Marco Basaiti – The Calling Of The Sons Of Zebedee

He is a little-known Venetian, follower of Carpaccio, whose works deserve attention for their distinctive power of deep-space design. The crudeness of his colors and textures, by comparison with other members of his school, is apt to blind one to the skill with which he uses other means.

He anticipates the modern cubists in a tendency to divide all objects into distinct planes, and in frequent distortion (notice the boy in the foreground). These planes are triangular, and fit together in a decisive pattern, supported by strong light-and-dark and color-contrasts. The pattern is unified not only by this pervasive rhythm, but by a general converging of planes toward the central figure. Not only the men in middle distance, but the boats below and the far-off hills and walls above, join in this arrangement. The design suffers from a certain lack of harmony between the treatment of figures and of background, in that the latter is given a Venetian mellowness of texture, while the former are carved with a non-realistic, sculptural hardness, full of sudden light transitions, as in Uccello’s Rout of San Romano. This tends to exaggerate the color-crudeness of the figures. Basaiti was evidently caught between conflicting tendencies of his day, and could not make up his mind to follow out his own distinctive approach with unyielding consistency.

Briefer Mention

TINTORETTO, Calvary (Room IX) —unusually symmetrical and tightly woven; saved from confused over-crowding by skillful contrasts of light and color, with a result of compressed, tensely pulsating vibration that heightens the sense of mysterious drama; the color, well preserved, is intermediate between Titian’s and Greco’s, between rich realism of texture and a fantastic, lurid glow. VERONESE, Feast at the House of Levi (Room IX) —colossal in size and in number of figures to be organized. This is done, and the crowd made into one design, by interweaving linear themes in the swaying gestures, and light and color themes in the costumes. The spirit of worldly, irreligious luxury in treating a Biblical theme is typical of Veronese and the late Renaissance. The form as a whole is imposing, dazzling, brilliantly decorative, but without power to move the emotion or imagination very deeply. GIOVANNI BELLINI, Madonna of the Alberetti (596) — much restored, and harder in texture than the Head of Jesus (87) on another wall; but tenderly human without sentimentality, and pleasant in its bright color-pattern. In the landscape back-grounds of the Allegories (595) appears more clearly the deep organic color which Bellini invented, and which formed the basis of Venetian painting. ALVISE VIVARINI, Madonna and Saints (607) —stiff, cramped, wooden, sharp-edged figures, basically sculptural; they show the state of Venetian art before Bellini. MANTEGNA, St. George (588) —small but concentrated in lustre and grace of line. CANALETTO, Atrium of a Venetian Palace; GUARDI, Islands of San Giorgio Maggiore and Giudecca (709) ; LONGHI The Apothecary’s Shop (all near the corridor called Loggia Palladiana) — these represent the decline of Venetian art in the eighteenth century, with weakened adaptations of the styles of greater men to unimaginative landscape, and to story-telling genre scenes.