Italian Painting – Venetian School (continued) – Pt. 2

HIGH RENAISSANCE PERIOD, 1500–1600.

Giorgione (Giorgio Barbarelli, 1477-1511), born in the neighborhood of Castelfranco, received the name by which he is known today on account of his stature ; it simply means “big George.”

No artist of this school ranks higher to-day, though he lived so few years, and there are in existence so few pictures known surely to be the work of his hands.

He was a fellow-pupil of Titian in the studio of Giovanni Bellini, and seemed to exercise a stronger influence over this master than did Bellini himself. Indeed, Giorgione is especially great as an influence. He lives more through the work of his contemporaries and followers, on whom he imposed his own powerful personality, than through his own painting, though his pictures are full of strength and charm.

Characteristics. — He wrought a great change in Venetian painting, both in conception and in method of treatment.

In him the sentiment of art was made second to its artistic and sensuous development.

Hitherto the subjects had been removed from and were higher than the people— Madonnas, saints, and high-born princes. Giorgione painted the fête, the concert, the philosopher, and the shepherd. The subject mattered little to him provided he could render it with true pictorial beauty.

He always sacrificed detail, which had been of so much value in earlier Venetian painting, to the effect of the whole.

He employed few figures in composition ; was fond of using three.

He discarded the minute treatment of landscape seen in Bellini’s work and painted broad sweeps of meadow, purple mountains, and massed architecture.

His painting of portrait is superb.

His color possesses in the highest degree the glowing intensity of the Venetian School. One critic has said :

” Titian’s color looks as if lighted from without; Giorgione’s, as if lighted from within.” He painted in tempera and then glazed in oil, to which process have been attributed the superior brilliance and transparence of his colors.

He is said to have been the first to really imitate the texture of draperies.

There is no artist about whose authentic works there has been greater controversy. Only a very few are given to him without dispute.

The following is a list of authentic and doubtful works :

Altar-piece. ” Madonna, Child, and Saints.” Castelfranco. Ordeal by Fire ” and ” Judgment of Solomon” (painted in youth). Uffizi Gallery, Florence.

Knight of Malta ” (doubtful). Uffizi Gallery, Florence.

“The Concert” (thought authentic by most critics ; attributed to Titian as a youthful work, by Morelli). Pitti Gallery, Florence.

“Sleeping Venus” (until recently attributed to Titian. The weight of authority now gives it to Giorgione). Dresden Gallery.

” Concert Champêtre (disputed). Louvre, Paris.

” Three Philosophers ” or ” Astrologers.” Vienna Gallery. Family of Giorgione.” Giovanelli Palace, Venice.

Sebastian del Piombo (Sebastiano Luciani, 1485—1547) was an eminent pupil of Giorgione. Like Raphael, he possessed a most sensitive, artistic nature, which readily received strong impressions from all with whom he was brought into close contact ; therefore his work is more or less eclectic. First, he imitated the manner of Cima da Conegliano, then was powerfully influenced by Giorgione. Afterward, going to Florence, he fell under the influence of Michael Angelo, and still later, in Rome, he imitated Raphael so successfully that several works which have hitherto been regarded as Raphael’s are now attributed to Sebastian.

His coloring is always Venetian ; his conceptions and design often thoroughly Florentine.

Most important works :

“Raising of Lazarus.” National Gallery, London. This is a noble picture and the artist’s greatest. It is said that Michael Angelo assisted him in the drawing of Lazarus in the hope that the picture might excel “The Transfiguration,” by Raphael, which was painted at the same time. Both pictures were by the order of the Bishop of Narbonne, afterward Pope Clement VII.

“Visitation.” Louvre, Paris.

“Martyrdom of St. Agatha.” Pitti Gallery, Florence.

” The Fornarina” (hitherto ascribed to Raphael, now given by many critics to Del Piombo). Uffizi Gallery, Florence. Portrait of Andrea Doria. Doria Gallery, Rome.

“The Violin Player” (hitherto ascribed to Raphael). Sciarra Gallery, Rome.

Wall Paintings. S. Pietro in Montorio, Rome.

