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Jacopo da Ponte suffered an unhappy fate. He painted in Venice as the same time as Titian and Tintoretto. He despondently returned to his nearby native town, whose name, Bassano, became his own because he rarely signed his work, and when he did, merely brushed the modest words, "Jack, by the bridge at Basson." After almost four centuries of neglect, Bassano finally began getting recognition. He was the first Italian to paint gentle landscapes that resembled the actual country, instead of arranged scenery.
Jacopo's father was a painter, and the son handled brushes from childhood, adding touches to his father's canvases. He was only 15 when he left Bassano to be apprenticed in Venice to Bonifazio de Pitati, who had the disconcerting and unhelpful habit of locking himself in his studio when he was painting. Jacopo proved resourceful, peeping through the keyhole "to learn the master's methods and copy his works." The atmosphere of Venice was not to Jacopo's taste, and when his father died, he went back home, serenely painting by the peaceful bridge over the Brenta. Unlike Venice, the town of Bassano appreciated his work so much that he was exempted from paying city taxes. His "Adoration" was so successful that the church decreed that the painting never be removed and it is still there on the wall at San Giuseppe Church.
Jacopo lived simply in Bassano. He cultivated herbs, played the flute and trained all four of his sons to be painters. Since they all used the name Bassano, as well as his father, a son-in-law, a grandson and great-grandson, it took a few centuries to sort out Jacopo's work from the rest of the family's.
Written and compiled by Jean Ershler Schatz, artist and researcher from Laguna Woods, California.
Time Magazine, August 19, 1957