Bitti, Bernardo

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Jesuit painter; b. Camerino, Italy, 1548; d. Lima, Peru, 1610. Bitti took up painting at an early age. When he was 20, he joined the Society of Jesus in Rome as a brother. In 1568 the Jesuits went to Peru, where there was a need for religious who were skilled in trades and crafts. When word reached Rome from Lima that a painter was needed, Bitti, who was the best one available, was sent to Peru. He arrived in Lima in 1575 and went to work there. In 1583 he traveled to Cuzco as a painter, and later, to La Paz, Potosí, and Chuquisaca. He did most of his work in Juli, Peru, a town on Lake Titicaca, where the Jesuits had established missions to convert the Aymara people.

Bitti's work is representative of Italian mannerism. He painted in tempera with the delicacy of the followers of Michelangelo and Raphael. In his paintings, considered to be very fine, line and cool colors predominate and show a shared influence with Vasari. His work was a major influence in South America, especially in Cuzco and the Audiencia of Charcas (Bolivia). In fact, the painters of Peru and Bolivia were faithful to mannerism for many years after that style had disappeared in Europe. Bitti also influenced the Quito school through the Dominican painter Pedro bedÓn.

At his death Bitti was esteemed for both his virtue and his talent. Among his surviving works are the canvasses of a retable dedicated to San Ildefonso in the church of San Miguel, Sucre. A number of examples of his paintings exist in Juli. His paintings of the "Coronation of the Virgin" are in both Cuzco and Lima. One of his followers was Gregorio Gamarra, who worked in Potosí and Cuzco from 1601 to 1628.

Bibliography: j. de mesa and t. gisbert, Bernardo Bitti (La Paz, Bolivia 1961); Historia de la pintura cuzqueña (Buenos Aires 1962). m. s. soria, La pintura del siglo XVI en Sudamérica (Buenos Aires 1956).

[j. de mesa/

t. gisbert]