Giacomo Serpotta was born on March 10, 1656 in the district of Kalsa in Palermo. He is the second of three sons – Giuseppe and Gaspare Serpotta and Antonina Travaglia are his brothers.
For generations his family have been in the circle of baroque artists (mostly sculptors and shapers); father Gaspare and grandfather Giacomo were famous marble workers and sculptors.
When he was 21, art connoisseurs already perceived him highly for architectural decoration with stucco. In February 1677, he showed his talent in decorating the church Madonna dell’Itria in Monreale.
In the next 50 years, Giacomo Serpotta adorned numerous churches, chapels and oratories of Palermo with commissions in the other Sicilian cities of Alcamo and Agrigento too.
The sculptural art of Giacomo Serpotta is essentially based on the stucco technique, a mixture of slaked lime and plaster, used in Palermo until the second half of the 1600s to decorate minor parts of altars and chapels. He brought a fundamental innovation, consisting of the so-called “allustratura” (shine), namely a final layer of stucco and marble dust apt to give more shine and whiteness to the sculptures.
Serpotta’s personality overcame the Sicilian artists of his time. His relievos reflects in part the Roman Baroque sculpture, to which he gave a personal mark of lightness and delicacy; the shapes are elongated and sinuous, moved by a grace that already preludes clearly to Rococo.