Italian Painting Early Renaissance, 1400-1500 (Continued)
( Originally Published 1895 )
BOOKS RECOMMENDED : Those on Italian art before mentioned.
PADUAN SCHOOL: It was at Padua in the north that the influence of the classic marbles made itself strongly apparent. Umbria remained true to the religious sentiment, Florence engaged itself largely with nature study and technical problems, introducing here and there draperies and poses that showed knowledge of ancient sculpture, but at Padua much of the classic in drapery, figures, and architecture seems to have been taken directly from the rediscovered antique or the modern bronze.
The early men of the school were hardly great enough to call for mention. During the fourteenth century there was some Giotto influence felt—that painter having been at Padua working in the Arena Chapel. Later on there was a slight influence from Gentile da Fabriano and his fellow-worker Vittore Pisano, of Verona. But these influences seem to have died out and the real direction of the school in the early fifteenth century was given by Francesco Squareione (1394-1474). He was an enlightened man, a student, a collector and an admirer of ancient sculpture, and though no great painter himself he taught an anatomical statuesque art, based on ancient marbles and nature, to many pupils.
Squarcione's work has perished, but his teaching was reflected in the work of his great pupil Andrea Mantegna (1431-1506). Yet Mantegna never received the full complement of his knowledge from Squarcione. He was of an observing nature and probably studied Paolo Uccello and Fra Filippo, some of whose works were then in Paduan edifices. He gained color knowledge from the Venetian Bellinis, who lived at Padua at one time and who were connected with Mantegna by marriage. But the sculpturesque side of his art came from Squarcione, from a study of the antique, and from a deeper study of Donatello, whose bronzes to this day are to be seen within and without the Paduan Duomo of S. Antonio.
The sculpturesque is characteristic of Mantegna's work. His people are hard, rigid at times, immovable human beings, not so much turned to stone as turned to bronze—the bronze of Donatello. There is little sense of motion about them. The figure is sharp and harsh, the drapery, evidently studied from sculpture, is "liney," and the archaeology is often more scientific than artistic. Mantegna was not, however, entirely devoted to the sculpturesque. He was one of the severest nature students of the Early Renaissance, knew about nature, and carried it out in more exacting detail than was perhaps well for his art. In addition he was a master of light-and-shade, understood composition, space, color, atmosphere, and was as scientific in perspective as Piero della Francesca. There is stiffness in his figures but nevertheless great truth and character. The forms are noble, even grand, and for invention and imagination they were never, in his time, carried further or higher. He was little of a sentimentalist or an emotionalist, not much of a brush man or a colorist, but as a draughtsman, a creator of noble forms, a man of power, he stood second to none in the century.
Of Squarcione's other pupils Pizzolo (fl. 1470) was the most promising, but died early. Marco Zoppo (1445–1498) seems to have followed the Paduan formula of hardness, dryness, and exacting detail. He was possibly influenced by Cosimo Tura, and in turn influenced somewhat the Ferrara-Bolognese school. Mantegna, however, was the greatest of the school, and his influence was far-reaching. It affected the school of Venice in matters of drawing, beside influencing the Lombard and Veronese schools in their beginnings.
SCHOOLS OF VERONA AND VICENZA: Artistically Verona belonged with the Venetian provinces, because it was largely an echo of Venice except at the very start. Vittore Pisano (1380-1456), called Pisanello, was the earliest painter of note, but he was not distinctly Veronese in his art. He was medallist and painter both, worked with Gentile da Fabriano in the Ducal Palace at Venice and elsewhere, and his art seems to have an affinity with that of his companion.
Liberale da Verona (1451–1536 ?) was at first a miniaturist, but afterward developed a larger style based on a following of Mantegna's work, with some Venetian influences showing in the coloring and backgrounds. Francesco Bonsignori (1455–1519) was of the Verona school, but established himself later at Mantua and was under the Mantegna influence. His style at first was rather severe, but he after-ward developed much ability in portraiture, historical work, animals, and architectural features. Francesco Caroto (1470–1546), a pupil of Liberale, really belongs to the next century—the High Renaissance—but his early works show his education in Veronese and Paduan methods. In the school of Vicenza the only master of much note in this Early Renaissance time was Bartolommeo Montagna (1450 ?—1523), a painter in both oil and fresco of much severity and at times grandeur of style. In drawing he was influenced by Mantegna, in composition and coloring he showed a study of Giovanni Bellini and Carpaccio.
