Art of The Berlin Galleries – Florentine Paintings Of The 16th Century

The highest development of art in Italy took place in the sixteenth century. Of course the century mark does not denote the dividing line between the Early Renaissance and the High Renaissance. Some men working towards the end of the fifteenth century reached already forward in expression, while some working in the sixteenth century still retained the flavour of the fifteenth. There was a transition period. But when art had flowered to its highest bloom we discover just as distinguishing marks between the High and the Early Renaissance as between the Early Renaissance and the Gothic or Primitive period of the fourteenth century. The Gothic period had been pietistic; the Early Renaissance studied nature and the antique, which materialized art with force and character, and gave it full possession of form and movement; the High Renaissance attained to elegance, grace, beauty, and the full complement of colour. Its ideal had become beauty, for its own sake and regardless of its theme.

The many local schools of the Quattrocento had with increasing intercourse of communication gradually influenced and worked upon one another, and in the Cinquecento we find but two remaining which materially differed in aim and aspiration. The Florentines were draughtsmen above all. They always retained a certain severity and austerity, being exact and intellectual. The Venetians were more sensuous and luxurious, and sought pictorial beauty through colour — not merely the colour of trivial decoration„ but the splendour of the sublime masses of chromatic modelling.

The High Renaissance is not represented in the Kaiser Friedrich Museum to the extent of the earlier periods, and can in no wise be compared with the wealth of the Dresden Gallery. The Solly Collection contained works of this period only of the second or third rank, and the acquisition of important examples was already difficult in the forties of the last century when Waagen did his utmost to fill the gaps. Since then the competition of private collectorship made it well-nigh impossible to purchase the few valuable works that appeared in the market. Still a few noteworthy examples of the greatest men of the High Renaissance enable us to continue our studies of Italian art.

On the long wall to our left on entering Gallery 45 we find a remarkable work, a ” Resurrection of Christ ” (90B), that has given rise to much controversy. The composition is an unusual one and shows the Lord rising from the red granite tomb, whereof the slab has been hurled aside. The body soars, as it were, heavenward with uplifted hands, one holding a long staff with a banneret. The white grave-clothes flutter about the body. On the rocky ground near the grave two youthful saints are kneeling, looking in silent adoration, but not with astonishment, at the rising form. To the right is St. Lucia, recognized by the plate which she holds in her hands on which her eyes are laid. To the left is St. Leonard, the patron saint of prisoners, with foot-irons lying by his side. A rock formation is built up around the tomb, while a beautiful landscape, intersected by a twining river, fills the background to the left.

Since this painting was acquired in 1821 with the Solly Collection it had lain neglected in the storage depot, until in 1884 Dr. Bode rescued it with the attribution of Leonardo da Vinci (1452-1519). The grounds on which Dr. Bode claimed this attribution were strong enough to convince many critics, although a few still regard the painting merely as a studio-work. It is certain that the figures of the two saints are typical creations of Leonardo. The fingers play an important role, for the artist loves best to declare himself with these. The characteristic profile of the young monk occurs in many of the master’s paintings and especially in his numerous drawings : the protruding, beautifully formed chin, the finely shaped mouth with slightly large upperlip, the perfectly modelled skull, and the expression of the features which show that trusting, self-losing adoration which we find in his painting of the Last Supper. The figure of St. Lucia also is a pure type of Leonardo. She kneels in a noble pose, the full-formed body be-speaking youthful health and energy; the full chin, the large mouth with the beautiful lips, the deep-lying eyes, the magnificent neck, and the look upward which is like Mona Lisa’s awakening all bear the mark of Leonardo’s touch. The landscape also is as a continuation of that in the Mona Lisa; and the subtle charm of the colour-gamut, the choice of olive tones next to green, the yellow with the red it all points to Leonardo’s brush.

The objections to this attribution lie against the soaring body, although even these weaken with constant study. We must acknowledge that the physiognomy is insipid and weak, the wide, stark staring of the eyes is exaggerated, and the body, like an arrow leaving the bow, is disturbing and unlike the fine judgment which Leonardo exercises in his most emphatic motions. The real insignificance of this body is not in harmony with the magnificent figures at the bottom of the painting, nor with the remainder of the composition, and we may surmise that Leonardo, who so rarely finished a picture, left also this incomplete for a pupil to finish — with little gratifying success.

Leonardo was the earliest of the great Florentines who reached that pitch of perfection which has never been surpassed. Others may stand be-side him on the mountain top, but none has ever scaled a loftier height. This marvellous, many-sided genius, who was a great mathematician and machinist, a physiologist, a chemist, an engineer, an inventor whose devices are still in use, like the saws employed to-day in the quarries of Carrara — this witty, graceful poet, with the beauty of an Apollo, was the first perfect painter among the moderns. To paint the eternal norm of reality shrouded in seductive ripples of enigmatic mystery was the perfection of his achievement. He had a feeling for beauty and significance that has scarcely ever been approached, nothing that he touched but turned into a thing of eternal beauty, life-communicating. His mind of power so versatile and penetrating has created works that might elude our grasp because of their curious questioning and their feelings so sensitively delicate, so preternaturally refined — they also present in most tangible shapes the most beauteous visions of the realm of dreams.

Flanking this ” Resurrection ” is a large altar-piece, ” Virgin Enthroned with Saints ” (246), by Andrea del Sarto (1488-1530). It was painted two years before his death and shows the master in the highest fruition of his talent and powers. The architectonic setting is a niche, in which the Madonna, holding the child, is seated as in a shrine, with steps ascending to this throne. Coming up these steps, and only showing their half-figures are St. Celsus and St. Giulia, and on the broader top-step are grouped on the one side St. Peter holding the key, St. Benedict in his white habit, with the aged St. Onofrius, kneeling naked and bent over a crutch. On the other side of the throne we see St. Marc, St. Anthony of Padua, and the wonderfully beautiful St. Catharine of Alexandria, who also kneels, and in her beautiful gown of rich colours forms a striking contrast to the wretched, decrepit nude of the grey hermit.

