The son of a landscape and trompe l’oeil painter, Vittore Ghislandi was born in Bergamo in about 1655. At the age of twenty, after he had learnt the basics of painting from his father, he moved to Venice where he became a pupil of the portraitist Sebastiano Bombelli, and where he became a monk in the Order of St Francis of Paola. He returned to Bergamo only early in the 18th century and then spent a further period in Milan, training with Salomon Adler, a portraitist of international tastes, from whom he obtained his solemn settings for the exuberant full-length portraits of his initial period.
Settling down definitively in the convent of Galgario in Bergamo, from which he got his nickname, the painter spent the entire first three decades of the 18th century making increasingly informal paintings, abandoning the formal stances of official portrait painters in favour of more spontaneous poses.
By gradually refining his already innate skills in portraying facial features, psychological investigation and in social and other forms of classification of his sitters, Ghislandi followed on from Moroni and created some intense portraits which even had their influence on the austere but unaffectedly popular works of Giacomo Ceruti from Brescia.