THE manner in which the great majority of the paintings in the Metropolitan Museum were brought together by miscellaneous gifts precludes the possibility of finding here a review of the art of painting with any degree of historical completeness. Private collections are generally gathered according to the dictates of the fashion of the hour, or following personal preferences. In the majority of cases especially in the first instance the rules of art, historical and aesthetic, are not considered.
So we see here a preponderance of the sentimental, story-telling pictures of the 19th century ; a strong representation of Munich and Dusseldorf school work; and but few of the modern Dutch, of the French luminarists, or the early Italians.
The old English, 17th century Dutch, and modern American painters are fairly well represented.
But such as there is, the best possible use has been made of the opportunities. The collections that by virtue of conditions of deed of gift must remain intact, such as the Wolfe, the Marquand and the Hearn collections, are hung with an eye to aesthetic display in which some regard is paid to judicious grouping the Vanderbilt collection being still open for great improvement in this respect. With the remainder of the paintings the same aim is kept in view, whereby national schools are more and more grouped together, so that even the uninitiated may already grasp the distinctive qualities of each.
The example of the Louvre and the Florence Galleries has been followed in having one room set apart like the Salon Carre and the Tribuna in which masterpieces of various schools are brought together, whereby may be seen the cognate relationship of the greatest works in art, no mat-ter the period or nationality. With improving conditions in the importance of the paintings in the Museum there is a frequent change taking place in the garniture of Gallery XXIV.
It must be stated with gratification that after years of supine indifference as to attributions, many of the most flagrant errors in this respect have been corrected; only a few remain which a difference of judgment only may call in question.
Since the paintings are often changed from their places of hanging, but still in a measure the national schools are kept together, we will follow this national division also in our description, with a chron ological order of the artists represented. For obvious reasons those paintings only temporarily in loan to the Museum will in most cases be passed by ; nor shall we notice all the paintings that are hung.
The Italian painters represent so many various phases of art expression that we will discuss them grouped according to schools, as well as divided by centuries. Thus we have the Primitives of the Gothic period, before 1400 A. D.; the Early Renaissance, during the 15th century; the High Renaissance of the 16th century; and after 1600, the artists of the Decadence.
A few interesting Primitives show how the art of painting was early flowering in Italy. A ” Tabernacle of the Muranese school,” aside from offering a fine specimen of Gothic ornament in wood carving, with flowery tracery around the niche, shows the highly finished figure of the Ma-donna. The wings show four Saints on a gold ground. The painting is extremely crude and suggests the work of the early Vivarini, who had kept up longest the traditions of the Byzantine school.
A primitive Tabernacle or shrine, used for decoration of a chapel, is attributed to one of the Rossi. Two putti are on the exterior of the doors, on the inside of which are painted Saint Catherine and Saint Francis, possibly the patron saints of two members of the family for whom this was painted. The Madonna holding the Child is seated on a throne, an angel standing on each side in attitude of adoration. Another ” Madonna and Child,” by Sano di Pietro, is one of many variants by Sano or his pupils.
Very interesting is a semicircular ” Madonna and Child with Donors,” which, after some changes, has been finally attributed to Giovanni da Milano, who flourished between 1350 and 1380. This attribution has been confirmed by Dr. Oscar Siren, of Stockholm, the author of a work on Giotto, and the artists of the tercento.
Giovanni da Milano was of Lombard origin, as his name indicates, which is also evidenced in a slightly sentimental affectation of pose. His Florentine training gave him warmth and richness of colour, and although a Sienese influence with its ornate design is apparent in the panel before us, we do not find therein the greater spirituality of the Sienese school. On the contrary, Giovanni is thoroughly Florentine in the naturalistic tendency of portraying the faces, especially of the donors. This turning towards nature was to be a distinguishing mark of the Florentines who followed in the succeeding centuries.