Titian (Tiziano Vecellio, 1477-1576), born in Cadore, among the Italian Alps, is the fourth name in the so-called quartet of world-masters of painting. He came when a boy to Venice, where he entered the studio of the Bellini brothers and became a pupil of Giovanni Bellini and a fellow-pupil of Giorgione, by whom he was more strongly influenced than by the master himself.

Titian has been always accounted the greatest of the Venetian painters. The art of Venice is not, however, that of Florence, and we do not find the greatness of Titian reaching such heights as that of Michael Angelo and Raphael, or even Leonardo da Vinci.

Titian is great in color ; he is great also in every technical quality necessary to the thorough furnishing of the artist.

His art life was one of long triumph. For a short time he painted in the court of Ferrara, but soon returned to Venice, where he spent all his remaining years. Here he received every emolument possible. Fame, riches, friends, and honors crowded upon him. Kings and princes would have their portraits painted by no other hand.

His religious pictures were mostly painted in his youth. In his later work we find many classic or mythological themes, much portrait painting, and that style of fancy female figures that had its origin with him, and which is so evident a mark of the degeneracy of Italian art when we see it attempted by his mediocre followers.

He also painted some purely landscape pictures, a new art feature of this time.

Characteristics.—There is little of the spiritual ideal in Titian’s work; he is, emphatically, the painter of humanity ; not common humanity, but high-born humanity.

In his religious pictures we do not find the effort to portray spiritual feeling; the picture seems to have been conceived only to represent a group of noble, tranquil, magnificently painted people.

His church pictures are some of the most gorgeous in art. They are thoroughly Venetian in spirit, filled with columns, banners, superb priestly robes, and princely costumes, and glow with richest harmonies of color.

His composition at its best is unsurpassed, for he composed everything in his picture, — line, mass, color, light and shade, — all balance most perfectly. His handling’ is bold, free, and rapid; detail is wholly subordinated to general effect.

His portraits, perhaps the most noted in art, are always courtly, dignified, high-bred men and women, and are rendered particularly attractive by the wonderful quality of breadth of color and light that fills the canvas. His drawing is sometimes weak ; the contours of face are often lacking in subtility, while the hands are swollen and puffy.

His landscapes are marked by the grand Alpine scenery amidst which he was born, and are often rendered impressive by clouds and storms.

With him began the fashion of painting fancy female portraits and Venuses.

Most important works :

“Assumption of the Virgin.” Academy, Venice. This is numbered among the twelve pictures sometimes called ” World Pictures.” 2

” Presentation of the Virgin.” Academy, Venice.

“Venuses,” “Flora,” and portraits of Duke and Duchess of Urbino and Catherine Cornaro. Uffizi Gallery, Florence.

” La Donna Bella” and portraits of Philip I I and poet Aretinus. Pitti Gallery, Florence.

“Sacred and Profane Love,” sometimes called ” Artless and Sated Love.” Borghese Gallery, Rome.

” Entombment,” ” Woman at Toilet.” Louvre, Paris.

” Bacchus and Ariadne.” National Gallery, London.

” Titian’s Daughter.” Berlin Museum.

Portrait of Emperor Charles. Madrid Gallery.

Palma Vecchio (Jacopo Palma, 1480 ?-1528), called II Vecchio (The Elder), to distinguish him from a grandnephew who also was a painter, takes a deservedly high rank in this school, though he is not equal to its greatest masters.

Characteristics. — His works show the influence of Giovanni Bellini, Giorgione, and Titian. They possess all the important characteristics of Venetian painting ; are mostly personations of sacred characters ; grand, stately, marked by much amplitude of form and drapery, and richly colored. They have often passed under the name of Titian.

The face and figure of a favorite model constantly recur in his work, a model whom Titian must also have used. This was formerly said to be Palma’s daughter and was called Violante, until it has been proved that he had no daughter.

He painted in three distinct manners, distinguished as the Bellinesque, the Giorgionesque, and the blonde.