VENETIAN LIFE AND ART: The conditions of art production in Venice during the Early Renaissance were quite different from those in Florence or Umbria. By the disposition of her people Venice was not a learned or devout city. Religion, though the chief subject, was not the chief spirit of Venetian art. Christianity was accepted by the Venetians, but with no fevered enthusiasm. The Church was strong enough there to defy the Papacy at one time, and yet religion with the people was perhaps more of a civic function or a duty than a spiritual worship. It was sincere in its way, and the early painters painted its subjects with honesty, but the Venetians were much too proud and worldly minded to take anything very seriously except their own splendor and their own power.
Again, the Venetians were not humanists or students of the revived classic. They housed manuscripts, harbored exiled humanists, received the influx of Greek scholars after the fall of Constantinople, and later the celebrated Aldine press was established in Venice ; but, for all that, classic learning was not the fancy of the Venetians. They made no quarrel over the relative merits of Plato and Aristotle, dug up no classic marbles, had no revival of learning in a Florentine sense. They were merchant princes, winning wealth by commerce and expending it lavishly in beautifying their island home. Not to attain great learning, but to revel in great splendor, seems to have been their aim. Life in the sovereign city of the sea was a worthy existence in itself. And her geographical and political position aided her prosperity. Unlike Florence she was not torn by contending princes within and foreign foes without—at least not to her harm. She had her wars, but they were generally on distant seas. Popery, Paganism, Despotism, all the convulsions of Renaissance life threatened but harmed her not. Free and independent, her kingdom was the sea, and her livelihood commerce, not agriculture.
The worldly spirit of the Venetian people brought about a worldly and luxurious art. Nothing in the disposition or education of the Venetians called for the severe or the intellectual. The demand was for rich decoration that would please the senses without stimulating the intellect or firing the imagination to any great extent. Line and form were not so well suited to them as color—the most sensuous of all mediums. Color prevailed through Venetian art from the very beginning, and was its distinctive characteristic.
Where this love of color came from is matter of speculation. Some say out of Venetian skies and waters, and, doubtless, these had something to do with the Venetian color-sense ; but Venice in its color was also an example of the effect of commerce on art. She was a trader with the East from her infancy—not Constantinople and the Byzantine East alone, but back of these the old Mohammedan East, which for a thousand years has cast its art in colors rather than in forms. It was Eastern ornament in mosaics, stuffs, porcelains, variegated marbles, brought by ship to Venice and located in S. Marco, in Murano, and in Torcello, that first gave the color-impulse to the Venetians. If Florence was the heir of Rome and its austere classicism, Venice was the heir of Constantinople and its color-charm. The two great color spots in Italy at this day are Venice and Ravenna, commercial footholds of the Byzantines in Mediaeval and Renaissance days. It may be concluded without error that Venice derived her color-sense and much of her luxurious and material view of life from the East.
THE EARLY VENETIAN PAINTERS: Painting began at Venice with the fabrication of mosaics and ornamental altar-pieces of rich gold stucco-work. The "Greek manner "—that is, the Byzantine—was practised early in the fifteenth century by Jacobello del Fiore and Semitecolo, but it did not last long. Instead of lingering for a hundred years, as at Florence, it died a natural death in the first half of the fifteenth century. Gentile da Fabriano, who was at Venice about 1420, painting in the Ducal Palace with Pisano as his assistant, may have brought this about. He taught there in Venice, was the master of Jacopo Bellini, and if not the teacher then the influencer of the Vivarinis of Murano. There were two of the Vivarinis in the early times, so far as can be made out, Antonio Vivarini (?–147o) and Bartolommeo Vivarini (fl: 1450-1499), who worked with Johannes Alemannus, a painter of supposed German birth and training. They all signed themselves from Murano (an outlying Venetian island), where they were producing church altars and ornaments with some Paduan influence showing in their work. They made up the Muranese school, though this school was not strongly marked apart either in characteristics or subjects from the Venetian school, of which it was, in fact, a part.