An early Italian triptych was apparently used as a reliquary, as may be seen from the twelve small coffers at the base originally covered by glass. The background is divided into sixteen scenes of the life of Christ. It is an interesting primitive that shows still traces of Gothic feeling, although it must probably be placed in the early part of the 15th century. The curious iconography marks its Lombard origin, at any rate from Northern Italy, while the vigorous and naive narrative style suggests Diffidente de Ferrari. A representation of the Trinity, exceedingly rare in Italian art, although it appears among the North European miniaturists, is as three bearded men, exactly alike, seated at a table, each holding a book in one hand and blessing with the other.
Another North Italian ” Madonna and Child” bears fully the characteristics of Pisanello, to whom it is attributed, whose influence predominated at Milan from 1420-1450. A reminiscent Gothic trait is the heavy green halo, which is not pure Italian, and rendering the subject an interesting problem.
An Early Renaissance painting of the Sienese school is by Giovanni di Paolo (1400-1481), who is best seen in small pictures, since he lacked the talent for large compositions. This one is entitled ” Paradise,” and the Elect, represented as fashion-able youths and maidens of the day, walking about a Tuscan hillside, are led by an angel towards the gate of paradise, which is invisible, rays of gold proceeding from its direction. Giovanni displays the technical perfection of surface and colour of the Sienese school, especially to be noted in his de-lineation of the profusion of wild violets and lilies, among which rabbits crouch and hide.
Influenced by the Central Italian school is a ” Madonna Enthroned with Angels,” accredited to Pietro di Domenica di Montepulciano (flourished early part 15th century). This influence, however, is only manifest in the richness and opulence of the surfaces and colour, reflecting the spirit of the capricious and voluptuous republic of Siena, by this time devoid of its early spiritual tendencies. It is seen in the workmanship of. the grounds, the rich pattern of the gold chasing, and the magnificent brocade. Greater was the influence of the Northern schools upon the artist, the same which affected his contemporary Fra Angelico. The draperies are as stiff and conventional as with the Florentine master; and since this panel is dated 1421 it is well to look to the teaching of Gherardo Starnina as the prime inspiration.
Formed in the Florentine studio of Fra Filippo Lippi was Francesco Peselino (1422-1457), of whom we have a ” Madonna and Child ” enthroned between St. John the Baptist and St. John the Evangelist. The early death of this artist, and lack of recognition during his short life has resulted in many of his paintings being passed under Fra Filippo’s name. His work, however, is quite distinct. He has more force and less sentiment than his master, and is the stronger draughtsman. It is even apparent that Peselino must have often quitted the Fra’s studio to browse in the Brancacci Chapel of the Church of the Carmine in Florence, where the noblest work was painted by Masaccio, the most powerful genius who ” forcibly turned the current of art into its true course, and held up the invisible world to our gaze.”
A ” Man and a Woman at a Casement,” formerly given to Masaccio, is more likely by another pupil of Fra Filippo Lippi’s studio.
A large painting on plaster, which was cut from the wall of the Chapel of the Michelozzi Villa in Florence, represents the early Christian Church legend of St. Christopher carrying the Infant Christ, and is ascribed to Pollajuolo. It was a charming thought of the then curator of paintings to bear in mind the old superstition that whoever looked upon a painting of the Christbearer should not stumble nor fall that day. For which reason the picture was hung exactly opposite the entrance to the grand stairway in the Museum, where it is the first painting to be seen on ascending to the second floor.
Antonio Pollajuolo (1429?-1498) and his brother Piero generally collaborated in the production of paintings, in which Antonio furnished the severe and strenuous drawing of the design, while Piero put the same into colour.
Other paintings belonging to the Florentine school are a ” St. Anthony,” wrongfully assigned formerly to Ghirlandajo, whose grace and strength are lacking here; and two hunting scenes of the golden age of primitive man, of a golden brown colour and full of action. They are given in the catalogue to Piero di Cosimo (1462-1521), and were likely painted for cassone fronts. A ” Ma-donna and Child ” bears all the marks of Sandro Botticelli’s school with its symphony of lines, and harmony of colours.
