Venice Academy – Room II – Sala Dei Friulani

One of these men was Martino da Udine, or Pellegrino da S. Daniele, as he is some-times called. He was the son of a Dalmatian, Battista, a painter who lived at Udine, and he was born probably between 1460 and 1470. ” It is conjectured that Martino derived his appellation of Pellegrino, which is equivalent to the ` little stranger,’ from his foreign origin, while the adjunct of San Daniele came from the little Friulian town in which his father resided and in which Martino long worked as painter.” He began his frescoes in the choir of the Church of S. Antonio at San Daniele, but, on account of the wars between the Venetians and Emperor Maximilian, which drove him from the country, he did not finish them till nearly a quarter of a century afterward. During that time he lived in Venice and visited other important cities in Italy. His early work at San Daniele shows him a hard, dry painter with little technical knowledge, but his later proves him to have absorbed much from the Bellini and the other great Venetians. Indeed, he so far succeeded in copying their style that many works which have been attributed to these far greater men are proved now to be his own. He recalls Giorgione, Pordenone, Romanino, and even at times Titian and Palma Vecchio. He died in 1547.

” He is a striking instance,” says Layard, ” of an imitator of certain grand qualities in Venetian art, without the careful drawing and deeper feeling requisite to form a first-rate master. He has consequently acquired a far greater reputation than he deserves, for he was, in fact, a very mediocre painter.”

He had heavy outlines, abrupt and unsustained transitions from light to shadow, too much redness in his flesh-tones and angularity in his drapery. He was the teacher of Pordenone, and when that far more talented youth began to out-rival his master, Pellegrino did not hesitate to copy his erstwhile pupil’s manner.

The three pictures in Room 7 are not by any means up to his best works. Of the two Annunciations, the one which came from the Chiesa di S. Francesco in Treviso is perhaps the more gracefui. Mary is shown kneeling at the right before a prie-dieu in a marble-tiled court under a hanging of white drapery. She is dressed in a dark green mantle bordered with golden embroidery. At the left, coming from a marble porch, is the angel with a lily in his left hand, his right lifted in blessing. He is dressed in a gray mantle over a yellowish-toned tunic with blue sleeves. His face and features are very girlish, , while his figure is some-what robust and heavy. In the background, showing through an open loggia, is a landscape, and in the sky above the head and shoulders of the Al-mighty are seen in the midst of clouds. There is little grace of action here, the shadows are unreal, the colours not well-chosen or arranged. Part of these faults may, however, well be due to the restorer. It was painted in 1519 for the Tailors’ Guild at Udine, and critics have claimed that it is only a copy of one in S. Antonio.

The other Annunciation is on two panels and probably made part of a larger picture. The Virgin, in a crimson robe under a blue mantle lined with gold-coloured silk, with a white linen head-veil, is seen standing in a room by an open window. Near this a dove is flying. The angel is placed with some grace of arrangement, wearing a white robe, maize-coloured sleeves with scarlet trimming on the shoulder. He is in the full light, which is made more marked by the shadow thrown on the wall behind. His wings are iridescent in colour. Both of the figures are under life-size.

Of an entirely different calibre is the Holy Family with John the Baptist and St. Catherine, which some critics do not assign to Palma Vecchio, but which others, of equal authority, do. Whether by Palma or not, there is scarcely a more beautiful picture to be found under his name than this charming Santa Conversazione. In colouring, in mass, and in balance it is a masterpiece of art. The baby Jesus is adorable, its perfect little form full of grace and dimpled loveliness, the face a marvel of baby beauty.

Seated at the right, on a marble base at the foot of a group of marble columns, is Mary, almost in full face, holding the Child upright on her knee. Her head is turned to the left and she is smiling at St. Catherine, who, seated at her feet, seems to be presenting John the Baptist, kneeling at the left. At the right, lower than Mary, is Joseph, his rugged, pathetic face lifted to the Child, who is gazing at him with a tender smile, while his tiny hand is raised in blessing.

Both Mary and Catherine are charming types, less massive in build than is usual with Palma, and Joseph is portrayed with a sympathetic appreciation seldom found in the Italian pictures of the Holy Family. The whole scene is one of beauty, full of the most glowing, pulsing colour.