The importance of a painting by del Sarto containing twelve figures may be estimated, but the work is still more striking for its merit than for its size. The original and learned composition, the elevated and grand style, the vigorous expression are joined with that quality in which del Sarto excelled all Florentines. He was the greatest colourist among them, the only one who thought his composition in colour, not in line. Here red, in four fine tints, is the dominating key, and the harmony of the olive-green and the bright violet in Giulia’s dress is captivating. The only disturbing element in his earlier works is here totally absent. Often we note his figures to be obviously statuesque, and the voluminous draperies arranged and rearranged, almost smothering the persons they cover. In this highest attainment these excesses fail, and there is a quiet reserve and dignity in this work which made Vasari consider it to be the greatest masterpiece which del Sarto has produced.

In the kneeling St. Catharine Andrea has introduced his wife, Lucrezia del Fede, who was renowned for her beauty, but whose coquettishness and shrewishness made her the demon of the artist’s life.

The Italians called him, ” il pittore senza errori,” or ” the faultless painter.” They meant by this that in all the technical requirements of art, in drawing, composition, handling of fresco and oils, disposition of draperies, and feeling for light and shadow, he was above criticism. His silver-grey harmonies and liquid blendings of cool yet lustrous hues have a charm peculiar to himself alone. But he lacked what made da Vinci greater — inspiration, depth of emotion, energy of thought. We are apt to feel that even his best pictures were designed with a view to solving an aesthetic problem.

A half-length portrait of a young scholar (245), hanging next, is by Andrea’s intimate friend and pupil Franciabigio (1482-1525), a genuine Florentiner, whose strongly demarked lines depict with freedom and boldness. The thoughtful, serious face of this youth is turned full towards us. A two-pointed, soft felt hat covers the straggling hair. The sleeves of the black doublet are very large and stand out in cumbersome folds; one hand rests on a writing-desk, the other holds a pen. A softly painted, dreamy evening landscape forms the background. Another portrait of a youth (245A), although attributed to Franciabigio, can scarcely have come from the same hand. The pose of the head produces a disagreeable neck-contortion, and the expression of the face is ferociously morose.

Franciabigio’s pupil, Francesco Ubertini (1494-1557), was later influenced by Leonardo. A casone front represents the ” Baptism of Christ ” (267), where the Messiah in view of a large multitude receives the sacred rite from the Baptist. The landscape setting is remarkably naturalistic.

A large altarpiece, ” Assumption of Mary ” (249), is by Fra Bartolommeo (1472-1517), the last of the pietists in art, whose feeling still rests with the early men, but whose execution led people much against his will — away from the religious symbol to the admiration of sensuous beauty. The Apostles and the Magdalene kneel around the grave among roses and lilies as Mary ascends, sup-ported by the crescent and surrounded by angels making music. There is purity and nobility of style in this work, joined to brilliancy of colouring, with a tendency towards employing too much red, with truth and elegance in the draperies.

The great contribution made by Fra Bartolommeo to the art of Italy was in the matter of composition. He exhibited for the first time a thoroughly scientific scheme of grouping based on geometrical principles. Simple figures — the pyramid and the triangle, upright, inverted and inter-woven — form the basis of the composition of his pictures, which acquire a grasp of the monumental such as no other paintings possess. This science of rhythmical composing communicated an impulse which was felt by all that followed him and affected their work to a greater or less extent. Aside of this grand sentiment in art, however, Fra Bartolommeo does not rank with the greater masters. His pictures are the result of thought rather than of observation. He was careless in his types, with little characterization, slovenly drawing, and care-less generalizing.

We will now turn to the opposite wall, to the right of the door, which is occupied by a collection of five of Raphael’s paintings, all Madonnas of his early period. Three of these are yet distinctly Peruginesque, while two date from his Florentine residence, from 1504 till 1508.

Raphael (1483-1520) is the most famous and most beloved name in Italian art. It stands for the ideal of spiritual beauty in human form yet was Raffaelo Sanzio da Urbino not the greatest artist. His genius was to please. Little more than this is found in the best of his works, even in the Stanza and Loggia of the Vatican, but he does please with a grace, elegance, elevation of style which has never been rivalled. Therefore he may be called the most popular artist that ever lived. One whose popularity has never died, and whose thousands of imitators seek to this day to win the same public favour — although with them beauty becomes prettiness.

Michelangelo was the grander and more powerful; Titian and Veronese lift us with the world’s full pride and splendour; Rembrandt, Constable, Velasquez, Turner have the noble strength that invigorates and inspires Raphael’s temperament was Hesperidean, idyllic, and devoid of passion. He gives us the highest gratification of intellectual enjoyment which still leaves us calm, and never stirs the depths of our soul.

The thing that is most worthy of admiration in Raphael is a certain harmonious combination of all artistic excellences, such as is but rarely seen even in the greatest artists. In other men one gift or another predominates, in Raphael we find the various qualities of talented endowment incomparably equipoised. And the highest expression of this harmony is perfect beauty.

These early Madonnas which we find here are small half-figures, such as were popular as shrines for family devotions. They are still filled with Umbrian sentimentality. The small, pursing mouth, the innocently down-cast eyes, and the conventional composition have nothing impressive; some were painted after drawings of his paternal friend Pinturicchio.

The first is the socalled ” Madonna of the Collection Solly ” (141). The Madonna holds in her right hand a prayerbook, and with the other she touches lightly the little foot of the Child that sits in her lap. The little one, playing with a gold-finch, has turned its head and looks in the prayer-book with a rather precociously devout expression. In the heads we note yet a peculiar struggling with the form. The original drawing of Pinturicchio after which this panel was painted is in the Louvre.

A little later, about 1502, the three figure piece, ” Madonna with St. Francis and St. Jerome ” (145), was painted after the drawing by Pinturicchio, now in the Albertina in Vienna, with little modification. This is also weak, and St. Jerome makes the conventional movement of the hand to express astonishment which is an Umbrian stereo-type.

In the third panel, the ” Madonna della Casa Diotelevi ” (147), we find the same Peruginesque peculiarities in the Child and the little John, but a slight individual advancement in the Madonna, a tall, long-necked young woman, with oval face, round, slightly protruding eyelids, and small chin.