A small but excellent example of a little-known master of the Umbrian school is a ” Nativity,” by Fiorenzo di Lorenzo (1440-1521), whose style was greatly influenced by the Florentines, notably Benozzo Gozzoli. This latter artist was the first to turn from the contemplative art of the early Renaissance, always serious and lofty, sometimes lugubrious, to a frankly idyllic and picturesque interpretation of Bible stories. He introduced the episodic element, and he did this in a poetic and brilliant fashion. Although he left no pupils in Florence, his visit to Umbria had considerable influence over Niccolo da Foligno, Melanzio, Bonfigli and our artist of this ” Nativity.” While its spirit is thoroughly in harmony with Gozzoli’s manner, the landscape proclaims its Umbrian source.
Of the Lombard school there is a portrait of a lady, which formerly was assigned to Leonardo da Vinci, but now has been attributed to Leonardo’s pupil Ambrogio de Predis (about 1455 after 1506), who painted under his master’s direction the replica of the ” Virgin of the Rocks,” in the National Gallery.
The frieze of small heads, over the doors in Gallery XXIV, originally decorated a room in a castle near Mantua, which belonged to the Gonzagas. These heads are painted in tempera, each within an archway, the perspective of which shows that they were to be seen from below, and give the portraits of celebrated persons. The English critic Herbert F. Cook assigns them to Bartolomeo Suardi, called II Bramantino (1450-1536), from his master Bramante, the architectural rival of Michelangelo. These heads have the characteristics of Bramantiho’s work his architectural setting, their purity of outline and loveliness of colour, which appealed so strongly to Raphael that he had them copied by his pupil Giulio Romano. Whether the twelve panels in the Metropolitan are the originals or these copies it will be difficult to determine. An interesting story is connected with the discovery of these interesting plaques. Mr. H. Willett, an English gentleman of Brighton, while passing through Mantua in 1881, happened to see about thirty-six small paintings carted into town, together with a load of old lumber from the demolition of a Gonzaga shooting box in that neighbourhood. He bought them then and there, and the wreckers, thinking they were doing an English maniac, actually asked and received from him the enormous sum of $120 for the forty paintings. Mr. Willett took these Mantuan panels to his home in Brighton, giving a few to the Victoria and Albert Museum. The manner in which the Metropolitan panels have been mounted makes them exceptionally valuable to show the decorative value of such small paintings.
The rise of the art of painting at Venice, about the middle of the quatrocento, was not until more than a century and a half after its rise at Florence, and Masaccio and Fra Angelico had died before the painters of the lagune were only just beginning to infuse some life and bloom into the old traditionary Byzantine forms, with aid derived at first, not from the Florentines and Sienese, but from the hard and crabbed notions of the neighbouring city of Padua.
One of the earliest of the Venetian painters was Giovanni Bellini (1428?-1516), the greatest painter in North Italy in the second half of the 15th century, as Vittore Pisano had been the greatest pioneer in the first half. Mantegna may have been more impressive and powerful, Bellini was the more versatile. His work was grand and serious, graceful and attractive, naive and simple, as conditions required. Like every Venetian painter he had ” the golden touch,” but no one else had it quite so fully as he. No fear then to call the ” Madonna and Child,” by Bellini, the greatest Venetian work in the Museum.
In front of a dull orange-red curtain the Ma-donna is seated holding the Child in both hands. Bellini’s divine mothers are all true to the Byzantine traditions proud rather than tender, they hold up the Infant Christ to the people instead of clasping him to themselves ; they are Christophers, Christ bearers, as has been well said, as they sit with their calm faces and their hooded mantles. Only two or three of the faces of his Madonnas are lovely, generally they are so calm as to be impassive, although with grave and simple dignity. The one before us has a somewhat insipid beauty, but the absence of all straining, either for expression, or technical handling, all being achieved with-out visible effort, denotes the quiet perfection which makes Bellini a master of masters. The hands here, however, are painted with greater expression than, perhaps, in any of Bellini’s works. They delineate tender devotion, a caressing touch, as well as contribute to the understanding of the Madonna’s type the well-rounded right hand with the fleshy base of the thumb is in such complete harmony with the character to be read from the Madonna’s features.
