Italian Painting – Bolognese School — School Of The Naturalists


Characteristics. — Earliest work unimportant ; latter half of fifteenth century, influenced by Ferrarese School through Lorenzo Costa ; latter half of sixteenth century, merged into the Eclectic Bolognese School founded by the Carracci, whose aim was to select and collect into one all the excellencies of other schools.


Francia (Francesco Raibolini, 1450-1518), of Bologna, is the first name of importance. In early life he was a-goldsmith, but when Lorenzo Costa, of Ferrara (see p. 106), came to Bologna and opened a studio in the same house in which Francia was working, he abandoned his goldsmith’s art for that of the painter, and received from Costa his first instruction. He probably was also influenced by Ercole Roberti de’ Grandi (Ferrarese School), who at that time was painting in Bologna.

There is a tradition told by Vasari that Francia died from the shock produced by seeing Raphael’s ” St. Cecilia,” as it caused him to realize how far below that consummate artist he was. Raphael had consigned to Francia this picture, painted for the church of San Giovanni in Monte at Bologna, requesting him to repair any damage that might have befallen it, and to superintend the placing of it in the church. The story is probably a fiction. Raphael is reported to have said that Francia’s Madonnas were the most devoutly beautiful of any he knew, and certainly there is no such inequality of merit as the tradition implies.

Characteristics. — Pictures are marked by deep religious feeling, expressed by much ‘tenderness, and are affected by the Peruginesque style of Costa. Indeed, this is so apparent that some writers have urged that he must have been directly influenced by Perugino or Raphael.

His figures possess much quietude. In early paintings they are often finished with an exactness of detail, a metallic surface, and a clear outline that betrays the goldsmith’s hand. Though graceful, they suggest the appearance of people posing for their portraits.

No painter ever gave more sweetness to Madonna heads than did Francia. His complexions are dainty, pearly tinted, and a delicate carnation tint is given to the eyelids ; the latter is a characteristic peculiar to him.

He excelled in portraiture, especially of women. His frescoes are particularly charming.

Most important works :

Two of a series of Frescoes representing scenes in the Life of St. Cecilia. Oratory of St. Cecilia, Bologna. (Francia’s are the first two at right and left of altar.)

Altar-pieces and other pictures. Gallery, Bologna.

” Annunciation.” Brera Gallery, Milan.

” St. Stephen,” ” Madonna.” Borghese Gallery, Rome.

” Madonna and Child in Thicket of Roses.” Old Pinacothek, Munich.

“Baptism.” Gallery, Dresden.

” Madonna and Child with St. Joseph.” Berlin Museum. ” Pietà.” National Gallery, London.


Timoteo Viti (1467-1523) is the most noted of Francia’s pupils. He was born either in Ferrara or Urbino, and went to Bologna to study the goldsmith’s art, but forsook that to study painting under Francia, with whom he wrought for several years, then went to Urbino, where he spent the remainder of his life.

The remarkable resemblance between Viti’s and the earliest of Raphael’s work has led for a long time to the supposition that the young boy taught the middle-aged man, but it is now generally conceded by art critics that Viti probably was Raphael’s first instructor after the death of the latter’s father (see p. 74). As this opinion obtains, his work is rapidly growing in importance.

Representative works :

Altar-pieces. Brera Gallery, Milan.

Altar-pieces. Gallery and Cathedral, Urbino.

” Magdalen.” Borghese Gallery, Rome.

” St. Margaret.” Morelli Collection, Milan.


The Carracci, Ludovico (1555-1619), Agostino (1558-1601), Annibale (1560-1609), had for their aim the revival of the decaying art of Italy, and this they sought to accomplish by the imitation of the great masters of the High Renaissance. They opened an academy at Bologna, which became very celebrated, and endeavored to work the desired reform. Their influence was considerable, and from this school sprang several artists of note. Annibale is the greatest painter of the three ; his small pictures, Madonnas and Holy Families, are particularly pleasing. Ludovico and Agostino painted large compositions. Landscape backgrounds of the Carracci are very decorative. Pupils of the Carracci form what is called the ” Eclectic-Bolognese School.”

Representative works :

Pictures by all three. Gallery, Bologna.

FRESCOES (Annibale). Farnese Palace, Rome.

