Italian Painting – Florentine Or Tuscan School (continued) – Pt. 3


Leonardo da Vinci (1452—1519) was born at Vinci, in the Val d’Arno, below Florence, and is accounted one of the four greatest masters in the history of painting ; the three others being Michael Angelo, Raphael, and Titian. He was a pupil of Andrea Verrocchio.

Leonardo has been well called a ” universal genius.” He was painter, sculptor, architect, and engineer. He had a thorough knowledge of anatomy, mathematics, astronomy, and botany, and also was poet and musician.

It was his greatest delight to study, — to study the growth of plant life, the hidden laws that govern the mineral world, the movement of planets in the heavens, — and this love for the deep things of nature he carried into his study of art.

It is said that he always wore a sketchbook attached to his girdle, and would wander through the streets of Florence looking for some especially picturesque figure or some face possessing unusual subtility of expression, that he would excite the mirth of peasants that he might study the lines of their laughing faces and that he even followed criminals to their painful death that he might gain some new experience that should aid his art. In this way he laid the foundation for the most eminent characteristics of his work. Yet, from the study of Leonardo’s life, we must judge that he enjoyed more this study in and for itself than for its results, for he was never satisfied with these when wrought into a picture. He was a most devoted and happy student ; he was a most dissatisfied painter. Over and over again would he paint and then destroy his work. It is to this characteristic that the small number of his existing pictures is due.

When about thirty years old, Leonardo went to Milan, where he wrought, both in sculpture and painting, in the service of the reigning duke, and became master of the Milanese or Lombard school of painting.

After many years of work he returned to. Florence, and here, at one time, entered into a competition with Michael Angelo in the decoration of the, two end walls of the great Hall of the Council in Palazzo Vecchio. Leonardo chose for his subject “The Defeat of the Milanese by the Florentines at Anghiari ” ; Michael Angelo chose ” Pisan soldiers called suddenly to arms while bathing in the Arno.” The cartoons produced by the two masters mark an important epoch in Italian art. In them we find for the first time the human figure treated with all the truth and splendid fulness of expression of the High Renaissance. Neither picture was completed.

A part of Leonardo’s cartoon, called “The Battle of the Standard,” is now known by an engraving after a copy by Rubens.

Characteristics. — In the latter half of the fifteenth century all the great principles which underlie the art of representation had been mastered. Each great preceding painter had made some important contribution to thé general knowledge, until at this period the artist found himself fully equipped for his work.

Leonardo’s greatest gift to painting was a perfected chiaroscuro. His treatment of this was a revelation to his contemporaries and followers, and is the wonder and despair of artists to-day : so melting, so mysterious are his shadows, and in such a witching way do his lights pass into them. He used to say to his pupils, “Be as careful of the light in your picture as you would be of a rare jewel”; and his work shows how well he followed his own precept.

His composition, seen at its best in the ” Last Supper,” cannot be surpassed.

His drawing is most careful ; his lines express wonderfully the subtility of form.

His color is clear and silvery, but has suffered very much from his habit of technique. He used

oils and painted and repainted, touched and retouched infinitely. His backgrounds show a mannerism that seems to have followed him from the studio of his master, Verrocchio ; rocks and dark trees and running water, with diffused twilight, mark nearly every one of his works.

His ideal woman’s face has dark eyes and hair, a long, slender nose, and a somewhat pointed chin, and is marked by a peculiar, languid, subtile smile. His pupils, trying to imitate this smile, often painted insipidity instead of subtility.

No other artist ever painted faces so wrought upon by a depth of inner feeling as did Leonardo. Existing works :

” The Last Supper.” Monastery of Santa Maria delle Grazie, Milan. This picture, painted in oils on plaster, in a damp situation, is almost ruined. It has been inundated by water; it has been re-stored; then these restorations have been removed as far as possible ; a doorway has been cut, taking off the Saviour’s feet; yet, in spite of all, the power of the great master’s conception is still present. It is probably the most widely

known picture in the world, for wherever the Bible has gone, Leonardo’s ” Last Supper ” has followed. It is numbered among the twelve pictures which are often called ” World Pictures.” (This is, of course, a purely arbitrary selection, having no weight of authority ; some one gave the name to a list of pictures, and others, pleased with the idea, have made it somewhat common.)