The peculiar pose and expression of the Child is explained by comparing this picture with another Bellini in the Academia at Venice, where the Child is seen in the same attitude; but there we find the cause of its apparent wonderment and delight, as expressed in the eyes and the half-open mouth. There the dark twilight sky is filled with cherub heads to whose voices the Child is rapturously listening. It has been well suggested that the picture before us is an earlier work, and that the Academia picture was painted later to obviate the criticism which might have been made as to the obscurity of the meaning of our picture.
In the description which Mr. Roger E. Fry made of this Bellini in the Museum Bulletin he gave a clear and concise example of what the modern science of expertism can do from internal evidence in its study of a picture. This objective science, which does not concern itself with the provenance, or records of a painting, and of which Mr. Bernard Berenson is, perhaps, the greatest exponent, counts also in Mr. Fry one of its most accomplished practitioners.
Mr. Fry’s remarks follow : ” It may be of some interest to endeavour to fix approximately the date of this work and its place in the long sequence of Bellini’s Madonnas. As it is painted in oil it is not likely that it can be earlier than the early part of the seventies of the 15th century, the period at which Antonello da Messina’s visit to Venice first disseminated there the knowledge of the new medium; nor would the general evidence of style point to an earlier date. The early Madonnas in tempera, of which Mr. J. G. Johnson’s, Mr. Theodore M. Davis’s, Prince Trivulzio’s and Signor Frizzoni’s are the most important, all have a more intense and tragic feeling than is to be found in our ex-ample. This then belongs to the later and far larger series which beginning probably in the later seven-ties extend almost to the end of Bellini’s life. In this later series there is a constant increase in the sensuous splendour of colour and in the research for atmospheric envelopment, but this is accompanied by a continual loss of the firmness and constructive power in the drawing.
” Now in our example the drawing, on the one hand, is still precise and firm, but, on the other, the colour is still cool and there is as yet none of that rich enveloping glow of warm light in which Bellini bathed his late pictures, preparing, thereby, the way for Giorgione and Titian. Though ours is painted in oil it still recalls something of the cool ivory-like quality of the tempera Madonnas.
” It would seem then that our picture must come quite early in the series, and this is made the more likely in that it agrees particularly well with the Turin Madonna which the present writer years ago placed, as internal evidence, to this exact period, namely, the end of the seventies or the early eighties.
” Bellini’s Madonnas can to some extent be grouped by the type of the face, by the actual model that posed to him, and this particular face with the thin oval and somewhat bird-like eyes occurs in the Turin picture and in the closely allied ` Madonna with the Child Standing in the act of Benediction’ of the Venice Academy. The same model seems to have been used for the ` Madonna and Child before a Curtain ‘ with a distant landscape in the Morelli collection at Bergamo.
” One more reason for giving it this approximate date is to be found in the landscape. In his early works, Bellini’s ideas of mountains were derived from the Euganean hills which were the most accessible from Venice. About 1475 he must have gone to Pesaro to paint the large altarpiece still to be seen in that town. When there he, no doubt, would have made notes of the scenery of the Apennines. The general character of this landscape is much more that of the Apennines than of any country nearer to Venice, and though from habit Bellini gave to the chimneys their familiar Venetian shape, one can hardly doubt that the scene is one that he had become familiar with in his journey to Pesaro, and that therefore there is a likelihood that it was painted not very long after his return to Venice.”