Madonnas and Holy Families (Annibale). Uffizi Gallery, Florence ; Berlin Museum ; Louvre, Paris.

Domenichino (Domenico Zampieri, 1581-1641), born at Bologna, is the greatest pupil of the Carracci. He painted religious, historical, and mythological subjects. His pictures are noted for harmonious coloring, effective light and shade, great technical skill, and a charming simplicity of style. He had not the gift of originality, but often made use of the compositions of other artists. One peculiarity of his works is that we find the greatest interest and beauty in the subordinate figures introduced, rather than in the principal group. He painted excellent landscapes, decorative in character like those of Annibale Carracci. He is said to have suffered much because of the jealousy of his rivals, and died in Naples under the suspicion of having been poisoned.

Most important works :

” Communion of St. Jerome.” Vatican Gallery, Rome (one of the twelve pictures sometimes called ” World Pictures ” 1). The saint, an emaciated old man about to die, is brought into the Church at Bethlehem to receive the last sacrament. There is a very fine grouping of attendants. A copy in mosaics is in St. Peter’s, Rome.

” Four Evangelists.” Cupola of S. Andrea della Valle, Rome. FRESCOES (Life of St. Cecilia). S. Luigi, Rome.

” Diana and Nymphs,” “Cumaean Sibyl.” Borghese Gallery, Rome.

“Guardian Angel.” Gallery, Naples.

” St. John.” Hermitage, St. Petersburg.

Representative Landscapes are in Villa Ludovisi and Doria Gallery, Rome ; Louvre, Paris ; National Gallery, London.

Guido Reni (1575-1642), born near Bologna, excelled in painting old men, women, and children. At first, he seems to have been imbued with a spirit of realism, and produced works of some power and worth to the art world ; but later he became fond of ideal forms, and a general expression of sameness crept into his work, which fast degenerated. At this time were painted his numerous Madonnas, Magdalens, Cleopatras, and Sibyls, which are to be found in every European gallery. He painted in three manners : the first, powerful in light and shade; the second, less strong but marked by rich, warm coloring ; the third, pale and cold in color.

Most important works :

“Aurora preceding the Chariot of the Sun, surrounded by the Hours.” Ceiling of Garden-house of the Rospigliosi Palace, Rome. This is one of the finest decorative pictures in the world, and is one of the twelve pictures sometimes called ” World Pictures.”

” Crucifixion of St. Peter.” Vatican Gallery, Rome.

“Archangel Michael slaying the Dragon.” Church of the Capuccini, Rome. A copy of this picture, in mosaics, is in St. Peter’s, Rome.

Portrait of Beatrice Cenci2 (authorship now seriously doubted). Barberini Gallery, Rome. This picture is by some numbered among the so-called ” World Pictures ” in place of Rembrandt’s ” Night-Guard,” but does not seem of sufficient importance in the world of art to merit even such an arbitrary distinction.

“Madonna del Pietà,” ” Massacre of Innocents.” Gallery, Bologna.

” Déjanire and Centaur Nessus.” Louvre, Paris.

” Crucifixion.” Berlin Museum.

Francesco Albani (1578-1660) was a fellow-pupil of Domenichino and Guido Reni in the school of the Carracci. He owes his reputation to his numerous small easel pictures, which generally have fanciful and mythological subjects. His figures are represented as being in the open air, and the scenery is so well painted that the artist attained quite a reputation among landscape painters.

It is said that his wife and children were models for his numerous Venuses, Dianas, Cupids, and Nymphs. While the sentimental and picturesque characterize the pictures of Guido, the fanciful, the romantic, and the elegant characterize those of Albani. He painted a few religious pictures, and these are large in size.

Representative works :

“Four Seasons.” Borghese Gallery, Rome.

” Landing of Venus.” Chigi Palace, Rome.

” Toilet of Venus.” Louvre, Paris.

Pictures in Gallery, Dresden.

Guercino (Giovanni Francesco Barbieri, 1592-1666), though not a direct pupil of the Carracci, was greatly influenced by their school. His pictures show animation and a brilliant color which is sometimes too heavy in the flesh shadows.