Bartolommeo was the best of the group, and contended long time in rivalry with the Bellinis at Venice, but toward 1470 he fell away and died comparatively forgotten. Luigi Vivarini (fl. 1461—1503) was the latest of this family, and with his death the history of the Muranese merges into the Venetian school proper, except as it continues to appear in some pupils and followers. Of these latter Carlo Crivelli (1430 ? —1493 ?) was the only one of much mark. He apparently gathered his art from many sources—ornament and color from the Vivarini, a lean and withered type from the early Paduans under Squarcione, architecture from Mantegna, and a rather repulsive sentiment from the same school. His faces were contorted and sulky, his hands and feet stringy, his drawing rather bad ; but he had a peculiarly transparent and beautiful color and not a little tragic power.
Venetian art practically dates from the Bellinis. They did not begin where the Vivarini left off. The two families of painters seem to have started about the same time, worked along together from like inspirations, and in somewhat of a similar manner as regards the early men. Jacopo Bellini (1400 ? -1464 ?) was the pupil of Gentile da Fabriano, and a painter of considerable rank. His son, Gentile Bellini (1426 ?–1507), was likewise a painter of ability, and an extremely interesting one on account of his Venetian subjects painted with much open-air effect and knowledge of light and atmosphere. The younger son, Giovanni Bellini (1428 ?–1516), was the greatest of the family and the true founder of the Venetian school.
About the middle of the fifteenth century the Bellini family lived at Padua and came in contact with the classic-realistic art of Mantegna. In fact, Mantegna married Giovanni Bellini's sister, and there was a mingling of family as well as of art. There was an influence upon Mantegna of Venetian color, and upon the Bellinis of Paduan line. The latter showed in Giovanni Bellini's early work, which was rather hard, angular in drapery, and anatomical in the joints, hands, and feet ; but as the century drew to a close this melted away into the growing splendor of Venetian color. Giovanni Bellini lived into the sixteenth century, but never quite attained the rank of a High Renaissance painter. He had religious feeling, earnestness, honesty, simplicity, character, force, knowledge ; but not the full complement of brilliancy and painter's power. He went beyond all his contemporaries in technical strength and color-harmony, and was in fact the epoch-making man of early Venice. Some of his pictures, like the Frari Madonna, will compare favorably with any work of any age, and his landscape backgrounds (see the St. Peter Martyr in the National Gallery, London) were rather wonderful for the period in which they were produced.
Of Bellini's contemporaries and followers there were many, and as a school there was a similarity of style, subject, and color-treatment carrying through them all, with individual peculiarities in each painter. After Giovanni Bellini comes Carpaccio (?–1522 ?), a younger contemporary, about whose history little is known. He worked with Gentile Bellini, and was undoubtedly influenced by Giovanni Bellini. In subject he was more romantic and chivalric than religious, though painting a number of altar-pieces. The legend was his delight, and his great success, as the St. Ursula and St. George pictures in Venice still indicate. He was remarkable for his knowledge of architecture, costumes, and Oriental settings, put forth in a realistic way, with much invention and technical ability in the handling of landscape, perspective, light, and color. There is a truth-fulness of appearance—an out-of-doors feeling—about his work that is quite captivating. In addition, the spirit of his art was earnestness, honesty, and sincerity, and even the awkward bits of drawing which occasionally appeared in his work served to add to the general naive effect of the whole.
Cima da Conegliano (1460 ?–1517 ?) was probably a pupil of Giovanni Bellini, with some Carpaccio influence about him. He was the best of the immediate followers, none of whom came up to the master. They were trammelled somewhat by being educated in distemper work, and then midway in their careers changing to the oil medium, that medium having been introduced into Venice by Antonello da Messina in 1473. Cima's subjects were largely half-length madonnas, given with strong qualities of light-and-shade and color. He was not a great originator, though a man of ability. Catena (?–1531) had a wide reputation in his day, but it came more from a smooth finish and pretty accessories than from creative power. He imitated Bellini's style so well that a number of his pictures pass for works by the master even to this day. Later he followed Giorgione and Carpaccio. A man possessed of knowledge, he seemed to have no original propelling purpose behind him. That was largely the make-up of the other men of the school, Basaiti (1490–1521 ?), Previtali (1470 ?–1525 ?), Bissolo (1464–1528), Rondinelli (1440?-1500?), Diana (?-1500?), Mansueti (fl. 1500).