Most important works :

Altar-piece. ” St. Barbara” (Giorgionesque manner). Santa Maria Formosa, Venice. This is the artist’s masterpiece. In the centre, St. Barbara (patroness of the Venetian gunners), crowned and bearing the palm, stands on a pedestal on either side of which is a cannon. Beside her are St. Sebastian and St. John the Baptist, St. Anthony and St. Dominick ; above is a lunette, in which is painted a dead Christ (or Pietà). St. Barbara is one of the grandest figures in art ; her massive form and broad, sweeping draperies are characteristic of the artist. The color is a superb scale of reds.

” Tobias and Angel ” (Bellinesque manner). Stuttgart Gallery. The Three Sisters ” and ” Venus ” (blonde manner). Gallery, Dresden.

” Santa Conversazione.” Gallery, Naples.

” La Bella ” (formerly attributed to Titian). Sciarra Palace, Rome.

Adoration of Shepherds ” (Giorgionesque manner). Louvre, Paris.

Representative pictures are in all European galleries.

Lorenzo Lotto (1476 ?–1556) is an artist about whom comparatively little has been hitherto known, but who is rapidly growing in importance in the opinion of most competent critics. He was one of those sensitive painters who quickly feel the influence of contemporaries, yet he retained a charming individuality that marks his works. This is a subtile appreciation of the inner feelings or emotion of his figures — a depth of expression that is shown in face and gesture, and that gives more vivacity to his pictures than is usual in Venetian art. Sometimes this is exaggerated almost to affectation.

His portraits are especially fine ; they are characterized by a peculiar greenness of shadow.

Representative works :

Altar-pieces. SS. Giovanni e Paolo and Church of the Carmine, Venice.

Altar-piece. Gallery, Ancona.

Portraits. Brera Gallery, Milan ; Gallery, Vienna; National Gallery, London ; Hampton Court, England.

” The Three Stages of Life ” (believed by Morelli to be by Giorgione). Pitti Gallery, Florence.

Tintoretto (Jacopo Robusti, 1518-1594), born in Venice and called Tintoretto (little dyer) from the trade of his father, is said to have been at one time a pupil in the studio of Titian, who sent him home at the end of three days, saying that he “never would be anything but a dauber.” Some writers have attributed this action to Titian’s jealousy, but it is difficult to believe this to have been the case. There, however, could have been few pupils in the studio who would have shown greater ability, judging from after results.

Tintoretto is one of the boldest and most assured painters known in the history of art. He was so rapid with his brush that he was called Il Furioso by his contemporaries. He painted in Venice through his long life, and his pictures are all over the city. It is only here that he ought to be studied. These paintings are astonishing both in number and size. The Venetians did not care for fresco, preferring to cover the walls and ceilings of their immense halls with oil paintings, and Tintoretto furnished many of these.

No such diversity of opinion has ever existed regarding the merit of any other painter. Vasari declares that he executed his pictures by haphazard, without design, as if he desired to show that art is but a jest, while Mr. Ruskin sets him side by side with Michael Angelo, and that without in the least disparaging that great master’s claim to the highest admiration of all. Between these so diverse judgments intelligent popular opinion of the day places this artist. Without doubt he was a careless painter, for all degrees of merit may be seen through his mass of works. His ability, however, must be judged by his best, and this puts him unmistakably among the greatest of Venetian masters.

Characteristics. — Subjects mostly religious, mythological, and portrait. Inventive and dramatic power of representation wonderful. He was a story-teller and loved to combine many incidents within one picture.

He attempted to follow both the Florentine and Venetian schools, — to draw like Michael Angelo, and to color like Titian. While possessing much of the force of the former, he lacked that master’s dignity of motion.

Some of his figures are the most headlong, the most impetuous in the world of art. This action is one of his most marked characteristics. He even makes his light and shade a power in the movement of his pictures.

His color is very variable ; sometimes rivalling the richest productions of his school ; sometimes wholly wanting in force.

His portraits are fine beyond all question.

Most important works :

Fifty-seven large paintings (most noted of which is the ” Crucifixion “) Scuola di San Rocco, Venice. This is one of the four most famous art buildings in the world ; the other three being the Brancacci Chapel of Santa Maria del Carmine, Florence ; the Sistine Chapel of the Vatican, Rome, and the Arena Chapel, Padua.

