Continued Exploration Of Italian Painting During The High Renaissance, 1500-1600

LEONARDO DA VINCI AND THE MILANESE: The third person in the great Florentine trinity of painters was Leonardo da Vinci (1452-1519), the other two being Michael Angelo and Raphael. He greatly influenced the school of Milan, and has usually been classed with the Milanese, yet he was educated in Florence, in the workshop of Verrocchio, and was so universal in thought and methods that he hardly belongs to any school.

He has been named a realist, an idealist, a magician, a wizard, a dreamer, and finally a scientist, by different writers, yet he was none of these things while being all of them—a full-rounded, universal man, learned in many departments and excelling in whatever he undertook. He had the scientific and experimental way of looking at things. That is perhaps to be regretted, since it resulted in his experimenting with everything and completing little of anything. His different tastes and pursuits pulled him different ways, and his knowledge made him sceptical of his own powers. He pondered and thought how to reach up higher, how to penetrate deeper, how to realize more comprehensively, and in the end he gave up in despair. He could not fulfil his ideal of the head of Christ nor the head of Mona Lisa, and after years of labor he left them unfinished. The problem of human life, the spirit, the world engrossed him, and all his creations seem impregnated with the psychological, the mystical, the unattainable, the hidden.

He was no religionist, though painting the religious subject with feeling ; he was not in any sense a classicist, nor had he any care for the antique marbles, which he considered a study of nature at second-hand. He was more in love with physical life without being an enthusiast over it. His regard for contours, rhythm of line, blend of light with shade, study of atmosphere, perspective, trees, animals, humanity, show that though he examined nature scientifically, he pictured it esthetically. In his types there is much sweetness of soul, charm of disposition, dignity of mien, even grandeur and majesty of presence. His people we would like to know better. They are full of life, intelligence, sympathy ; they have fascination of manner, winsomeness of mood, grace of bearing. We see this in his best-known work—the Mona Lisa of the Louvre. It has much allurement of personal presence, with a depth and abundance of soul altogether charming.

Technically, Leonardo was not a handler of the brush superior in any way to his Florentine contemporaries. He knew all the methods and mediums of the time, and did much to establish oil-painting among the Florentines, but he was never a painter like Titian, or even Correggio or Andrea del Sarto. A splendid draughtsman, a man of invention, imagination, grace, elegance, and power, he nevertheless carried more by mental penetration and aesthetic sense than by his technical skill. He was one of the great men of the Renaissance, and deservedly holds a place in the front rank.

Though Leonardo’s accomplishment seems slight because of the little that is left to us, yet he had a great following not only among the Florentines but at Milan, where Vicenza Foppa had started a school in the Early Renaissance time. Leonardo was there for fourteen years, and his artistic personality influenced many painters to adopt his type and methods. Bernardino Luini (1475 ? -1533 ?) was the most prominent of the disciples. He cultivated Leonardo’s sentiment, style, subjects, and composition in his middle period, but later on developed independence and originality. He came at a period of art when that earnestness of characterization which marked the early men was giving way to grace-fulness of recitation, and that was the chief feature of his art. For that matter gracefulness and pathetic sweetness of mood, with purity of line and warmth of color characterized all the Milanese painters.

The more prominent lights of the school were Salaino (fl. 1495–1518), of whose work nothing authentic exists, Beltraffio (1467–1516), a painter of limitations but of much refinement and purity, and Marco da Oggiono (1470?–1530) a close follower of Leonardo. Solario (1458 ?–1515 ?) probably became acquainted early with the Flemish mode of working practised by Antonello da Messina, but he afterward came under Leonardo’s spell at Milan. He was a careful, refined painter, possessed of feeling and tenderness, producing pictures with enamelled surfaces and much detail. Giampietrino (fl. 1520–1540) and Cesare da Sesto (1485 ?–1523?) were also of the Milanese school, the latter afterward falling under the Raphael influence. Gaudenzio Ferrara (1481 ?–1547 ?), an exceptionally brilliant colorist and a painter of much distinction, was under Leonardo’s influence at one time, and with the teachings of that master he mingled a little of Raphael in the type of face. He was an uneven painter, often excessive in sentiment, but at his best one of the most charming of the northern painters.

SODOMA AND THE SIENNESE: Sienna, alive in the fourteenth century to all that was stirring in art, in the fifteenth century was in complete eclipse, no painters of consequence emanating from there or being established there. In the sixteenth century there was a revival of art because of a northern painter settling there and building up a new school. This painter was Sodoma (1477 ?–1549). He was one of the best pupils of Leonardo da Vinci, a master of the human figure, handling it with much grace and charm of expression, but not so successful with groups or studied compositions, wherein he was inclined to huddle and over-crowd space. He was afterward led off by the brilliant success of Raphael, and adopted something of that master’s style. His best work was done in fresco, though he did some easel pictures that have darkened very much through time. He was a friend of Raphael, and his portrait appears beside Raphael’s in the latter painter’s celebrated School of Athens. The pupils and followers of the Siennese School were not men of great strength. Pacchiarotta (1474–1540 ?), Girolamo della Pacchia (1477–1535), Peruzzi (1481–1536), a half-Lombard half-Umbrian painter of ability, and Beccafumi (1486–155 1) were the principal lights. The influence of the school was slight.

