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 Francesco Cairo  (c. 1598 - 1665)

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Lived/Active: Italy      Known for: Portrait, history, religious and genre painting

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Francesco Del Cairo is primarily known as Francesco Cairo

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Francesco Del Cairo, Francesco Cairo, Pier Francesco Cairo, Il Cavaliere Del Cairo (c. 1598-1665)

A religious painter, he is mostly known for his seductive, quasi erotic depictions of female saints and heroines.  A celebrated court painter in Turin, del Cairo frequently painted dark biblical and historical subjects that bordered on the macabre

He was born, in Varese, around 1598 and was baptized in the church of Santo Stefano in Brolio in 1607.  Cairo was influenced by G. B. Crespi, Tanzio da Varallo, Guido Reni, and Bernardo Strozzi.   In 1633, Cairo moved to Turin to work as a court painter to Vittorio Amedeo I of the House of Savoy and in 1634, he was  made Knight in the Order of Sts. Laurazo and Maurizio. 

Between 1637-1638, Cairo traveled to Rome, where he encountered the works of Pietro da Cortona, Guido Reni and of the Caravaggisti.  On November 19, 1639 he married Ludovica Piossasca di Scalenghe in Varese and spent the following years until 1644 working in Varese and Milan, when Christina of France, the widow of the Duke of Savoy, ordered his return to Turin. 

He painted an altarpiece for Savigliano and the church of San Salvario.  By 1650, he had settled once again in Milan fulfilling commissions from churches for altar pieces.

He died in Milan in 1665.

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