A contemporary of Bellini was Carlo Crivelli (about 1435 after 1493), of whom we have a ” St. Dominic ” and a ” St. George in Armour.” Born in Venice he lived at Ascoli, in the Marches of Ancona, and was less free from the influence of Padua, on which the Venetians founded their earliest impressions, than Bellini had been. He shows the sharpness and hardness of outline of the austere school of Padua, with which he combines a resplendent and diverse colouring. His fondness for embossed ornament, festoons and garlands was thoroughly Venetian. Only one side of the art of this great master is shown in the paintings before us that of his earliest period. His hard, metallic types of forms, his figures withered, and lean, and unnatural in movement by degrees changed from ill-favoured beings to impassioned representations, and although his later attempts even to be graceful were rarely successful his grace being akin to affectation still a work like his Annunciation in the National Gallery denotes a marvellous stride in the use of his varied gifts. There he shows his mastery as a designer of decoration. Almost every square inch of that canvas attests the inexhaustible richness of his invention, opulent and Oriental in its sparkling sheen. An interesting comparison might be made with another ” St. George and the Dragon the one in the collection of Mrs. John L. Gardner of Fenway Court, Boston and our subject; that one being of much later date.
An earlier painter was Michele Giambono, of whom we only know that he flourished in the first half of the 15th century, and that he did mosaic work in a capella of St. Mark’s, Venice. A ” Pieta ” shows the dead Christ in the tomb, with St. Francis kneeling in prayer. The background of blue and gold brocade and the tempera medium indicate the early performance.
Of greater interest is a ” Deposition from the Cross,” by Antonello da Messina, lent by Mr. Henry C. Frick. Antonello was the painter who brought the use of the oil medium from Flanders to Venice, where Giorgione was among the first to adopt the innovation. In this ” Deposition ” we can readily recognize the mixture of Flemish and North Italian influences ; especially is the type of the dead Christ decidedly Flemish. The Weeping Magdalene might have been derived from Bellini. The head and drapery of the Mary who supports Christ’s head is identical to a picture by Antonello which is now in the Academia of Venice. He was not possessed of any great originality and readily succumbed to the influence of more powerful spirits surrounding him, hence but few of the works he produced during the last fifteen years of his life go by his name, while many more in various collections parade under false, but naturally more ambitious designations.
A direct pupil of Bellini was Giovanni Battista, in the history of art known as Cima da Conegliano (middle 15th century 1517?) . A large ” Altar-piece with St. Roch, St. Anthony and St. Lucy ” presents, indeed, points of contact with Bellini, nevertheless it bears the impress of a very distinct individuality. His characteristics were good drawing and proportion, carefully studied though some-what angular drapery, brilliant colour, and Bellini’s scrupulous finish and smooth impasto. He also shares with the Bellinis and Carpaccio the distinction of having successfully attempted, if not solved, the problems of perspective, chiaroscuro and atmosphere.
The men of the 16th century, the High Renaissance of Italian art shifts the weight of preferment from Florence to Venice. Only a few Florentines are of note. Leonardo da Vinci, in-deed, lived for thirty years in Florence, but his greatest work was done at Milan, and he is more properly identified with the Milanese school. His contemporary Fra Bartolommeo (1475 – 1517) spent his whole life in the city of the Medici, where his method of painting was a direct out-come of Leonardo’s principles. He did, however, carry Leonardo’s colour scheme further to perfection in deeper harmonies, with a unison of effect such as is almost unparalleled in the history of painting. A ” Virgin and Child ” is accredited to be a school picture of his influence.
Giuliano Bugiardini (1475-1554), the fellow-student with Michelangelo in Ghirlandajo’s studio, has here a ” Madonna and Child with Infant St. John,” which shows some Raphael influence. Of Angelo Bronzino (1502-1572) we find one of the numerous portraits the artist painted of his patron ” Cosimo I, Duke of Tuscany.” It resembles in pose the portrait which is in the Academia, Florence, but must have been painted earlier since the face is more youthful, like the one in the Uffizi. Although not a good colourist, Bronzino was well appreciated for his portraits.