Antonello da Messina (1444 ?-1493), though Sicilian born, is properly classed with the Venetian school. He obtained a knowledge of Flemish methods probably from Flemish painters or pictures in Italy (he never was a pupil of Jan van Eyck, as Vasari relates, and probably never saw Flanders), and introduced the use of oil as a medium in the Venetian school. His early work was Flemish in character, and was very accurate and minute. His late work showed the influence of the Bellinis. His counter-influence upon Venetian portraiture has never been quite justly estimated. That fine, exact, yet powerful work, of which the Doge Loredano by Bellini, in the National Gallery, London, is a type, was perhaps brought about by an amalgamation of Flemish and Venetian methods, and Antonello was perhaps the means of bringing it about. He was an excellent, if precise, portrait-painter.
PRINCIPAL WORKS: PADUANS-Andrea Mantegna, Eremitani Padua, Madonna of S. Xeno Verona, St. Sebastian Vienna Mus., St. George Venice Acad., Camera di Sposi Castello di Corte Mantua, Ma-donna and Allegories Louvre, Scipio Summer Autumn Nat. Gal. Lon.; Pizzoli (with Mantegna), Eremitani Padua ; Marco Zoppo frescos Casa Colonna Bologna, Madonna Berlin Gal.
VERONESE AND VICENTINE PAINTERS—Vittore Pisano, St. Anthony and George Nat. Gal. Lon., St. George S. Anastasia Verona; Liberale da Verona, miniatures Duomo Sienna, St. Sebastian Brera Milan, Ma-donna Berlin Mus., other works Duomo and Gal. Verona ; Bonsignori, S. Bernardino and Gal. Verona, Mantua, and Nat. Gal. Lon.; Caroto, In S. Tommaso, S. Giorgio, S. Caterina and Gal. Verona, Dresden and Frankfort Gals.; Montagna, Madonnas Brera, Venice Acad., Bergamo. Berlin, Nat. Gal. Lon., Louvre.
VENETIANS-Jacobello del Fiore and Semitecolo, all attributions doubtful; Antonio Vivarini and Johannes Alemannus, together altar-pieces Venice Acad., S. Zaccaria Venice ; Antonio alone, Adoration of Kings Berlin Gal.; Bartolommeo Vivarini, Madonna Bologna Gal. (with Antonio), altar-pieces SS. Giovanni e Paolo, Frari, Venice ; Luigi Vivarini, Madonna Berlin Gal., Frari and Acad. Venice ; Carlo Crivelli, Madonnas and altar-pieces Brera, Nat. Gal. Lon., Lateran, Berlin Gals.; Jacopo Bellini, Crucifixion Verona Gal., Sketch-book Brit. Mus.; Gentile Bellini, Organ Doors S. Marco, Procession and Miracle of Cross Acad. Venice, St. Mark Brera ; Giovanni Bellini, many pictures in European galleries, Acad., Frari, S. Zaccaria SS. Giovanni e Paolo Venice ; Carpaccio, Presentation and Ursula pictures Acad., St. George and St. Jerome S. Giorgio da Schiavone Venice, St. Stephen Berlin Gal.; Cima, altar-pieces S. Maria dell Orte, S. Giovanni in Bragora, Acad. Venice, Louvre, Berlin, Dresden, Munich, Vienna, and other galleries ; Catena, Altar-pieces S. Simeone, S. M. Mater Domini, SS. Giovanni e Paolo, Acad. Venice, Dresden, and in Nat. Gal. Lon. (the Warrior and Horse attributed to " School of Bellini") ; Basaiti, Venice Acad. Nat. Gal. Lon., Vienna, and Berlin Gals.; Previtali, altar-pieces S. Spirito Bergamo, Brera, Berlin, and Dresden Gals., Nat. Gal. Lon., Venice Acad.; Bissolo, Resurrection Berlin Gal., S. Caterina Venice Acad.; Rondinelli, two pictures Palazzo Doria Rome, Holy Family (No. 6) Louvre (attributed to Giovanni Bellini) ; Diana, Altar-pieces Venice Acad.; Mansueti, large pictures Venice Acad.; Antonella da Messina, Portraits Louvre, Berlin and Nat. Gal. Lon., Crucifixion Antwerp Mus.