Jacopo, or Jacomo Palma, known in the history of art as Palma Vecchio, was born, it is now pretty generally believed, in Serinalta, a village near Bergamo, but at what date has not been definitely settled. If Vasari is right in his statement that he was forty-eight when he died, he must have been born in 148o, documents having been discovered proving his death to have occurred in 1528. By Vasari and by the Venetians Palma was always claimed as a native of Venice, and it is supposed that he must have gone there very young, and perhaps have entered Giovanni Bellini’s bottega along with Titian and Giorgione. His work shows traits characteristic of all three painters as well as some more peculiarly the property of his own country-man, Lorenzo Lotto. Lotto and he were intimate friends and the influence of each can be felt in the other’s work. Palma’s real place in the history of art in Italy is the subject of considerable dispute. On one side Crowe and Cavalcaselle, basing their opinion upon the supposed date of 1500 of a picture in the Condé Museum, Paris, claim that he was one of the greatest leaders of Venetian art, — that he was an originator and that he ” shared with Giorgione and Titian the honour of modernizing and regenerating Venetian art.” Morelli, and indeed most modern critics, dispute this hotly, claiming that the date of the Condé picture is undoubtedly a late forgery, and that there is nothing in Palma’s work, delightful as it is, that can put it on a plane with these greatest Venetians.

In the Academy there are few of Palma’s works. Berenson gives him only three, but generally he is credited with four, the Assumption, Christ and the Adulteress, St. Peter Enthroned, and the Holy Family just described.

If not the originator of the so-called Santa Conversazione, Palma Vecchio developed it to a greater extent than any of the men before him. The subject was peculiarly suited to his temperament, with its smiling landscape background, its grouping of cheerful, healthy men and women, its display of costly silks and gleaming jewels. More than all else Palma is known as the painter of women, — Venetian women of society of the first half of the sixteenth century. He was one of the most fashionable portrait-painters in Venice, probably be-cause no one better than he could intensify the golden notes of the blond hair, or make more pearly the tones of the fair complexion. In his pictures, whether actually portraits or not, live again the women of his day. They are all large, of ample proportions, with a calm dignity of bearing, bordering, it is true, not infrequently upon the lethargic, with a type of face that suggests placidity rather than power, and a poise gained more from inaction than restraint. As has been said, these Venetian beauties are seldom intellectual, nor do they often appear possessed of any great power of emotion. But they are always intensely feminine, and in their flowing silken robes with ropes of pearl about their white necks, softly gleaming stones on hair, breast, and fingers, they express fully and perfectly the opulence and the indolence of the aristocracy of the time which gave them birth. Only in his St. Barbara in Santa Maria Formosa does Palma succeed in portraying a woman of a nobility of expression, of a grandeur of form and face, of an in-tensity of spiritual power, that place her far beyond the unthinking, quiescent maids and matrons of most of his portrait or Sante Conversazioni groups. From a technical point of view, Palma is greater as a colourist than as a draughtsman. No Venetian, probably, has surpassed him in his power of ex-pressing light-embued, pearly flesh. He fairly dazzles with his brilliant transparent tones. His brush-work was full, rich, and liquid, with a solid firmness of touch that has reminded critics more of Bellini than of Titian or Lotto. If lacking in the imagination and invention of Titian, Giorgione, or even Lotto, Palma’s works have a satisfying quality that in its last analysis perhaps may be said to pertain to the material rather than to the mental or spiritual. They exhale a ” Good Cheer ” that has something allied to the contentment of a well-housed, well-fed, well-dressed, and, also, well-bred member of that society sometimes labelled in England the ” Landed Gentry.”

Giovanni de’ Busi, who was a pupil of Palma Vecchio, is known in the history of art as Cariani. He was a Bergamasque, and was born in Fuipiano in 1480. Vasari does not even mention him, and only a few years after his death his works were already ascribed to such men as Giorgione, Sebastiano del Piombo, Lorenzo Lotto, and, especially, to Palma Vecchio. His own manner changed with the years, and attributes of any one of these men may be seen in his works of different periods. Morelli says that, whereas Palma Vecchio is ” undoubtedly the most accomplished, complete, and well-balanced of all the Bergamasque artists,” Cariani, nevertheless, was ” the most vigorous and full of vitality among them.”

