Pieter De Witte


Pieter de Witte was born in Bruges in about 1548 and, when he was ten, he moved to Florence with his father Pietro di Elia, a tapestry-worker, who was summoned to the workshop established by Cosimo I de'Medici himself. Very few sources exist regarding his youth and his apprenticeship in Florence. After his father left Florence, between 1568 and 1571, at the end of his 10-year contract with the Medici, Pieter de Witte probably remained in Florence with his brothers Elia, a sculptor who died in 1574, and Cornelio, a personal guard of the Duke, but also a refined landscape painter. The first documented work by the artist – who enrolled in the Academy of the Art of Drawing in 1576, becoming an Academic in 1583 – is the altarpiece entitled "The Presentation of the Town of Volterra to the Virgin by its Patron Saints", which stands on the first altar on the right in the Cathedral. A few years later, this altarpiece was followed by the Adoration of the Shepherds and the Lament over the Lifeless Christ, his masterpiece, which date to 1580 and 1585, and which were originally located on the two altars in the Badia of San Giusto and San Clemente in Volterra, and which today have been transferred to the Town Art Gallery.

In 1585 he was commissioned to paint the fresco lunette with a Madonna and Child between S. Niccolò and S. Girolamo in the oratory of San Niccolò del Ceppo in Florence, and, between 1585 and 1586, he painted the Portrait of Giuliano de'Medici, Duke of Nemours for the Courtly Series in the first Corridor in the Uffizi.

In 1586, he left Florence to go to Munich, to work for the Wittelsbach family. Here he distinguished himself as a prolific and versatile court artist, by painting two large canvases depicting the Annunciation (1587) and the Martyrdom of Saint Ursula (1588), located on two lateral altars in the church of St. Michael in Munich. After the death of Federico Sustris, in 1599, he took his place as the official court painter, and devoted himself to a number of highly regarded series of cartoons for the ducal tapestry workshop, founded in 1604 with professional tapestry-workers from Flanders. Starting in 1612, he also received a commission to create several canvases to be mounted on the ceilings of the Residenz in Munich, which were carried out with the help of several collaborators. Unfortunately, most of these canvases were destroyed during the Second World War. In 1617, he was again commissioned to produce a series of canvases for the Castle of Schleißheim, not far from the capital city of Bavaria.

In 1620, Candido created his most important and masterly work of art, the gigantic altarpiece representing the Assumption of the Virgin, for the high altar of the Frauenkirche in Munich. He died some years later, in 1628, in Munich.