Head of Christ.” Brera Gallery, Milan. This is a pure study of expression of feeling, made on paper with chalk and water-color, and is one of many made by the artist before painting the Christ in ” The Last Supper.”

Adoration of the Magi ” (unfinished). Uffizi Gallery, Florence.

” Mona Lisa,” also called ” La Joconde” (wife of Leonardo’s friend) ; this is without doubt the most famous portrait in the world, on the painting of which Leonardo spent four years and then declared that he could not finish it to his satisfaction.

” Virgin with St. Anne ” and ” Virgin of the Rocks.” Louvre, Paris.

Virgin of the Rocks.” National Gallery, London. The weight of authority considers this a replica of the picture in the Louvre.

Most important works (doubtfully ascribed to Leonardo) :

Annunciation.” Uffizi Gallery, Florence. ” La Monaca.” Pitti Gallery, Florence.

” La Belle Ferronière ” and ” St. John.” Louvre, Paris.

Fra Bartolommeo (Baccio della Porta, 1475-1517), born near Florence, was a monk in the monastery of San Marco, the same to which Fra Angelico belonged. He had already won considerable fame as a painter under his real name, ” Baccio,” when the shock produced by the martyrdom of his friend Savonarola caused him to renounce painting and enter the monastery, which he did under the name Fra Bartolommeo.

After six years of utter seclusion, at the urgent entreaty of friends, he resumed his brush.

About this time Raphael visited Florence, became strongly attached to Bartolommeo, learned from him his method of coloring, and, in return, gave him instruction in drawing. Both artists seem to have profited by their intimacy.

Bartolommeo’s rank among Italian painters is high. Few of his pictures are found outside of Italy.

Characteristics. — His peculiar sphere was devotional painting.

His composition is simple, almost architectural in its masses ; his favorite form is the pyramid, within whose outline he has grouped few figures.

Types of figures and faces are abstract and contain little individuality.

His figures are clothed with heavy masses of drapery, which is finely treated. He is said to have been the first artist to use the lay-figure.’

In many pictures of the Madonna little boy angels are introduced, sitting at her feet and playing on musical instruments, or otherwise occupied in ministry. Raphael borrowed this fancy.

His color is finer than usual with Florentine painters, but injured by the use of black pigment in shadows.

His management of chiaroscuro shows the influence of Leonardo da Vinci.

Most important works :

” Madonna.” Cathedral, Lucca.

” Madonna della Misericordia.” Museum, Lucca.

” Descent from the Cross,” ” Marriage of St. Catherine,” ” Risen Christ among Evangelists,” “St. Mark,” “Holy Family.” Pitti Gallery, Florence.

“Madonna and Saints,” “Nativity,” ” Job,” ” Isaiah.” Uffizi Gallery, Florence.

Virgin Appearing to St. Bernard.” Academy, Florence. Portrait of Savonarola. San Marco, Florence.

” Holy Family.” Louvre, Paris.

Mariotto Albertinelli (1465–1520) was a devoted friend and follower of Bartolommeo. They sometimes wrought on the same picture, and in such case it is difficult to distinguish the painting of each.

Albertinelli was far less devout in character, and this is seen in most of the works produced by himself alone. Most important works :

” Visitation ” (his masterpiece). Uffizi Gallery, Florence. Holy Family.” Pitti Gallery, Florence. “Madonna with Saints.” Louvre, Paris.