When Raphael came to Florence he took new impressions. The conventional gradually disappeared and he began, without devotional sentiment, to present the lovely fellowship of mother and child. The finest one of his works in Berlin is the “Madonna del Duco di Terranuova” (247A), painted about 1505. In a landscape with wooded rocks, with a city with churches and towers in the distance on the left, and a blue sky overhead, sits the Madonna, looking lovingly on the Child. Jesus is stretched in her lap and has raised himself to accept a narrow scroll with Ecce Agnus Dei, which the little John offers him. Mary stretches her left hand with gentle warning towards a third child, probably the young evangelist John, who presses against her knee watching the other children. We find here Raphael’s first use of the pyramidical form of composition, introduced by Fra Bartolommeo, and which he thereafter generally adopted. The landscape is of a riper development, and the general impression which this tondo gives comes very near to those in Paris, London, and Vienna.

Towards the end of his Florentine sojourn, in 1508, Raphael designed the so-called ” Madonna di Casa Colonna ” (248). The bright colour and the absence of shadows show that the work is not completed. Crowe and Cavalcaselle even declare that only the drawing is by Raphael, and the painting, as far as it went, was done by a pupil. The scene is rather animated. The Christ-child has become quite a boy, who is no longer satisfied to be quietly in his mother’s lap, and turns and twists to get on his feet. With one hand he takes hold of the mother’s shoulder and the other clutches the breast-band of her dress. With amused pride she looks down on the playing boy, while she holds the prayerbook one of Raphael’s first motives out of harm’s way. The landscape background is only slightly indicated.

At Parma there appeared with the beginning of the century the greatest painter, but not the greatest artist, of the Cinquecento, Antonio Allegri, called Correggio (1494-1534). On the wall to the right of the Raphael wall hangs Correggio’s famous ” Leda with the Swan ” (218).

This is one of four paintings illustrating the erotic Zeus mythology, which the artist painted for the Duc Frederico II Gonzaga, of Mantua. The ” Danae hangs now in the Galleria Borghese, and both the ” Io ” and the ” Ganymed ” in Vienna. There is a deep cosmic significance underlying these stories which Correggio has so graphically portrayed the overshadowing, fructifying power of the supreme, divine force descending on nature’s four elements, on Earth in Io, on Water in Leda, on Air in Ganymed, and on Fire in Danae.

The love-scene in the Leda is played in three parts. On one side we see Leda pursued by the Swan whom she coquettishly repulses. In the centre is that wonderfully conceived group of the Swan’s embrace, and then again we see her emerging from the water where two maidens run to cover her, as she is still looking back with a naive expression of gratified delight after the royal bird which is flying away. In the left corner two little love-gods are desporting themselves. All these various scenic elements are united by the back-ground of magnificent trees and foliage, the colour-scheme being further enhanced by the light blue and the rose of the garments of the two servant maidens. In the marvellous colour of rosy pink of the nude figures, the play of light and shade through the foliage, the brilliant white of the Swan, the deeper tones of the trees, sings the most wonderful colour-harmony ever conceived. For Correggio was the greatest colourist, even surpassing therein the Venetians.

Correggio introduces us to ancient grace and pagan voluptuousness, but his wantonness is innocent, because unconscious of sin, and his sensuous imagining does not disturb the serenity of his soul. He is unique in that he ventures to unite the highest idealism clothed in the most ardent beauty with earthly realism in an indissoluble blend. In a way shut off from Florence and Venice he still rivalled in craftsmanship the greatest wielders of the brush in either place, with faultless draughtsmanship, unexcelled chiaroscuro, in one word the most perfect technique.

The pictures of the Milan group of painters are on the wall divided by the door from the Raphael wall.

Vincenzo Foppa had started a school in Milan in the fifteenth century, but the Milanese always seem to have been dependent on Florentine influences. Thus the residence in Milan of Leonardo da Vinci, from 1482 until 1492, created a number of followers who sought to perpetuate his type and methods. The most characteristic example of the school here, which shows the manner wherein Leonardo’s charm of personal presentment is carried further to weakened sentimentality, is the ” Annunciation ” (213. Plate IX), by Gaudenzio Ferrari (1470-1546). The painting is of glowing colour with a golden sheen, with decorative curves and lines, and a charm of elegance that is perhaps carried somewhat too far. The maidenly modesty in the face of the Virgin is a lovely foil to the joy-bearing expression of the heavenly messenger. A comparison between Plates III and IX will show the development from the early to the later style of treatment of this subject.

Of more independent build was Antonio Boltraffio (1467-1516), whose ” St. Barbara ” (207) is a somewhat sterner presentation of the Leonardesque type. The saint, a noble, stately figure, faces the onlooker; her hair is encircled with a graceful diadem and flows down over her shoulders ; her dress falls in long, full folds down to the ground. In the background is the tower from which she was cast, according to the legend.

A closer follower again of Leonardo was Marco d’Oggione (1470-1530), whose ” St. Sebastian” (210A), however, is not enjoyable, with the sharp, withered tree-branches sticking into the air. The attempt to rival Leonardo’s nude painting is apparent, but unsuccessful.

Leonardo’s most intimate friend and heir to his literary work was Francesco Melzi (1491-1566), a young man of noble family. His ” Vertumnus and Pomona ” (222) is the only mythological work of these Milanese. Under an elm around which a vine is winding sits Pomona, a lovely figure with a transparent veil clingingly draped around her well-moulded form. Around her mouth plays that same quizzical smile which we find in the Mona Lisa, giving the face an indefinable charm. She holds a small basket with fruit at her side on the seat. The scene is taken from Ovid’s Metamorphoses where Vertumnus, the god of the seasons, in the guise of an old woman, seeks to win the charming goddess of the garden, and when she accepts the endearments of her elderly friend changes into the form of a. handsome youth, which does not change the maiden’s submissiveness.