Of his works in the Venice Academy Lafenestre only allows him two, both in Room 9, one, the portrait of an unknown man, the other a Holy Conversation. Berenson credits him with another portrait of an old man and one of an old woman be-sides. The new official catalogue gives the Holy Conversation which Lafenestre credits to Cariani, to Rizzo of the Vecchi, but ascribes to Cariani the Mother and Child with the Baptist in Room 7, a work which Lafenestre claims as Previtali’s. While so many noted critics disagree as to the works of this painter, who was himself, apparently, much of a chameleon in the way he adopted the style and manner of the men working about him, it is useless for the ordinary student to form much opinion concerning them. Accepting Berenson’s as well as the official catalogue’s attribution to Cariani of the Santa Conversacione in this room, the student, at least, will be able to form a pretty fair idea of that painter’s manner.

It is an out-of-doors scene, the Madonna in the centre under a tree, dressed in a red robe and blue mantle lined with yellow. She is sitting in full face, holding the Child upright on her knees, her face turned toward the right. The little nude baby is looking toward the left at St. John, a tiny boy in a green tunic, presenting to Jesus St. Zacharias, a brilliantly costumed personage in his crimson robe, gray cloak, and yellow turban. At the right is St. Catherine in a green dress, white chemisette, and brown mantle, her wheel of martyrdom before her. The background for the group is the sky where the sun is seen setting. The picture shows Cariani’s fine feeling for colour, and the figures have some of the vigour and strength that he possessed to a greater degree than Bonifazio, whom he otherwise much resembles.

Another Madonna and Child with Saints, which the catalogue calls a Cariani, Berenson does not acknowledge as that painter’s work. It is sadly repainted, but in spite of that has many characteristics of the Bergamasque artist, but probably of his early days.

In the centre, on a sort of pedestal built of stone in three parts, the sides being lower than the middle portion, sits Mary holding the Child. He is curiously ill-drawn and awkward, while she shows much of the freedom and knowledge of the sixteenth century. Behind the stone, at the left, is a fair-haired, placid-faced woman with the aureole of a saint. At the left is the Magdalen in profile, with her box of ointment, and between her and Mary is Joseph leaning on a cane.

There is almost as much if not more dispute concerning Previtali and his works as there is over Cariani and his. The Madonna and Child with John the Baptist and St. Catherine, in this room, which some critics acknowledge as a Previtali, others, as well as Professor Pietro Paoletti di Oswaldo in the official catalogue of the Academy, call a Cariani. It shows the Virgin seated in a chamber at the right, turned three-quarters to the left, both hands placed about the baby Jesus, who is nursing.

At the left, gazing at the two, is St. Catherine leaning on her wheel, dressed in a red robe, yellow mantle, and white head-veil, a jewelled brooch on her breast. Slightly farther back is John the Baptist, in a red mantle, holding out a cross to the Holy Child. Back of Mary is a green drapery, and through a window is a landscape with mountainous distance and a fortified castle.

Morelli believes Andrea Previtali a pupil of the Bellini, with colouring second only to Gianbellini, and a painter of sympathetic and interesting landscapes, but says he has no real originality in conception, nor even much grace or beauty. He entirely disagrees with Crowe and Cavalcaselle and some of the Italian critics, who think Previtali and Cordeliaghi were one and the same. These authorities, says Morelli, ascribe to Previtali many too beautiful works which really are by far greater men. According to this latter writer, he was a thoroughly faithful follower of Bellini.

Francesco and Girolamo da Santa Croce were also followers of Bellini, though weak ones. They were natives of the town from which they took their name, a little Bergamasque village a few miles from Bergamo itself. Francesco is the elder of the two, who are either brothers or near relatives. The earliest date on his works, says Kugler, is 1504, the latest 1547. In spite of the influence of Bellini evident in his works, he shows little real appreciation of the glorious art in the midst of which he lived. Girolamo is believed to have been his assistant, though some writers claim him to be the superior painter of the two.