Michael Angelo Buonarroti (1475-1564), born at Castel’ Caprese, near Arezzo in Tuscany, is the second in point of time of the great quartet of world-masters of painting, and is distinguished as sculptor, painter, and architect, as well as engineer and poet. In his boyhood he was bound for three years to Ghirlandajo, and, contrary to the usual custom, that master paid an annual sum for the boy’s assistance instead of charging for his instruction. From this circumstance we may judge of his early ability and his worth to his teacher. He soon distinguished himself from the other pupils of Ghirlandajo, and attracted the notice of that great patron of art, Lorenzo de’ Medici, who gave him a home in his own palace and commissioned him to execute several pieces of sculpture.

Here Michael Angelo lived for four years, and was brought into contact with many of the greatest and most intellectual men of that time in Italy. The worth of such influence to the young man’s life must have been incalculable.

He became a diligent student of Masaccio’s great frescoes in the Brancacci Chapel, and also of the remains of ancient art in Florence. He gave himself up to study of anatomy more like a devotee than an ordinary student.

Until 1503 Michael Angelo is known (with the exception of a few small pictures) exclusively as a sculptor, but in this year he received the commission to enter the lists as a painter with Leonardo da Vinci (see account given under that master, p. 49). The cartoon made at this time brought him so much fame, that soon after he was summoned by the order of Pope Julius II to execute the great series of frescoes on the vaulted ceiling of the Sistine Chapel of the Vatican at Rome. He was then so diffident of his own powers as a painter that, having consented, with great reluctance, to undertake the work, he sent for some of his old Florentine companions to paint the frescoes from his cartoons. Not satisfied with their work, however, he destroyed it all and painted the whole with his own hand.

He loved sculpture best and was greatest in sculpture, but, strangely enough, his most famous works to-day are his fresco paintings, which alone gave him sufficient space for the representation of his mighty conceptions. In these, however, he is the painter-sculptor, not alone the painter, for his frescoes are full of sculpturesque qualities.

The personal character of Michael Angelo is unique in its heroic qualities. He was Titan-like, and towers in his great personality far above all other masters. He was capable of tremendous toil and never spared himself. His whole life was one colossal labor ; from the cradle to the grave he struggled to attain his high ideals, and this innate strength of the man is impressed upon all that he ever accomplished.

Characteristics.— First of all, we must notice the greatness and essential poetry of his conception and style.

His compositions differ from those of other masters in that each part seems complete in itself. He has placed magnificent figures side by side, and they have to do with each other, and yet the relative action is not in the least necessary to the full force of expression of the figures.

He discarded draperies almost wholly, having had a passion for the representation of the nude human figure.

His treatment is always sculpturesque. He saw and rendered everything in the mass, wholly subordinating all details.

His figures are exaggerated in size and strength of muscles, with broad and deep chests, narrow hips, powerful thighs, and small heads.

The lines of the figure are far more important than the face, which possesses a singular abstract expression, the farthest possible removed from anything individual or portrait-like.

Color is little cared for, yet a pleasing, sober harmony prevails.

He painted in fresco and tempera.

Existing works :

Frescoes on ceiling of Sistine Chapel, Rome.

These (in nine pictures, five smaller and four larger) rep-resent the Creation of the World as described in the Bible, the Creation of Adam (the figure of Adam is accounted one of the finest ever painted) and of Eve, their Temptation and Fall, Sacrifice of Noah, Deluge, and Noah’s Drunkenness.

At each of the four corners of the smaller of these pictures is seated an athlete or decorative figure, a new race of beings created by Michael Angelo.

In the four corners of the ceiling are representations of signal deliverances of the Jews : the ” Lifting of the Serpent in the Wilderness,” ” David Slaying Goliath,” ” Judith with the Head of Holofernes,” and ” Crucifixion of Haman.”

Ranged around the whole are twelve magnificent figures, seven prophets, who foretold Christ’s coming to the Jewish world, and five sibyls, who foretold it to the Gentile world.

In the arches and soffits above the twelve windows are representations of distinguished Bible characters who lived between Abraham and Christ, and a succession of Holy Families (the so-called “Genealogy of the Virgin “) who are awaiting the coming of the Saviour.

The representation of a massive and simple architectural framework assists in giving distinctness to the several parts and the necessary appearance of strength and solidity.