FERRARA AND BOLOGNESE SCHOOLS: The painters of these schools during the sixteenth century have usually been classed among the followers and imitators of Raphael, but not without some injustice. The influence of Raphael was great throughout Central Italy, and the Ferrarese and Bolognese felt it, but not to the extinction of their native thought and methods. Moreover, there was some influence in color coming from the Venetian school, but again not to the entire extinction of Ferrarese individuality. Dosso Dossi (1479 ?–1542), at Ferrara, a pupil of Lorenzo Costa, was the chief painter of the time, and he showed more of Giorgione in color and light-and-shade than anyone else, yet he never abandoned the yellows, greens, and reds peculiar to Ferrara, and both he and Garofolo were strikingly original in their background landscapes. Garofolo (1481–1559) was a pupil of Panetti and Costa, who made several visits to Rome and there fell in love with Raphael’s work, which showed in a fondness for the sweep and flow of line, in the type of face adopted, and in the calmness of his many easel pictures. He was not so dramatic a painter as Dosso, and in addition he had certain mannerisms or earmarks, such as sootiness in his flesh tints and brightness in his yellows and greens, with dulness in his reds. He was always Ferrarese in his landscapes and in the main characteristics of his technic. Mazzolino (148o ?–1528 ?) was another of the school, probably a pupil of Panetti. He was an elaborate painter, fond of architectural backgrounds and glowing colors enlivened with gold in the high lights. Bagnacavallo (1484–1542) was a pupil of Francia at Bologna, but with much of Dosso and Ferrara about him. He, in common with Imola, already mentioned, was indebted to the art of Raphael.

CORREGGIO AT PARMA: In Correggio (1494 ?–1534) all the Boccaccio nature of the Renaissance came to the surface. It was indicated in Andrea del Sarto–this nature-worshipbut Correggio was the consummation. He was the Faun of the Renaissance, the painter with whom the beauty of the human as distinguished from the religious and the classic showed at its very strongest. Free animal spirits, laughing madonnas, raving nymphs, excited children of the wood, and angels of the sky pass and repass through his pictures in an atmosphere of pure sensuousness. They appeal to us not religiously, not historically, not intellectually, but sensuously and artistically through their rhythmic lines, their palpitating flesh, their beauty of color, and in the light and atmosphere that surround them. He was less of a religionist than Andrea del Sarto. Religion in art was losing ground in his day, and the liberality and worldliness of its teachers appeared clearly enough in the decorations of the Convent of St. Paul at Parma, where Correggio was allowed to paint mythological Dianas and Cupids in the place of saints and madonnas. True enough, he painted the religious subject very often, but with the same spirit of life and joyousness as profane subjects.

The classic subject seemed more appropriate to his spirit, and yet he knew and probably cared less about it than the religious subject. His Dianas and Ledas are only so in name. They have little of the Hellenic spirit about them, and for the sterner, heroic phases of classicism—the lofty, the grand—Correggio never essayed them. The things of this earth and the sweetness thereof seemed ever his aim. Women and children were beautiful to him in the same way that flowers and trees and skies and sunsets were beautiful. They were revelations of grace, charm, tenderness, light, shade, color. Simply to exist and be glad in the sunlight was sweetness to Correggio. He would have no Sibylesque mystery, no prophetic austerity, no solemnity, no great intellectuality. He was no leader of a tragic chorus. The dramatic, the forceful, the powerful, were foreign to his mood. He was a singer of lyrics and pastorals, a lover of the material beauty about him, and it is because he passed by the pietistic, the classic, the literary, and showed the beauty of physical life as an art motive that he is called the Faun of the Renaissance. The appellation is not inappropriate.

How or why he came to take this course would be hard to determine. It was reflective of the times ; but Correggio, so far as history tells us, had little to do with the movements and people of his age. He was born and lived and died near Parma, and is sometimes classed among the Bologna-Ferrara painters, but the reasons for the classification are not too strong. His education, masters, and influences are all shadowy and indefinite. He seems, from his drawing and composition, to have known something of Mantegna at Mantua ; from his coloring something of Dosso and Garofolo, especially in his straw-yellows ; from his early types and faces something of Costa and Francia, and his contours and light-and-shade indicate a knowledge of Leonardo’s work. But there is no positive certainty that he saw the work of any of these men.

