Giuliano Zasso was born in Castellavazzo in the province of Belluno in 1833. There is still little information to help us reconstruct his biography: it is certain that he trained at the Accademia di Belle Arti in Venice, which he began attending in 1853, at the age of twenty.
A still little-known biography
It is almost certain that after winning his artistic pension, he went to Rome to perfect his art during the 1860s. This is confirmed by the pensioner’s essay sent to the Accademia di Venezia in 1864, The First Parents Tempted by Satan and Defended by Angels. In 1874, he was a substitute teacher in the chair of painting and nude painting at the Venetian Academy, becoming full professor shortly afterwards.
Sacred subjects and genre scenes
Among the few known paintings by Giuliano Zasso is a Saint John the Evangelist painted for the parish church of his birthplace Castellavazzo, in which he shows that he studied and assimilated the compositional and stylistic approach of Michelangelo Grigoletti.
Grigoletti, using a purist language, painted numerous altarpieces for churches in the Veneto and Friuli between the 1920s and 1850s. Although with a looser lexicon and freer chromaticism, due to the Roman updating and the advance of the times, Giuliano Zasso inherited Grigoletti’s language, at least as far as sacred works were concerned.
In fact, there is a whole other line of production by the Venetian painter that departs from religious subjects. This is a series of genre paintings, of which we also have evidence from the works exhibited at the 1883 National Exhibition in Rome, where he presented the two genre subjects Wandering musicians in Venice and Swimming in Venice.
Preparations for the Masked Ball
Preparations for the Masked Ball naturally belongs to the same production and in particular to the strand of reconstruction in 18th-century costume. Neo-eighteenth-century art, with its captivating scenography and rich, brilliant colours, was much appreciated by the foreign market, which was especially accustomed to fashionable painting, in which cheerful, anecdotal genre subjects conveyed pleasantness and lightness.
These same elements are the protagonists of Giuliano Zasso’s small genre painting, which, with graceful execution and atmospheric and drawing subtleties, shows us the fervent preparations for a masked festival. The splendid and precious workmanship of the fabrics of the garish dresses and lace, arranged by the maid, is well matched by the geometric perspective of the beautiful carpet and the optically precise and lively details that focus on the sumptuous furnishings of the room.
A console table with a mirror holds a jewellery box, an oriental vase and a glass bell, a typical and inevitable piece of furniture in the aristocratic salons of the time, with a floral composition inside. In the foreground, the two maidens are preparing for the ball, illuminated by the rustling and delightful movements of the fabrics, the symbol of a century of pleasure, elegance and vaporosity.