Italian Painting – Paduan School

EARLY RENAISSANCE PERIOD, 1400-1500.

FOUNDED by Francesco Squarcione.

Characteristics. — Early work influenced by Giotto ; later allied to Venetian School ; marked by a severe study of form from the antique ; scientific practice of linear perspective ; a mythological tendency in subjects ; good expression and fairly good color.

Francesco Squarcione (1394-1474), of Padua, is more noted as a teacher than artist. He was at the head of one of the largest schools known in the history of art. His scholars were very proud of him, and often added to their own signatures ” the pupil of Squarcione.”

The foundation of the school was a study of ancient bas-relief.

Squarcione travelled over many parts of Greece and all over Italy for the express purpose of making drawings from the most valuable examples of ancient sculpture. His house was one of the chief attractions of Padua, and his collection of drawings and casts from the remains of antique sculpture was the largest and most celebrated of its time.

His pupils have given his name more fame than has his painting. By means of their assistance he executed a great series of frescoes in the Eremitani chapel, Padua, which was to the artists of northern Italy what the Brancacci Chapel, Florence, was to the Florentine painters.

Only two works may, according to best modern criticism, be surely ascribed to Squarcione. These belong to the Lazzari family of Padua. They have been reproduced by Milanesi in his book on Squarcione.

Andrea Mantegna (1431-1506), born in the neighborhood of Padua, is the greatest name of this school, and ranks with Ghirlandajo, Botticelli, and Filippino Lippi, of the Florentine, being second only to the greatest masters.

His story, as told by Vasari, somewhat resembles that of Giotto. He was a shepherd boy, but having very early in Iife shown an aptitude for drawing, he attracted the notice of the master, Squarcione, who not only took him for a pupil, but adopted him as a son. He became a passion-ate lover of the works of the great Florentine sculptor, Donatello.

He married a sister of the Venetian painter, Giovanni Bellini, and his later work was influenced by that master. His art influence was felt throughout Italy.

He painted diligently through life and left many works by means of which his style may be studied today.

He takes a high rank among the first Italian engravers on copper.

Characteristics. — Mantegna’s style of design is so closely drawn from antique sculptures that many of his early compositions possess the character of colored bas-reliefs.

His later work combines with this love of the antique an intense realistic tendency.

His pictures impress one as being stiff, austere, and lofty, although permeated often by a passionate warmth of feeling.

His figures are long and lean ; his faces solemn, often tragic, when influenced by strong emotions ; the hair long and curling, hands short and fleshy and very precise.

His draperies are composed of a multitude of little clinging folds and resemble bronze sculpture.

His backgrounds are often filled with stately, turreted architecture ; when a landscape background is used, there is usually a steep hill surmounted by a fortress, with a path winding up to it, or else there are high, jagged rocks.

He loved to picture detail, and his work vies in this respect with that of the Flemish masters.

His color is wanting in harmony.

His wall paintings are in tempera on dry plaster. Most important works :

Wall paintings. Eremitani Chapel, Padua.

Wall paintings. Ducal Palace, Mantua. These are remarkable as being the oldest example of ceiling painting intended to deceive the eye. The ceiling appears to open in the centre, and one seems to gaze through a circular balustrade into the open sky. On the upper ledge of the balustrade a peacock is strutting in the sunshine ; heads of women and children, the latter full of fun and roguery, are looking across to each other. Everything is drawn in most accurate perspective. This work undoubtedly influenced Correggio (see p. 111 ) in his wall decorations in the convent at Parma.

Series of nine pictures (originally painted for the decoration of the hall or theatre of the Palace of San Sebastiano, Mantua). Hampton Court, England.

Representative pictures are in Uffizi Gallery, Florence ; Brera Gallery, Milan; National Gallery, London.

Bartolommeo Montagna (1450?-1523), of Vincenza, may be placed in either the Paduan or the Venetian School, since he was influenced by both Mantegna and the Bellini. This artist has been unfortunate in having had a great part of his now known works attributed to other painters. Modern criticism is busy with him at present and is fast adding honor to his name.

Characteristics. — His subjects are usually groups of sacred characters, Holy Families, etc.

His drawing is free and sure, his figures are dignified, and his draperies treated with considerable breadth.

Color clear and rich, with low, soft tones.

Angel children are often introduced, playing on musical instruments.

His landscape backgrounds, most carefully executed, are more than usually attractive and indicate a poetic fancy. Representative works :

Altar-pieces. Seminario, Padua, and Brera Gallery, Milan. ” Ecce Homo.” Louvre, Paris.

” Madonnas.” National Gallery, London, and Berlin Museum.

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