The Vision of Christ to the Magdalen, in Room 7, is a large panel painted in 1513 for the nunnery of the Dominicans in Venice. The landscape, according to Crowe and Cavalcaselle, is ” stolen, as it were, from Basaiti,” and it has the ” short, bull-headed figures with the crabbed features which mark Bellini’s Circumcision at Castle Howard.”

Jesus, still in his grave-clothes, is shown standing in the centre holding a banner. He is reaching out his pierced hand to the Madonna, who is accompanied by a woman and two disciples. At the right are two other disciples and another woman, and in the air are two flying angels. This is heavy, the nudes awkward, and the heads coarse and angular. The colour, however, is brilliant, and the handling shows the man well-accustomed to his art. Perhaps the best part of the picture is the draperies.

Girolamo follows closely in the elder’s wake, keeping the style of the earlier century even in the midst of the great advance that art was making in Venice. Their works have a certain prettiness that passes muster for sentiment and religious feeling. The series of saints by Girolamo in Room 7 are fair examples of his successful style.

St. John the Evangelist is shown turned three-quarters to the right, in a red robe and green mantle, writing in an open book. St. Mark, turned three-quarters to the left in a red robe and blue mantle, is reading from a book, his lion at his feet.

Another panel represents the two Church saints, Gregory and Augustine, with rich, embroidered priestly robes, showing a care of handling and a certain amount of freedom that do not hide the absence of any originality.

The Scourging of Christ in this same room was called by Catena, much to the disgust of Morelli, who labels it ” a worthless production undoubtedly by Girolamo da Santa Croce.” It shows Jesus, nude save for a cloth about his loins, tied to a pillar, an executioner on each side of him with their knotted whips in hand, fiendish enjoyment shining from their twisted, ill-constructed faces. Jesus is a shrinking, terrified figure, and has neither nobility, beauty, nor even correct anatomy to give him dignity. The composition, with the judge seated at the left and the group of mockers at the right, is empty and unbalanced.

The Madonna and Child with St. John the Baptist, St. Anna, and St. Louis, by Benedetto Diana, in this room, shows the Madonna on a throne which makes a chapel-like niche. She is clad in a rose-toned robe and blue mantle lined with yellow, and is turning three-quarters to the right, offering a flower to the baby Jesus, who is standing on the pedestal of the throne. The little St. John with his cross is slightly farther back, and at the foot of the throne an angel is picking up flowers. In the fore-ground at the right is St. Anna in a blue robe and gray mantle, at the left is St. Louis in white surplice and brocaded dalmatic lined with green. Back, through two openings at the sides of the throne, is a distant landscape with castles on the right and left. Morelli and all the earlier writers give this to Diana, but some recent critics have doubted his claim to it.

The Woman Taken in Adultery is a subject which Marconi repeated several times. The one in Room 7, according to the catalogue, is only a copy of one of his works. Molmenti, Kugler, East-lake, Berenson, and others consider it an original. The composition is overfull of figures, and Jesus, though not without a certain tenderness of expression, is ineffective in pose, and his gestures are unmeaning. Better than he is the turbaned man standing at the right, with outstretched hand, apparently arguing with the Master. Best of all, however, is the culprit, here depicted as a true penitent, her lovely, refined face full of a sorrow as real as it is touching. The draperies are rich in colour, and the harmony of tones is fairly musical in its vibrations.

The Saviour between St. Peter and St. John has a solemnity of expression that, as M. Charles Blanc says, is a trifle monotonous. The chief beauty of the picture lies, as is usual with Marconi, in its fine colour effect, which effect is achieved not only by the rich-toned robes, but by the landscape back-ground, where trees mass against the evening sky filled with soft floating clouds.

Jesus stands in the centre of the scene, his right hand lifted in benediction. On the right is St. John the Baptist, bearing a cross over his shoulder, a lamb lying at his feet. Peter is at the left holding the keys and a book. The figures are almost life-size. Peter’s face is dignified, and is the best piece of character work in the composition.