Painter Giovanni Antonio Pellegrini was born on 29 April 1675 in Venice where his father was a glove maker. He worked in Moravia and Vienna in the early 1690s, and visited Rome from 1699 to 1701. He arrived in England in 1708 in company of fellow Venetian painter Marco Ricci having been invited by the opera-loving British ambassador at Venice, Charles Montagu, 4th Duke of Manchester.
After their arrival, the pair worked on the decoration of the hall and staircase at Manchester House, Arlington Street, and on scenery for two Queen’s Theatre (Haymarket) opera productions of 1709. Pellegrini and Ricci’s arrival ushered in a flowering of Venetian decorative painting which lasted until the early 1730s, when the taste for ‘barochetto’ changed for Palladianism.
Pellegrini’s entry into England’s artistic circles was confirmed in 1711, when he became a founder-member and director of Godfrey Kneller’s Academy in Great Queen Street. Pellegrini was Wren’s favoured candidate for the decoration of the dome of St Paul’s Cathedral, though for nationalistic and religious reasons the commission was given to the Protestant James Thornhill. Pellegrini left London for Düsseldorf in 1713 (he returned for another spell in London in 1719). He died in November 1741.