One of the best pupils of Leonardo was Sodoma (1477-1549), who after his training went south and settled in Siena, where he somewhat revived that old school which in early times had been so important, but had long since gone into decay. Still the revival of art there was but slight. Sodoma’s ” Caritas” (109) is an early work of’ great charm. The half-draped figure of the woman representing Charity, who carries a small child, while two others press at her knees, looms somewhat large and statuesque above the surrounding landscape. The modelling is firm, and the nude upper part of the body has fine flesh colour.

In Gallery 30 we have already seen two portraits by Bronzino, the late Florentine portrait painter. Two more hang here, whereof one presents the counterfeit of Count Ugolino Martelli (338A), a famous humanist of his time. The young man sits in the courtyard of his palace, dressed in black velvet, and a barette covering his close-cut hair. His delicate, pale hands are not used to handle the broad-sword but fondle the bright blue-leather binding of his incunabili. Behind him is seen the marble statue of David, by Donatello, which to this day is found in the Palazzo Martelli. For nobility of conception, purity of drawing, and delicate brushwork this is one of the finest works in Italian portraiture.

The other portrait of a young man (338) seated on a stone bench and holding a letter in his hand, is as simple in composition and vital expression.

Before we leave this room we must tarry a moment before the marble statue of the youthful John the Baptist, which stands in the centre of the room, and is attributed to Michelangelo (1474-1564). It was acquired in 1875, in Italy, because the Italians did not regard it as a genuine work of the great sculptor —a doubt still shared by a large number of connoisseurs. The mobility of the figure is somewhat against the attribution, even though it might be an early work. Vasari speaks of a statue of John of 1496, and before that year the work of Michelangelo bears a strong dependence on Jacopo della Quercia. The pose is beautiful enough as the youth stands gazing at the honey-comb which he holds in his left hand. The right hand is gracefully raised before his left breast, and is said to have held the cross-staff without which the forerunner was never seen. All earlier statues of John have a more spiritual motif, its absence here is a strong argument in favour of the great master’s handiwork. The beauty of the lines, the firmness of the modelling, the strength of the pose, despite its grace, makes one wonder who else could have chiselled this remarkable statue.


This gallery contains the Venetian paintings of the High Renaissance. If Raphael’s name has been called the most famous and best beloved name in Italian art, Titian’s name is the greatest.

Tiziano Vecellio (1477-1576) is the supreme genius in that vast arena of pictographers who for three centuries have created on wall and panel what makes Italy to-day the art-palace of the world. Titian’s was not a nervous force, rather an observing one. First trained in the soulful feeling of Giambellini’s last years, then influenced by Giorgione’s soft, restful and yet free improvizations, Titian quietly developed by the strength of inherent genius to surmount ever new possibilities that led to the ultimate perfection of his art. His greatest power was in colour — for he was a Venetian — in which from the glowing local colour of Bellini he ascended to the marvellous chiaroscuro of his latest work. In his technical as in his spiritual qualities he had the greatest mastery of art — there is no faint fleck upon the sun of his just splendour.

The Kaiser Friedrich Museum shows four works by Titian, all portraits, and in portraiture Titian has accomplished the greatest marvels. When we compare the wonderfully rich, lifelike presentations by this Titan with those of others of the greatest portrait painters, we note that in their work always the artist himself appears with Titian never. With van Dyck the impenitently perfunctory nobility of his sitters must in the end weary; with Rubens the ever present floridity bespeaks the master; with Rembrandt there is a varying of expression, from the Anatomy Lesson to his last self-portraits which is a mirror of moods; with Hals, except in his greatest group-pictures, we always detect bravura; even with Velasquez there is a note of the aristocratic painter that pervades his subjects. Titian’s portraits are nature unqualified. The persons themselves appear, just as they are, bodily and spiritually, without emendation or addition. The reality of their existence is startlingly convincing.

He has painted himself here (163) when seventy-five years old. A black velvet cap covers the hair and frames the solid skull. The full beard is grizzly, the bushy eyebrows hang over fiery, attentive eyes. The pose, one hand resting on his thigh, the other on the green covered table, shows him as if seated in conversation with some one, the lips ready to open for retort. The background is a quiet flat colour, his silk doublet shimmers, and a long-haired, black fur coat is thrown over his shoulders.

As a contrast we look at the portrait of a child (160A), the little daughter of Roberto Strozzi, which is one of the most delightful child-pictures ever painted. The Strozzi, one of the wealthiest families in Italy, had to leave Florence on account of their revolutionary activity against Cosimo de Medici, and had sought refuge in Venice, where Roberto had Titian paint the portrait of his daughter in 1542. The child is about four years old. She stands at the side of a tabouret, on which sits her pet dog, which she fondles as she looks with slightly turned head out of the picture. The child is. exquisitely charming with its red-brown curl-head and chubby arms. She is dressed in all the pomp of a rich heiress, with a frock of white silk, a pearl string around her neck, and a jewelled girdle from which is suspended a rattle set with precious stones. Through the window behind her is seen a lovely landscape of hills and dales.

The finest female portrait Titian ever painted is that of his daughter ” Lavinia ” (166 Frontispiece). There is little of inner feeling about the face, and the fact that the father painted her about the same time as Salome, which picture is now in Madrid, suggests that he was satisfied to use her merely as a model of blooming female beauty, possibly being aware that no exceeding spiritual qualities existed. As a type, however, of female beauty she is wonderful. The girl is carrying a large silver dish, loaded with fruit and flowers and held high before her, and looks back at us over her shoulder. The grace of this pose is rhythmically charming. The face, although with little expression, is very beautiful, with its big, dark eyes, budding lips, and waving auburn hair, clasped by a jewelled diadem.

The excellent portrait of a young man (301) was painted some twenty-five years earlier, about 1525, and was formerly ascribed to Tintoretto, until, being cleaned, Titian’s genuine signature became visible.

The portrait of the Venetian admiral Giovanni Moro (161), which for long went by the name of Titian, must rather be ascribed to the Ferrarese Dosso Dossi. Two small panels with playing putti (159, 160) bear evidence of Titian’s studio.