Several pictures in S. Maria del Orto, Venice ; among which are ” The Last Judgment ” (so extolled by Mr. Ruskin) ; the ” Presentation of the Virgin” (painted in competition with that by Titian in Academy), and ” Miracle of St. Agnes.”

Some twenty-three authentic works in Ducal Palace, Venice ; among which are ” Paradise,” the largest oil painting in the world (30 feet by 74 feet), containing some five hundred figures; ” Bacchus and Ariadne ;” “The Graces ;” “Minerva driving away Mars,” and ” Forge of Vulcan.”

” Miracle of St. Mark ” (his masterpiece), ” Death of Abel,” ” Adam and Eve.” Academy, Venice.

Representative portraits are in Pitti and Uffizi Galleries, Florence ; Academy, Venice ; Gallery, Vienna ; Gallery, Cassel ; Colonna Gallery, Rome.

Paul Veronese (Paolo Cagliari, 1528-1588), born in Verona, followed the principles practised by the greatest Venetian masters, but originated a certain magnificence of style peculiar to himself. His pictures are distinguished by crowds of people arrayed with all the pomp and splendor that imagination can conceive or color accomplish, while in his backgrounds are piles of architecture of a vastness and richness without parallel in reality or in art. He set before us the old magnificent Venetian life in all its glory and intoxicating pleasures, and in this kind of picture he seems to have delighted most ; for even when he treated more serious subjects and attempted to portray deep feeling, although he evidently possessed a discriminating perception of character and sometimes expressed it, yet he violated taste by painting every scene, lofty or humble, sacred or secular, with the pomp of splendor and the richness of ornament, which were the fashion of his time.

He was much more careful in drawing than was Tintoretto, and his color possesses a brilliant transparence unequalled in his school.

He had a habit of introducing portraits of his friends, himself, his family, and domestic animals into even his most sacred pictures.

Most important works :

” Marriage of Cana.” Louvre, Paris. This picture covers six hundred square feet, and contains one hundred and thirty life-size figures, many of which are portraits of some of the most distinguished people of the time, including Veronese’s fellow-artists, all arrayed in gorgeous costumes. The principal figures, Christ and his mother, though in the centre of the picture, seem quite in the background.

Series of pictures. San Sebastiano, Venice.

” Triumph of Venice,” ” Rape of Europa.” Ducal Palace, Venice.

” Feast of the Levite.” Academy, Venice.

” Family of Darius.” National Gallery, London.

” Feast at the House of Simon.” Brera Gallery, Milan.

Bonifazio I, called Bonifazio Veronese (1540), Bonifazio II (1553), and Bonifazio III, called Bonifazio Veneziano are also names of some note in this school. Especially is this the case with Bonifazio Veronese, who is rapidly advancing in importance as his works are better known. Many of them are still catalogued under the names of other artists.

Representative works are :

” Finding of Moses.” Pitti Gallery, Florence.

” Madonna and Archangel Raphael with Tobias.” Ambrosiana, Milan. Both of these pictures were formerly attributed to Giorgione.

” Madonna and Child with Saints.” National Gallery, London.

Other noted names are Pordenone (1483-1540), who followed Giorgione and Titian ; Paris Bordone (1495-1570), especially noted for portrait painting ; and the Bassano family, of which Jacopo (often called Jacopo da Ponte) is by far the most important. He chose subjects into which he could largely introduce landscape with its accessories, animals and still life.

Mention must also be made of Moretto (1498-1555), who was born and painted in Brescia, but followed the Venetian School, and his pupil Moroni (1578), who is especially noted for fine portraits, some of which have until lately been attributed to Titian.

In the decadence of Venetian art some of the most important names are Jacopo Palma (II Giovine, 1544-1628), who followed Tintoretto ; Il Padovanino (1590-1650), who endeavored to follow Titian and Veronese ; Gian Battista Tiepolo (1692-1770), one of the best painters of this time, a fine colorist and fresco painter ; and Pietro Longhi (1762), who painted genre pictures and has sometimes been called the Venetian Hogarth.