His drawing was faulty at times, but not obtrusively so ; his color and brush-work rich, vivacious, spirited ; his light brilliant, warm, penetrating ; his contours melting, graceful ; his atmosphere omnipresent, enveloping. In composition he rather pushed aside line in favor of light and color. It was his technical peculiarity that he centralized his light and surrounded it by darks as a foil. And in this very feature he was one of the first men in Renaissance Italy to paint a picture for the purpose of weaving a scheme of lights and darks through a tapestry of rich colors. That is art for art’s sake, and that, as will be seen further on, was the picture motive of the great Venetians.

Correggio’s immediate pupils and followers, like those of Raphael and Andrea del Sarto, did him small honor. As was usually the case in Renaissance art-history they caught at the method and lost the spirit of the master. His son, Pomponio Allegri (1521—1593 ?), was a painter of some mark without being in the front rank. Michelangelo Anselmi (1491—1554 ?), though not a pupil, was an indifferent imitator of Correggio. Parmigianino (1504—1540), a mannered painter of some brilliancy, and of excellence in portraits, was perhaps the best of the immediate followers. It was not until after Correggio’s death, and with the painters of the Decadence, that his work was seriously taken up and followed.

PRINCIPAL WORKS: MILANESE-Leonardo da Vinci, Last Supper S. M. delle Grazie Milan (in ruins), Mona Lisa, Madonna with St. Anne (badly damaged) Louvre, Adoration (unfinished) Uffizi, Angel at left in Verrocchio’s Baptism Florence Acad.; Luini, frescos Monastero Maggiore, 71 fragments in Brera Milan, Church of the Pilgrims Sarrona, S. M. degli Angeli Lugano, altar-pieces Duomo Como, Ambrosian Library Milan, Brera, Uffizi, Louvre, Madrid, St. Petersburgh, and other galleries ; Beltraffio, Madonna Louvre, Barbara Berlin Gal., Madonna Nat. Gal. Lon., fresco Convent of S. Onofrio Rome (ascribed to Da Vinci) ; Marco da Oggiono, Archangels and other works Brera, Holy Family Madonna Louvre ; Solario, Ecce Homo Repose Poldi-Pezzoli Gal. Milan, Holy Family Brera, Madonna Portrait Louvre, Portraits Nat. Gal. Lon., Assumption Certosa of Pavia ; Giampietrino, Magdalene Brera, Ma-donna S. Sepolcro Milan, Magdalene and Catberine Berlin Gal. ; Cesare da Sesto, Madonna Brera, Magi Naples Mus. ; Gaudenzio Ferrara, frescos Church of Pilgrims Saronna, other pictures in Brera, Turin Gal., S. Gaudenzio Novara, S. Celso Milan.

SIENNESE—Sodoma, frescos Convent of St. Anne near Pienza, Benedictine Convent of Mont’ Oliveto Maggiore, Alexander and Roxana Villa Farnesina Rome, S. Bernardino Palazzo Pubblico, S. Domenico Sienna, pictures Uffizi, Brera, Munich, Vienna Gals, ; Pacchiarotto, Ascension Visitation Sienna Gal. ; Girolamo del Pacchia, frescos (3) S. Bernardino, altar-pieces S. Spirito and Sienna Acad., Munich and Nat. Gal. Lon. ; Peruzzi, fresco Fontegiuste Sienna, S. Onofrio, S. M. della Pace Rome ; Beccafumi, St. Catherine Saints Sienna Acad., frescos S. Bernardino Hospital and S. Martino Sienna, Palazzo Doria Rome, Pitti, Berlin, Munich Gals.

FERRARESE AND BOLOGNESE—DOSSo Dossi, many works Ferrara, Modena Gals., Duomo S. Pietro Modena, Brera, Borghese, Doria, Berlin, Dresden, Vienna, Gals. ; Garofolo, many works Ferrara churches and Gal., Borghese, Campigdoglio, Louvre, Berlin, Dresden, Munich, Nat. Gal. Lon. ; Mazzolino, Ferrara, Berlin, Dresden, Louvre, Doria, Borghese, Pitti, Uffizi, and Nat. Gal. Lon. ; Bagnacavallo, Misericordia and Gal. Bologna, Louvie, Berlin, Dresden Gals.

PARMESE—Correggio, frescos Convent of S. Paolo, S. Giovanni Evangelista, Duomo Parma, altar-pieces Dresden (4), Parma Gals., Louvre, mythological pictures Antiope Louvre, Danae Borghese, Leda Jupiter and Io Berlin, Venus Mercury and Cupid Nat. Gal. Lon., Ganymede Vienna Gal. ; Pomponio Allegri, frescos Capella del Popolo Parma; Anselmi, frescos S. Giovanni Evangelista, altar-pieces Madonna della Steccata, Duomo, Gal. Parma, Louvre ; Parmigianino, frescos Moses Steccata, S. Giovanni Parma, altar-pieces Santa Margherita, Bologna Gal., Madonna Pitti, portraits Uffizi, Vienna, Naples Mus., other works Dresden, Vienna, and Nat. Gal. Lon.