Tintoretto, as Jacopo Robusti (1518-1592), that other giant of the Renaissance, was called, is shown here by six examples. This ” furious painter,” with all his clash and tumult, always working in the white heat of passion, was a master in line and colour. By his light-effects he changes a solitude into dreamland, and the immense energy of his figures acts as a bracing tonic to the eye weary of what is commonplace.

His ” Annunciation ” (298A) gives us at once the impression of the swish and swing of his creative power. Through a forehall we look to a portico and thence into the distant green of meadow and woods. The Virgin has risen from the reading of a pious book to welcome unafraid the heavenly messenger who enters on rolling clouds in flaming fire, ” Ecce ancilla domini.” How far is this big feeling and spacious conception removed from the narrow bonds of a Quattrocento work with its elaborate detail !

In his ” Mary with the Child adored by the Evangelists Marc and Luke ” (300) he seeks to carry us away by the mighty forms, the vivacious composition, and the powerful contrasts of light and shade. This work of his late period foretells the errors of excess into which the later Roman school was to fall.

His portraits belong entirely to his golden time, full of expression, and of broad, energetic treatment. The three portraits of Venetian Procurators (298, 299, 316) were votif-paintings which the new officials offered for the council-chamber at their installation.

His “Luna with the Horae ” (310) is a mythological composition of great decorative quality. The half-draped figures are perfectly formed and juxtaposed in light and shade-effect with remark-able power.

It is one of the marvels of the history of art that a man of such boundless productivity, such unlimited energy, such an all-embracing improvisation, should have accomplished works many of which are equal to Titian’s it is less of a marvel that Annibale Carracci justly said of him, “Tintoretto is often inferior to Tintoretto.”

Paolo Caliari, called Veronese (1528-1588), was as decorative as Tintoretto, but whereas the latter was dramatic, Paolo was scenic. The two men had much in common, their difference in temperament alone being accountable for the difference in their art. The scathing impetuosity of Tintoretto made his art passionate, daring, almost blinding. The amiability and gentleness of Veronese led identical qualities of art into scenes of splendour, overpoweringly pompous, of frank and joyous worldliness.

Veronese is shown here by four allegorical works prepared for the banquet hall of the German Merchants Club, the Fondaco de’ Tedeschi, in Venice. No. 303 is a conversazione between Germania, Jupiter and Fortuna; No. 304 portrays the victory of true religion over heresy by the aid of Saturn; No. 309 illustrates the martial prowess of Germania, as symbolized by Minerva and Mars; and No. 311 glorifies its musical powers, typified by Apollo and Juno. The design of these works has all the fertility of invention, ingenious arrangements and disposition of light which characterize the master, but the execution must have been made principally by assistants, for the colour is too flat to have been laid on by the wielder of such a florid brush as Paolo possessed.

The men who, only in comparison with these supreme masters, must be accorded a second rank in the hierarchy of art are in many ways almost equal to the greater lights. Palma Vecchio (1480-1528) was one of these. To him especially do we owe our knowledge of the Venetian beauties of his time by those delightful half-figures which express the full bloom of luxurious grace in beaming rays. They give a reflection of abiding youth and the untroubled joy of life — worldly Madonnas, divested of saintly folds and arrayed in all the opulent splendour which fashion prescribed at the moment, whereof rouge and bleached hair were a part. Whether the two female likenesses (197 A and B) are portraits or ideal heads we cannot tell. The emptiness of character which is a defect in his known portraits does not enable us to distinguish his portraits readily from his fanciful creations. They all give the impression of being women who are most attractive so long as they do not talk. The ” Portrait of a Man ” (174) has more vital expression, and of two Madonnas the earliest (31), still painted under Bellini’s influence, is interesting, while the other (183) is in the vacuous style of his handsome women.

Palma was not a great master in the full meaning of the term, he had neither the weight nor the versatility of Titian, nor the highest gifts of a colourist like Giorgione, nor the force or impetuosity of a Tintoretto. But he was very little behind these in the small field that he cultivated. He was the inventor of the Santa Conversazione, a kind of composition which quickly found great favour in Venice. These pictures, purporting to be the Holy Family, alone or with saints grouped around them, are in reality nothing but representations of the Venetians at their favourite recreation, a day’s picnic in the country. But in all his work he always betokens the superficiality of his artistic nature.

Lorenzo Lotto (1480-1556), Palma’s friend and fellow-worker, is represented here with two sacred subjects and one of his incomparable portraits. The ” Farewell of Christ to his Mother ” (325) must be a very early work, for the different style-influences to which Lotto was subjected in his years of travel are very manifest. The kneeling Christ and the fainting Mary are drawn with an excessive manifestation of grief, and the surrounding figures display their sorrow in a manner that seems decidedly affected. The perspective of the long hall with arches and porticoes gives a distant view of a walled garden bathed in light. Two altarwings (323) present St. Sebastian, pierced by arrows and bound to a tree, and St. Christopher, on the shore of a lake carrying the Christ-child on his shoulders. These figures, standing in pointed architectural arches, have good colour and are full of Venetian spirit.

The religious pictures of Lotto are marked by an intense fervour of a peculiar, paradoxical nature. His is a pathetic fancy in á most lively composition. His altarpieces breathe forth a lyrical, free, and almost joyous spirit still overshadowed by his own melancholic temperament, whereby he gives a sense of discomfort mingled with delight — in a word, a voluptuous solemnity sets them apart from all other sacred paintings.

But Lotto was at his best in his portraits, and the ” Portrait of an Architect ” (153) is one that in many respects comes near to Titian. The full-bearded man stands looking at us as he holds a scroll of paper in one hand, while the forefinger of the other hand, which holds a draughtsman’s compass, rests lightly on the end of the scroll. It seems as if the earnest, intellectual looking man is explaining something about the plan he has pre-pared. Lotto’s great psychological skill makes his portraits só marvellous.

Another portrait painter of Titian’s school was Paris Bordone (1500-1570), whose colour was gorgeous, as seen in his large altarpiece of the ” Madonna Enthroned, with Saints ” (191), al-though it lacks truth of form. The architectural symmetry is enlivened by the dexterous placing of the figures. The double portrait of two men playing chess (169) is better than the costume-plate of a red-haired lady (198), with a cherry-red gown and a white feather-barette, which is much like Palma’s work.