His earlier works are strongest. In these his style, like that of Guido Reni, is realistic and marked by broad masses of shadow and small, clear lights. His later style is much softer and weaker, and his pictures of this period are insipid.

Most important works :

” St. Peter raising Tabitha.” Pitti Gallery, Florence.

“Hagar and Ishmael.” Brera Gallery, Milan.

” Madonna.” Louvre, Paris.

” Body of St. Petronella raised from the Tomb to be shown to her betrothed Husband, Flaccus.” Capitoline Gallery, Rome. A copy in mosaics is in St. Peter’s, Rome.

” Dido’s Last Moments.” Spada Palace, Rome.

Incredulity of St. Thomas.” Vatican Gallery, Rome. ” Saurian Sibyl.” Uffizi Gallery, Florence.

Cristofano Allori (1577-1621), sometimes called Bronzino, was a good artist of his time. He possessed greater originality than many of his contemporaries, and his pictures are of a higher order. His drawing and color are often powerful. He painted portraits well.

Representative works :

“Judith with Head of Holofernes.” Pitti Gallery, Florence.

“Jupiter and Mercury,” ” Susanna at the Bath.” Gallery, Dresden.

” Isabella of Arragon.” Louvre, Paris.

Sassoferrato (Giovanni Battista Salvi, 1605—1685) was much influenced by Domenichino and, in spite of a certain sentimentality, produced much that is somewhat pleasing. He was, however, naturally an imitator, and was at his best only when copying the styles of other artists.

His constant subject is the Madonna and Child. His pictures are finished most carefully.

Representative works :

Madonna del Rosario.” S. Sabina, Rome.

Holy Family.” Gallery, Naples.

Madonnas. Vatican Gallery, St. Luke’s Academy, Borghese Gallery, Rome.

“Mater Dolorosa.” Uffizi Gallery, Florence.

” Child Jesus asleep,” ” Assumption of the Virgin,” ” Holy Virgin.” Louvre, Paris.

” Madonna in Prayer,” ” Madonna and Child.” National Gallery, London.

Carlo Dolci (1616-1686) is chiefly distinguished for the charming feeling and exquisite finish of his pictures. These are generally mere heads or single figures. His female figures are finer than his male, as his style is decidedly effeminate. There is often an affected sentimentality that is not pleasing.

Representative works :

” Magdalen,” ” Angel of the Annunciation,” ” Madonna del Dito ” (of the thumb). Uffizi Gallery, Florence.

” Madonna,” ” St. Andrew.” Pitti Gallery, Florence.

Madonna and Child.” Borghese Gallery, Rome.

” St. Cecilia.” Gallery, Dresden.

Madonna. National Gallery, London.

Other names of some note are Giovanni Lanfraneo (1581-1647), who endeavored to imitate Correggio ; Baroccio of Urbino (1528-1612), whose work is of considerable strength, chiefly founded on study of Correggio; Cigoli (1559-1613), noted for sentiment and fine color; Bartholomeo Schedone of Modena (1615), whose early works imitate Correggio, later ones, the Naturalists ; and Peter of Cortona (Pietro Berettino (1596–1669), an artist with certain power of invention, whose effects are very brilliant but superficial.



Characteristics. — This school aimed at a literal imitation of nature as opposed to the ideal view that is founded on selection, and so in principle was utterly at variance with the Eclectic-Bolognese, although a mutual influence was exerted. The chief subjects of representation are strong, violent, passionate scenes. These are treated with such small lights and broad, dark shadows that the name of ” Tenebrosi ” (Darklings) has been given to the followers of the school. It is one of the least important of the Italian schools.

Caravaggio (Michael Angelo Amerighi, 1569-1609), born in Caravaggio, was a wild, passionate man, who manifested much of his own nature in the subjects he chose and in the manner of his painting. At first he painted portraits in Milan ; afterward he went to Venice, where he studied the works of Giorgione. Still, true to himself, he could paint nothing refined or noble.

When he chose, as he often did, events of a sacred character for subjects, he always placed the scenes on a low plane of life. He gave to the world savage, even brutal figures, abounding in vitality and force, and true to life.

His most successful pictures are those in which he portrayed the banditti and vagabonds of the times in which he lived, and are especially characterized by strong, bold coloring, sharp, glaring contrasts of light and shade, and a high, small light. Most of his works are very large.

