odoni, Jón the Venetiansk, was a Venetian-born painter and draughtsman most famous for his work in Vinland.

Odoni was born in 1513 in Venetian Ragusa to a Venetian merchant, Lorenzo Odoni and a Croatian mother, Mara Vetranović. As the third son he was not expected to follow in his father's footsteps and take over the family business, instead he was trained for a life in the clergy. Sent to Venice to be trained for the priesthood his natural talent for art soon became apparent and the religious life was abandoned for one in the studio.

Pyronaber Madonna, 1557

Venice could boast several prominent artists however and competition for commissions was fierce. After completing his apprenticeship in the studio of Giovanni Bellini, Odoni moved to Venice's hinterland to improve his own chances of gaining employment, especially Treviso where he swiftly built up a good reputation as a altarpiece painter and completed portraits of bishops, noblemen. His works showed off a fine grasp of movement and stature, all rendered in vibrant colours.

In 1541 he met and painted the noted Italian Protestant Pier Paolo Vergerio and converted soon after to Lutheranism. Of course this was disastrous for his work as church commissions and a promised job in Rome were withdrawn. Travelling to Genoa he enjoyed the patronage of several noblemen which briefly saved him from the church's notice. By 1544 the situation had however become untenable. He briefly considered travelling to Poland where other Italian 'heretics' had gone but was eventually convinced to take the offer of transport to Leifia.

From the 1300s onwards Leifia had sought out Italians to provide an artistic sheen to the mostly functional workmanship of its native craftsmen. Italian architects designed its fortresses, Italian armourers kept the armies provided with cutting edge designs and Italian artists had painted its nobles and royalty. Italy would even provide some of its less-venal bishops.

Snaedis II in Orange and Green, 1562

Odoni arrived in Fjallasay in Autumn 1544 with his wife Violetta and son Jacopo and quickly found employment. The new Lutheran church in Vinland was largely uninterested in the votive pictures which had provided much of his previous employment but the wealthy nobles were eager to have their portraits or allegorical works painted to decorate the new manor houses being built, especially in the newest Italian style. Odoni would spend years as the guest of one earl after another, painting anyone rich enough to afford the artwork, as well as completing many fine historical portraits which often ended up as gifts to the crown.

Portrait of a Young Man, 1542

The religious situation in Vinland was still in flux however. The still Catholic parts of Vinland such as the island monastaries of St. Peter and St. Paul were eager to reinforce the glory of their faith and commissioned fine new altarpieces and. Meanwhile he was overseeing the production of woodcuts portraying the Catholic church as fit only for sinners and the hell-bound.

In the 1550s he set up his own studio in Fjallasay, training a generation of artists, including the miniaturist Kári Bjornsson and Kristján Reynirsson. His son Jacopo briefly trained with him too but found his talents lay more in selling his father's works rather than producing his own.

By the late 1560s Odoni had more and more trouble finding buyers for his work. The Leifian Wars of Religion had closed off the market for religious works and outward displays of wealth (like buying expensive portraiture) were being targeted by the state's tax collectors. He would end his career making woodcuts for pamphlets before dying in 1571

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