A very attractive, romantic picture, is by Giovanni Busi, called Cariani (1485-1550), a Giorgione follower, who came originally from Bergamo. The young lady, only dressed in a single flowing robe, has left yonder castle for a walk with her lap-dog, and has now reclined herself, with her back towards us, in the flowery mead. Sans gêne she allows the drapery to fall from her and leave her back, right arm and shoulder bare, and she looks around at us with a rather self-conscious impertinence. She is not the least disturbed by the exciting scenes she might view if she cared to look at these instead of us, for in the middle distance horsemen are fighting, in the hills a storm is raging with thunder and lightning, and farther yet a whole city is in flames. The picture may well have been an illustration to one of Ariosto’s exciting poems.

The much later Francesco da Ponte Bassano (1549-1592) is noted for his presentation of religious subjects in a very commonplace, ordinary way. His ” Good Samaritan ” (314), presented in a conventional manner, with the departing Levite in the distance, attracts most by the genrelike treatment of the minor details, principally of the domes-tic animals. His colouring is natural and brilliant.

From the Venetian territories, Friaul, Verona, Brescia, the men of Brescia are the most important, of whom Moretto was the strongest. Savoldo (1480-1548), also of Brescia, was a superficial painter, whose ” Burial of Christ ” (307A) pleases passingly by the effect of the setting sun, and the evening shadows playing in the foreground. His ” Venetian Lady ” (307) was one of the popular paintings of its day, often imitated or copied, even by men like Ludovico Carracci, by whom there is a copy of our picture in Warwick castle. It is a most attractive young girl whose sweetly smiling face peeps coquettishly from under the hood of the brownish yellow silk mantle that covers her.

Romanino (1485-1566) was a very uneven painter, often careless in execution. His ” Pieta ” (151) is much better than the ” Madonna and Child, with Saints” (157), which is an early work. The heavy heads, swollen bodies, and expressionless features of the saints are only slightly redeemed by the sweetness of Mary’s face and the charm of the fluttering cherubim around her. The Pieta excels in the exquisitely soft colouring and the lightness and swing of the composition.

The youngest and best of these Brescian painters was Alessandro Bonvicino, called Moretto (1498-1554), a man who stood quite apart from later Venetian influences, for his colour is far from bold or striking, rather delicate and with a silvery tone. The spirit of his work, also, is more elevated, and reminds of Giambellini’s devotion. We find here one of his acknowledged masterpieces, ” Mary and Elizabeth in Glory ” (197). Reclining on wide swinging clouds are Mary and Elizabeth with the Children and surrounded by cherubim. One of these is descending to carry a scroll to the donor, the Abbot Arnoldi, an aged cleric of reverent mien. Opposite him kneels a young frater, who lays his hand deprecatingly upon his breast as he looks up toward the heavenly vision. The white robes in which they are dressed stand out beautifully against the deep greys of the landscape background, while the low tones of the garments of the women rest harmoniously on the glowing yellow of the sky.

Of his only pupil, Giovanni Moroni, we have already seen two portraits (in Cabinet 33). A third hangs here, the ” Portrait of a Savant ” (193A), in a simple, dignified pose and quiet colour. Two other portraits hang on the same wall ; one by Sebastiano del Piombo is the portrait of a nobleman in the Knight’s dress of the Order of Santiago (259A), done in a noble, almost severe style, with vigorous colouring. The other is by Catena, a pupil of Giovanni Bellini, whom he imitated with great facility. His portrait here of Count Raimund Fugger (32) has quite a modern expression.

Two paintings remain yet to be mentioned. They are of especial interest because they are landscapes, and painted as such. The few mythological figures introduced do not in the least detract from the realistic scene of out-of-doors. Venice took an early start in picturing nature for its own sake. We recall the small coast-scene of Cima, and the landscape in the triptychon by the socalled Pseudo-Basaiti. With Giorgione and Titian the romanticism of natural settings becomes apparent, with Andrea Meldolla (1522-1563), called Schiavone, its realism becomes recognized. His ” Mountain Landscape ” (182A) shows a rough country with heights and clefts and hanging rocks, and clumps of trees scattered about. The ” Wood Landscape ” (182B) is a forest spread over rolling ground. On the one the punishment of Midas is added, but only as an accessory, on the other Diana is hunting with her nymphs.


The great age of Italian art extended from the beginning of the artistic career of Leonardo da Vinci to the close of the life of Titian with Raphael as the centre. The end of the sixteenth century brought the close of the golden era and the de-cadence of art in Italy. It seemed that all had been said. Invention had run dry, and those that came after only repeated the words the masters had spoken. And they made a selection of these pictorial utterances. No longer were they inspired by personal artistic feeling, they felt more the drawing of popular taste. They. did no longer form that taste as the great men had done. They were satisfied to take popular taste as they found it, and gratify it and pamper it. So they selected those qualities which had most appealed to the public — beauty first, and sentiment next. But beauty at second-hand soon becomes faded and stale, and sentiment, poured over, runs to sentimentality. These then became the characteristics of painting towards the end of the sixteenth century, and ruled throughout the next. The aim was universal imitation, instead of purity of form and power of personal expression. Grandeur of effect became the ideal — and so far it spelled decay in art.

One powerful factor moulded the art of the Seicento in a measure. After the Reformation in the north occurred the Spanish-Catholic counter-Reformation, and in the renewed Catholicism which followed the severe attacks and violent struggles of Protestantism the Church fostered a new religious enthusiasm. It did not strive for the development of personal spiritual life, but to assert more fully the supremacy of the Church. New saints, new miracles, festal-days, sacred Orders were created, the pomp and splendours of the Service were increased, churches were more gorgeously adorned, and artists were urged to use their best efforts in art —but not art for art’s sake, but for the cause of the Church; to portray its glories, the martyrdom of its saints, the beatification of its dignitaries. Thus we find in the religious art of the seventeenth century in Italy a total absence of mysticism and symbolism, but a theatrical-dramatic effect. Only such scenes were portrayed as would arouse the feelings of adoration, and instead of the Old and New Testament narrative, or the Madonna and Child, we get the Mater Dolorosa and the Ecce Homo, the tears and the crown of thorns.