The Umbrian school, with Pintoricchio, Signorelli and Raphael, is not represented, and to Correggio of Ferrara is an ” Angel with the Head of a Cherub” ascribed, of doubtful antecedents. It were easy also to ascribe to him a ” Holy Family we find herewere it still the object to give by hook and by crook the great names to pictures that bear only the slightest characteristics of the great men, even though they be copies or imitations. This ” Holy Family ” is, however, rightly attributed to Frederigo Baroccio (1528-1612), a mannerist who derived his style from the study of Raphael, and still more of Correggio whom he greatly resembles in delicacy of light and shade. His colouring was peculiar, in that he avoided yellow tints and used too much vermilion and ultra-marine. Reynolds observed that “he falls under the criticism that was made of an ancient painter `that his figures looked as if they fed upon roses.’ ” This colour tendency may be regarded as merely an exaggeration of the peculiarities of the men he imitated, which, together with the treatment of a subject like this “Holy Family ” without any subjective reverence, points already to the coming decadence.
Lorenzo Costa (1460-1535) formed one of the main links that united the schools of Ferrara and Bologna. A large panel, representing ” Three Saints,” is from his hand. A gentle gravity and a sense of colour mark his style, but he did not understand to put his figures solidly on their feet, nor to give drapery an easy flow. His greatest distinction is to have been the teacher of several pupils who afterwards excelled him, as Dosso Dossi, Mazzolini, and foremost Francia. Of the school of Verona we have a ” Portrait of a Man,” by Torbido (1486-1546), which is but faintly suggestive of Moroni, to whom, in search of great names, it was at one time attributed. It is thoroughly suggestive of the little exploited Veronese school, and hence more valuable.
Returning to the Venetians we have here The Circumcision,” by Vincenzo Catena (flourished 1495-1531), a man who early followed and even imitated Bellini, but later was much affected by Giorgione. His own style developed largely in the direction of breadth and freedom of treatment, but always retained a combination of the two tendencies of the Venetian school of this period. Two of his pictures in the National Gallery are good enough to have been at first attributed, one to BelIini, and the other to Giorgione, until in 1883 Crowe and Cavalcaselle established their true authorship.
Of greater importance is the ” Portrait of a Young Man,” by Lorenzo Lotto (1480-1556) ; not because it is one of his best works, but because even a work of the earliest immaturity of a man like Lotto, as this is, presents essential qualities that go far to make us understand one side of the character of the art of the period.
Lotto was not accorded during his life the high standing which we would have him take. Of a roving disposition he left but few works in Venice, which were even minimized by the preponderating honour bestowed on Giorgione and Titian. Yet, with him, posterity has been the better judge. When at Bergamo he painted three altar pieces, in which he poured out the poetry of his soul. He was in the full vigour of manhood, and these Bergamask pictures have an exuberance, a buoyancy, a rush of life, and a brilliant, joyous colouring which only Correggio could have equalled. Yet was there never any actual connection between the two when Lotto was at Bergamo, Allegri was not yet known. Lotto differed from Correggio by the whole of his psychological bent. Correggio was ecstatic, rapturous, his sensitiveness tremulously sensuous, almost pagan Lotto’s sensitiveness was spiritual, he was devout, not in stereo-typed churchliness, but with the hunger of a soul that seeks divine communion. And this psycho-logical condition he infused in all his work, so that no painter was ever more reflected in his pictures. The religious severity and asceticism that characterized the school of the Vivarini is never wholly wanting in Lotto’s composition.
He was as psychological in his portraits. In this respect he was greater than Moroni a mere portrait painter, a subjective realist, who dissolved himself, as it were, in the spirit and character of his sitters. Lotto infused in them something of his own soul. Hence, when we study the score or so of portraits which he has left behind, we almost think that all Italy was not so corrupt as we some-times are inclined to suppose ; that there were men and women untainted by its vices ; that there were priests and prelates full of apostolic fervour and pure zeal; that the Rome of the Borgias was passing.
