(b Venice, c.1480; d Loreto, 1556/7). Venetian painter. According to his own testimony he was born in Venice, and Vasari suggests that he was trained there, but he worked in many other places, had an idiosyncratic style, and stands somewhat apart from the central Venetian tradition. He is first recorded in 1503 in Treviso, where he was based until 1506. He then had a period in central Italy, during which he worked for Julius II (Giuliano della Rovere) in the Vatican (nothing survives by him there).
From 1513 to 1525 he worked mainly in Bergamo, then returned to Venice. He remained there until 1532, then was peripatetic for the rest of his career, working mainly in various towns in the Marches. In 1554, when he was partially blind, he became a lay brother at the monastery at Loreto, where he died. (These movements are unusually well documented because his account book for the period 1538–54 survives, together with numerous letters from the earlier part of his career.) Lotto's rootless existence reflects his anxious, difficult temperament, and his work is extremely uneven. It draws on a wide variety of sources, from northern Europe as well as Italy, but at the same time shows acute freshness of observation. He is now perhaps best known for his portraits, in which he often conveys a mood of psychological unrest (Young Man in his Study, c.1527, Academy, Vienna), but he worked mainly as a religious painter (occasionally in fresco). An outstanding example of how original and poetic his altarpieces could be is the Annunciation (c.1527, Pinacoteca Civica, Recanati), a bizarre and captivating work full of brilliant colours and lighting effects, odd expressions and poses, and unusual and beautifully painted details, including a startled cat. For centuries his work was little regarded, but a book on him by Bernard Berenson (1895) marked a revival of his fortunes.
Text Source: The Oxford Dictionary of Art and Artists (Oxford University Press)