All this sums up the character of the Bolognese school of that period. It has been called the school of the Eclectics. Its members started out to ” revive ” art, but by the strange process of selecting various characteristics which they considered to have been the best in different men; as Annibale Carracci himself expressed it, by combining Michelangelo’s line, Titian’s colour, Correggio’s light and shade, and Raphael’s symmetry and grace. The concoction, devoid of the genius of the men behind these characteristics, produced an olla podrida, which appeared to be very delectable at first, and was even considered high art up to within a half century ago, but is now regarded with little interest.

Since the true value of the art of Italy of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries was recognized when the Kaiser Friedrich Museum collection was being developed, no special steps were taken to increase greatly what was on hand of this period. A number of works in Gallery 47 amply show its tendency and the extent of its efficiency; nor does the absence of works by Carlo Dolci and some others mean a regrettable loss to our enjoyment.

The leader of this Eclectic school was Annibale Carracci (1560-1609), whose influence spread widely over Italy. His ” Crucifixion ” (364) bears close relations to Correggio’s work. His ” Mountainous Landscape ” (372) bears, however, evidence of some original conception. Few Italians appreciated out-of-doors nature, except as a setting, but Carracci loved it and even inspired his portrayal of it with an heroic feeling that was followed later by Domenichino and Poussin. A proud stronghold rears its battlements in the centre of the picture. The big arches of a bridge span a broad, rapidly flowing stream, leading the road towards a clump of trees in autumnal hues, all forming a striking contrast against the deep blue sky. There is an attempt even to paint the soft veil of atmosphere, which shows deep feeling for nature’s life.

His brother, Agostino Carracci (1557-1602), has a portrait here of the Marchesa Guicciardini, which is a noble presentation of the elderly lady, dressed in grey. It is a true and simply conceived human document, of straightforward execution, which does not yet savour of the Academic receipt of the later Bolognese school.

The best-known of the Carracci pupils was Domenichino Zampieri (1581-1641), but his style is timid, his apparently forceful and learned composition imitated, and his colour weak and muddy. Two pictures of St. Jerome (362, 376) show an unsatisfactory treatment of the nude. Far better is his portrait of the builder Scamozzi (375).

The facile potboiler and gambler Guido Reni (1575-1642) painted in his early years a few pictures which show more strength of character than he possessed later. His large altarpiece, ” The Hermits Paul and Anthony in the Desert” (373), although by no means of excessive merit, still shows serious purpose. The story concerns the legend of St. Anthony who after seventy-five years of penance considered himself the oldest hermit, when by divine direction he visited St. Paul who for ninety years had been living in a cave, and whom he now acknowledged as his master. The raven who daily brought to Paul half a loaf now comes with a whole loaf to welcome the guest. Anthony wears the robe of his cloister-order, while Paul’s nakedness is loosely covered by a voluminous yellow mantle. Floating just above their heads, on a heavy cloud, is the Madonna holding the Child, surrounded by playing putti. The whole is vigorously worked with strong light and shade.

But as soon as Guido had felt the pulse of his public he poured out the stream of figures ” fed on roses,” which were for long so immensely popular, but to us seem mawkish. His ” Mater Dolorosa ” (363) is a typical product of his facility.

Francesco Albani (1578-1660) even surpassed Guido in elegance and porcelainlike prettiness. The “Appearance of Christ to Mary Magdalene” (1618) he repeated over and over again, in a soft and harmonious manner.

Carlo Maratta (1625-1713) was equally meretricious. His Portrait of a young man (426A), with long, curly brown hair, and magnificent lace collar lying on his black dress, was evidently painted to please his sitter.

While these Eclectics were holding sway at Bologna, there arose in the South, in Naples, a man who opposed their academic doctrines and preached a return to nature. Caravaggio was the leader of this movement which ended, however, in adopting the eclectic principles, although in return influencing the Bolognese to forego somewhat the worship of the old masters and accept the teachings of nature.

Michelangelo Amerighi, called Caravaggio (1569-1609) is difficult to class in any particular school because of his originality. There is a union in his work of great qualities and glaring defects. His heads are all ignoble, and his realism becomes frequently repulsive. His Christ is reminiscent of the tradition of St. Cyril, who proclaimed that Christ was the least beautiful among the sons of men. His colours become raw and heavy, fiery red becomes reddish brown, cold blue is important on his palette, yellow and brown are prominent. He is shown here by four large paintings and two portraits (354, 356). His ” St, Matthew ” (365) is a gigantic figure, sitting with bare legs in a Florentine chair, writing in a book with the fist of a blacksmith, while an angel at his side does not whisper to him the sacred inscription, but takes hold and guides his hand. The light falling from above makes the figures come out plastically against the black background ; but the apostle looks so muscular, almost ferocious, that it is no wonder that the monks took offence at such gross, vulgar real-ism, and would not have it for the altar of their church San Luigi di Francesi.

He is still more in his element when he depicts the wild wailing of woe. His ” Burial of Christ” (353) is almost brutal in conception, although its earnestness and sincerity may not be denied.

These are, however, works of his later period. In his early years he painted in quite a Venetian manner with a golden tone, and sometimes allegorical works of poetic feeling. But there was no respect for the tales of antiquity, and the gods and heroes are brought down to very commonplace, often comic situations, and their mythological standing is irreverently burlesqued. In his ” Amour Victor ” (369) he pictures the saucy love-god threading down with amazing unconcern all the attributes of art and sciences, power and knowledge, claiming his cupid-arts to be supreme over them all. But in the pendant (381) we see him slain by a black-harnessed knight with eagle wings the meaning and moral of which is dubious.

Salvator Rosa (1615-1673) brought all these characteristics of realism and sharp contrasts of light and shade to bear upon the landscapes and seapieces which he painted. In a ” Stormy Sea ” (421) we recognize a man of energetic conception and broad treatment. In the ” Mountain Landscape ” (421B) the dark cliffs of the Abruzzi loom up bold and threateningly.