As a colourist Lotto always remained a Venetian, while in his handling Berenson has pointed out the modern quality of his latest works, and notes that the way in which the paint is put on strongly recalls the French impressionists of today. It is a pleasure, then, to study a work of this master, albeit a very early one. The drawing in it is by no means impeccable, although it already intimates his leaning to character painting by making the hands too large. Much later, and much better, the artist painted such a subject a young man standing beside a table on which rests a skull. This is now in the Borghese Gallery, and there the memento mori is half-hidden among rose leaves.
A portrait painter of a different stamp was Sebastiano Luciani, called from the office he filled late in life at the Papal Court, Sebastiano del Piombo (1485-1547). The portrait of ” Christopher Columbus,” painted by him, denotes him to have been a sincere craftsman, worthy to be employed by Michelangelo to paint his designs. His powerful colouring so manifest in his altar-pieces that in these he contended for the palm even with Raphael is rightly subdued in his portraits. Vasari particularly notices his great skill in painting the head and hands. In the history of art Sebastian del Piombo is like a shining point in which three schools meet, each bringing its pre-eminent qualities. A Venetian painter, he came to Rome to learn the manner of Raphael, under the direction of Michelangelo, who would fain oppose Raphael on his own ground by pitting one of his pupils against the reigning King of art. And so it came to pass that in Del Piombo’s genius Venetian colour was blended with Florentine composition and a something of Raphael’s manner.
The restfulness and easy strength of Titian (1477-1576) is seen in his portrait of ” Pietro Aretino,” his intimate friend for thirty years, which is an excellent example of his portraiture. Although the maestro supremo is best to be appreciated in his grand manner, in his monumental style of composition, in that arresting force of colour which makes the world recognize a work of his art and forever acclaim it as a classic still in Titian’s most courtly portraits there is a force and vitality unsurpassed. Rubens’s folks are healthy and robust, van Dyck’s people are elegant, Velasquez with a broad sweep gives character, Reynolds paints his human documents easily and freely but Titian united all qualities in an adequate degree, and his artistic equipment was teres atque rotundas. His portraiture partakes of a stately nobility that makes us forget, when viewing Titian’s limning of men and women, those peculiar perfections in portraiture for which we raise others on a pedestal we end in according the palm to Titian.
Of Jacopo Robusti, called I1 Tintoretto (1518-1594), we find a ” Last Supper.” His nick-name he acquired from the trade of his father, who was a dyer (Tintore). It is difficult to conceive in such a small example the furious energy where-with this master performed his work. Yet on a diminished scale we recognize in it the ideal of all his performances which as a motto he had blazoned on the wall of his studio : ” II disegno di Michelangelo ed it colorito di Tiziano.” There is something here of the majesty of the design of the great Florentine sculptor and the marvellous colour of Tintoretto’s Venetian rival.
While Paolo Cagliari, called Veronese, was the last of the great Venetians, the sound traditions of his school were still carried on by his son Carlo Cagliari (1570-1596), who in his short life displayed an ability, a marked individuality of colour scheme, which would have given him the renown he deserved, were it not that his father’s fame and name overshadowed him. In the ” Two Allegorical Figures ” which we have from Carlo’s brush we find a decorative design which is an eminent ex-ample of the opulence of Venetian taste of the period.
With the beginning of the 17th century the decadence of Italian art became clearly apparent. In spite of the sunset glory which Tintoretto and Veronese were shedding upon Venice, the shadows began to gather over the art that for three hundred years had made Italy glorious. All the schools of Italy were ready to fall; and they fell together.
The whole social standard of Italy had been lowered. Her republics existed no longer ; municipal pride was dead ; and she had become the prey of rulers who were but the hirelings of foreign monarchs. The consequences led to her moral degrading, and the arts shared in the decline.