The Last Judgment,” painted on end wall of the Sistine Chapel above the altar. This is an immense fresco containing above three hundred heads and figures. It is numbered among the twelve pictures sometimes called “World Pictures.”1

“Holy Family” (only completed easel picture). Uffizi Gallery, Florence.

Madonna with St. John the Baptist and Angels ” (unfinished). National Gallery, London.

The Three Fates,” Pitti Gallery, Florence, so often attributed to Michael Angelo, was painted after his design by Rosso Fiorentino.

Daniele da Volterra (Daniele Ricciarelli, 1509—1566) was the ablest follower of Michael Angelo in the Florentine School. He was, however, far behind that master in conception and grandeur of style.

He was employed after Michael Angelo’s death to paint draperies on certain important nude figures in the lower part of his ” Last Judgment,” in Sistine Chapel, Vatican.

Most important works :

“Descent from the Cross.” Trinità de’ Monti, Rome. This is numbered among the twelve pictures sometimes called ” World Pictures.”

” Massacre of the Innocents.” Uffizi Gallery, Florence.

Andrea del Sarto (Andrea d’Agnolo, 1488-1530), called del Sarto from the trade of his father, who was a tailor, was born in Florence, and was so admired by his country-men that he was often called by them ” Andrea senza errore ” (Andrea the Faultless). This name was perhaps merited by the high technical qualities of his painting, but not by its conception and spirit.

Characteristics. — Subjects wholly Biblical or devotional, but not rep-resented from a religious point of view, only from that of physical grace and beauty. Composition quiet and broad.

Too voluminous draperies often conceal the action and grace of figures.

His faces seldom represent more than one type, said to have been that of his wife, a woman belonging to the lower classes of Florence. This type of face becomes a mannerism1 in Del Sarto’s pictures.

The charm and brilliance of his color surpass all other in Florentine painting. He modified the pure primary colors so much used by this school, softening and harmonizing them greatly. His flesh tones are most delicate and beautiful.

His technique is beyond most others of his school. Most important works :

FRESCOES (notably ” Madonna of the Sack “). SS. Annunziata, Florence.

FRESCOES (in black and white). Chiostro dello Scalzo, Florence.

These are especially fine in composition and drawing.

” Madonna of St. Francis” (often called ” Madonna of the Harpies “). Uffizi Gallery, Florence.

” Assumption,” ” Disputa,” ” Madonna in Glory,” ” Holy Family,” ” Madonna with Saints,” ” St. John Baptist.” Pitti Gallery, Florence.

Representative works are in Berlin Museum; Dresden Gallery; National Gallery, London; Louvre, Paris.

Franciabigio (1482-1525), a pupil of Albertinelli, was greatly influenced by Andrea del Sarto, with whom he was connected in painting.

His portraits are especially successful.

Representative works :

FRESCOES. Chiostro dello Scalzo and SS. Annunziata, Florence. Portraits. Pitti Gallery, Florence ; Louvre, Paris ; Berlin Museum. ” Bathsheba.” Gallery, Dresden.

Pontormo (Jacopo Carrucci, 1494-1557), named after the town of his birth, was a pupil of Andrea del Sarto, and so successfully imitated his master that his paintings often pass under his name.

Representative works :

Visitation,” a fresco in the outer court of the SS. Annunziata, Florence.

Portraits. Uffizi Gallery, Florence ; National Gallery, London ; Berlin Museum ; Borghese Gallery, Rome.

Ridolfo Ghirlandajo (1483-1561) was another imitative artist who copied largely the characteristics of the work of his greater contemporaries. He was a very successful portrait painter.

Representative works :

” St. Zenobius restoring a Boy to Life,” ” Burial of St. Zenobius.” Uffizi Gallery, Florence.

Annunciation” (catalogued to Leonardo da Vinci). Uffizi Gallery, Florence.

Probably ” The Goldsmith ” (catalogued to Leonardo da Vinci). Pitti Gallery, Florence.