He exerted a powerful influence on many of his contemporaries.

Most important works :

Wall Paintings. S. Luigi de’ Francesi, Rome.

Beheading of St. John Baptist.” Cathedral, Malta. Entombment of Christ.” (His best sacred picture.) Vatican Gallery, Rome.

Holy Family.” Borghese Gallery, Rome.

Cheating Card-players.” Sciarra Gallery, Rome; and Gallery, Dresden.

” Soothsayer.” Capitoline Gallery, Rome.

” Earthly Love.” Berlin Museum.

Lo Spagnoletto (Giuseppe Ribera, 1588-1656), a native of Spain, is perhaps the ablest of the Naturalist School. He came to Naples and was one of three painters of this school, who banded themselves together, with the object of excluding from that city the works of all masters in other parts of Italy. They resolved to expel or poison every painter of talent who should come to Naples to practise his art there. Domenichino (see p. 122) is reported to have been one of their victims. Annibale Carracci and Guido Reni were forced by them to leave Naples.

Spagnoletto formed his style chiefly after Caravaggio. His forms are generally correct and are very strongly drawn ; his pictures are rich in color.

His early paintings, following the Spanish School, are simple, though displaying power but in later ones he presents scenes full of passion and terror, even to the portrayal of hideous executions and martyrdoms, to which his wonder-fully strong chiaroscuro gives an almost demoniac character.

He painted many sacred scenes, also single figures of apostles, prophets, and hermits, all angular, bony, wild-looking figures. He also represented mythological scenes.

Representative works :

” Descent from the Cross” and “Last Supper.” S. Martino, Naples.

” Adoration of the Shepherds.” Gallery, Naples.

” Martyrdom of St. Bartholomew.” Berlin Museum.

” Dead Christ.” National Gallery, London.

” Silenus.” Gallery, Naples.

” St. Mary of Egypt.” Gallery, Dresden. This picture has recently received the name “Mary Magdalene in her Cell waited upon by Angels.” It is the most beautiful of this artist’s work.

” St. Paul Hermit.” Gallery, Dresden.

Salvator Rosa (1615—1673) is noted as a genre, portrait and landscape painter. In early life he painted in Naples with Lo Spagnoletto ; afterwards he went to Rome, where he spent the most of his life. He is especially remarkable for his bold landscape painting, but in all his work there is an emotional conception with a masterly vigor of execution, that distinguishes him from other artists. He was a notable portrait painter. Fuseli has described thus finely his landscapes:

” He delighted in ideas of desolation, solitude, and danger ; impenetrable forests, rocky or storm-lashed shores; in lonely dells leading to dens and caverns of banditti ; Alpine ridges, trees blasted by lightning or sapped by time, or stretching their extravagant arms athwart a murky sky ; lowering or thundering clouds, and suns shorn of their beams. His figures are wandering shepherds, forlorn travellers, wrecked mariners, banditti lurking for their prey, or dividing their spoils.”

Representative works :

Landscape and Portrait. Uffizi Gallery, Florence.

Landscapes, marine views, “Conspiracy of Catiline,” ” Temptation of St. Anthony.” Pitti Gallery, Florence.

Battle-pieces, marine views, landscapes. Corsini, Colonna, Doria, and Chigi Palaces, Rome.

Battle-piece. Louvre, Paris.

Other names of some note are Stanzioni (1585-1656), a few of whose works show nobler feeling than those of his contemporaries ; Lissandrino (1661) a close imitator of Salvator Rosa ; Michael Angelo Cerquozzi (1602-1660), distinguished for battle scenes and genre pictures from low life ; and Luca Giordano (1632-1705), a painter gifted with extraordinary talent, who sacrificed the excellence of his work to its rapid and bold execution.

Italian painting in the nineteenth century is of comparatively little importance, and has been influenced chiefly by that of France and of Germany.

Among the names most worthy of note are Domenico Morelli, painter of religious pictures, and a follower of the modern German prae-Raphaelite movement, embodied in Overbeck ; Giuseppe de Nittis and Francesco Michetti, who are under the influence of the French painting of to-day ; Giuseppe Boldini (French style), painter of portraits and genre, and A. Sani, genre painter.