At this time a family of painters of Bologna, the Carracci, sought to revive the art, not by looking independently into the future which should redeem the present, but by looking backwards to the old methods and traditions, to seek by selection and amalgamation a combination of all excellences. Imitation was to produce an ideal mixture. The folly of it ! Lanzi has pointed out how Annibale Carracci strove to exemplify his teachings by imitating in a single work Veronese in one figure, Correggio in another, and Titian and Parmigiano in the remainder. Art was in a parlous state.
Guido Reni and Francesco Albani were both pupils of Annibale Carracci. Of Albani (1578-1660) there is a canvas, ” Children’s Games,” which is entirely in the florid style of his friend Guido. Another one of the Carracceschi was Giovanni Salvi, called after his birthplace Il Sassoferrato (1605-1685), whose style and subjects, though not in elaborate finish, bear some resemblance to those of Carlo Dolci, as may be seen in a ” Madonna ” attributed to him.
The ” Portrait of Clement IX ” was painted by Carlo Maratta (1625-1713), for nearly half a century the most eminent painter in Rome, enjoying the favour of six successive Popes. He was an ardent admirer of Raphael, whose style he endeavoured to follow, unfortunately modified by a leaning to the eclecticism of the Carracci. His paintings are more distinguished for the general absence of defects than for any particular excellence.
A ” Presentation in the Temple,” by Luca Giordano (1632-1705) shows that the decadence of Italian art may well be likened to the history of the progress of some malady, with its symptoms, its recoveries, its relapses and final demise. Here we have a man of Naples who showed more vigorous vitality than the gasping schools of the North of Italy. His work shows pictorial qualities of no mean order, although his ease in hand-ling led him often into superficial treatment, while the spirit of his time is manifest in hollow sentiment.
Sebastiano Ricci, (1662-1734) see his ” Esther before Ahasuerus “ was an imitator of Venice, although very popular in his time. Cavaliere Panini (1695-1768) attained celebrity as a painter and etcher of architectural subjects, whereof we have a good example in his ” Cardinal Polignac visiting the Interior of St. Peter’s.”
But even in the 18th century Venice gave birth to a trio of artists who may be accorded honour. These were Tiepolo, Canaletto and Guardi. Of Giovanni Battista Tiepolo (1696-1770) we find here ” The Crowning with Thorns,” which, indeed, is not one of his best works, but still represents him fairly. Tiepolo has been called ” the last of the old painters, and the first of the moderns.” He was the painter of polished aristocracy, giving full expression to the splendours that surrounded. him, yet with moderation and elegance. It may be truly said that nearly all the great decorators of the 19th century were inspired by him. Even though his composition smacks of melodrama, and his effects are often laboured, and the results pompous, still he was superior to his time, and possessed the primordial quality of the artist : originality.
Canaletto’s pupil Francesco Guardi (1712-1793), the painter of the lagunes, renders with infinite truth and charm a ” Fete upon the Grand Canal, Venice, with View of the Rialto,” which is a tolerably large composition, since he painted more frequently cabinet sizes, such as may be seen in his other two examples, ” Santa Maria della Salute ” and ” The Rialto.” Guardi’s painting was more sketchy than his master’s lines of architectural ac-curacy, but they are rich and forcible in colouring and of brilliant style.
Of the 19th century Italian painters we may find among the modern paintings a ” Circus Boy,” by Francesco Mancini, who must not be confounded with the far more original and eccentric Antonio Mancini, and an ” Entrance to a Mosque,” by Alberto Pasini. ” Female Figures, Gossip,” and paintings of Parisian Ladies, and of Ladies of the First Empire, by Giovanni Boldini, are still in a more or less reserved manner, which this artist later abandoned for dislocated and tortuous portraiture.
The Italian section cannot boast of very many supremely fine examples of the great schools; but it is highly commendable that, since the greatest works can only be had on the rarest occasions, good pictures of minor artists are being collected, those that truly show the characteristics of the art tendencies ruling in Italy for three centuries. These are far preferable to imitations or copies by minor artists with great names ” stuck on,” which for aesthetic and educational value are worse than nothing.