Francesco ZERILLI 1793-1837

Francesco Zerilli began his artistic career under the guidance of Francesco Ognibene (1785-1837), focusing his attention on figurative painting. He then moved on to landscape subjects which he studied for three years under Giuseppe Patania (1780-1852).

He also trained under Giuseppe Velasco (1750-1827), a major figure in Sicilian neoclassicism, who was fundamental for his artistic maturity. He then finally moved on to landscapes, becoming the foremost vedutismo artist in Palermo at the beginning of the 19th century.

It was this genre that won him the favour of the critics and buyers: his temperas became immediately popular with the public that was made up of both Sicilian nobles and tourists in search of souvenirs, but also by important foreign buyers such as the Austrian Emperor and the duke of Buckingham.

Continuing to dedicate himself to this painting genre, he experimented new techniques that helped him to obtain even brighter colours and an improved perspective rendering, thanks to the use of an optical chamber.  His subjects were mostly panoramic views of Sicily, with a distinguishing feature: his painstaking description of all the details in the picture and his characteristic chromatic choice of very bright colours.

This is how he is remembered by historian Agostino Gallo in his Saggio sui pittori siciliani. «He is the only one among our living painters who purposely uses tempera paints for his landscapes.  His subjects mainly focus on the views around Palermo, admired both by the locals and by foreigners, and he is praised by everyone for his accuracy  and masterful use of the paintbrush, for his intelligent perspective and the play of light and shadow and for the brightness of his colours».