Luca Giordano (1632-1705) was the most complete and celebrated of the Neapolitan painters, and the last of the century. In his ” Judgment of Paris ” (441) he shows fresh, transparent colour, with a lighting effect in Tintoretto’s style. Paris is seated to the left on a rock, holding the apple and surrounded by his flock. Juno is bending over to loosen her sandals, Minerva disrobes reluctantly, while Venus, at the right, looks triumphantly towards Paris, at whose heart a little cupid floating over Venus is aiming an arrow. Mercury is slinking behind a tree. As interesting, although the composition is somewhat forced, is his ” Prophet Balaam and his Ass ” (404B).

Giordano, the pupil of Ribera in Naples, was the man who went to Spain and introduced there Naturalistic doctrines as carried out by his master. We must also observe a ” Caritas ” (358) which hangs here, by a much earlier man, Luca Cambiaso (1527-1585), who also had gone to Spain, where his work inspired the few sixteenth century Spanish artists.

The abortive revival of art by the Eclectics and Naturalists had run its course with the close of the seventeenth century, and art was still further emaciated by imitation, mannerisms and excesses. Then a last flickering of the flame was seen in Venice during the eighteenth century. Tiepolo, who was great beyond his age, and a few architectural painters showed works that are worthy of praise and admiration.

Giovanni Panini (1692-1768), most famous as an etcher, laboured at Rome, and produced some characteristic views of that city as it was in his day, and as he imagined it to have been in olden times. His “View of antique Roman Ruins” (454A) is striking and romantic. Another late Roman painter was Pompeo Batoni (1708-1787), whose cold, classical “Betrothal of Amour and Psyche ” (504) is scarcely interesting.

In Venice Bernardo Belotto, called Canaletto (1697-1768), was inspired by the beauty of the city of the lagunes, and he pictured its canals, churches and palaces with wonderful, deep colour and brilliancy. At twenty-five years of age he went travelling and visited Munich, Dresden, Vienna and Warsaw, where with remarkable rapidity, which does not, however, show in the work, he painted numerous scenes of local interest. The two can-vases here (503B, 503C) are graphic descriptions of the marketplace of Pirna, a German city, in which this Italian has caught the local flavour to perfection.

His contemporary, Francesco Guardi (1703-1794), had a freer brush, and the apparent sketchiness of his work gives a quite modern impression, to which the tonality of his city views contributes greatly. His ” Balloon Ascension over the Canal of the Giudecca, Venice, in 1784″ (501E) is of most interest for the fine view of the buildings of the Queen City. Better yet is his ” Canal View ” (501F) with its mirroring water filled with boats, and the fine line of buildings running from the right towards the far distance.

Giovanni Battista Tiepolo (1696-1770) was the last fruit-bearing shoot of the withered tree of Venetian art. His work bears no vestige of decadence, it is as brilliant, as eminent, as knowing, as any of the work of the High Renaissance of two centuries before. It is a resonant echo of the masterful creations of Paolo Veronese, their beauty of architectural framework, the correctness, charm and vivacity of their drawing, all molten in the purple and gold of Tintoretto this is the work of Tiepolo. He was incontestably the only master of the decadence whose primordial qualities of artistry seem to awaken strings that yield wild, broken music — the swan-song of Italian art.

Tiepolo’s ” St. Dominic dividing the Rose-garland ” (459A) is the design for a ceiling painting which is in the church Dei Gesuati, at Venice. It is an example of the astounding talent for composition which characterized the master. This power of decorative creation is amplified in the little Cabinet 48, called the Tiepolo Room, where. twenty-two panels present allegorical-mythological compositions, painted en grisaille on gold-yellow ground. They furnished the decoration for a room in a villa near Treviso, and, although in fresco, have been transferred and exposed in exactly the manner in which they were originally seen.

The view of a ” Lady leaving her Bath ” (454) breathes the same fresh freedom as found in the most delightful tales of Boccaccio. The buxom, full-blooded ladies of the former Venetian period have here, however, become the slender, high-bred, elegant type of the later divinities. And the festive reception of King Henry III of France (459) in the forehall of a palace, where the magnificent columns are decorated with vines and flowers, introduces us once more into a scene of pomp and splendour such as we see in Veronese’s ” Marriage at Cana,” in the Louvre.

But most characteristic of the high ideals, as well as of the power of execution, of Tiepolo is his ” Martyrdom of St. Agatha ” (459B). According to the legend Agatha was the daughter of a prominent Ancient of Palermo. In her early years she embraced Christianity, and refused the advances of the Stadholder Quintianus. Taken to a house of ill-fame she resisted all the blandishments of temptation, whereupon the Stadholder ordered his menials to tear out her breasts with iron tongues. This would have been subject for a gruesome spectacle by a Neapolitan naturalist. Even Sebastiano del Piombo, in a painting now in the Pitti Palace in Florence, pictures it with harrowing detail. Tiepolo depicts the scene more tenderly. A large Corinthian column rises on the left, a few paces therefrom stands a gigantic barbarian, an heroic type of the Visigoth, with bearskin over his head and around his loins. Just in front and between is the maiden, of lovely if painful features, sinking back into the right arm of a serving maid who with her free left arm holds a large linen sheet before the bleeding bosom, covering the lower part of the martyr’s body. Her breasts are carried away on a plate by a page who averts his face. Agatha sighs : ” Hast thou not lain at a woman’s breast, and didst thou not receive thy first nourish-ment therefrom? ” Her nude arms and neck, and the arms and legs of the henchman add that note of life and beauty which the introduction of the nude always produces. The drawing is so impressively skilful and true, and the chiaroscuro plays so masterfully through its chromatic wealth that this composition ranks among the highest in the true conception of art. Originally a lunette extended above the square top, in which angels floated around a heart with a crown of thorns, on which the martyr’s breaking eyes were bent.

Thus we have completed our review of the Italian paintings in the Museum, which with all the many lapses and vacancies still enables us to study the growth, glory and decay of the schools of painting in Italy.

( Originally Published 1912 )

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