The Imperial Museum - The Italian Paintings Cont.
The earliest Venetians received their inspiration in the first half of the 15th century from the Muranese painters who had been taught by Francesco Squarcione of Padua and the great Mantegna. This influence is manifest in a " Crucifixion " (No. 9), by Andrea da Murano, and in an altarpiece (No. 10), consisting of five arched panels with gold background. This is by Bartolommeo Vivarini, and is preserved in its original frame, richly carved by Jacopo da Faenza. St. Ambrose on a throne, before whom ecclesiastics are kneeling, is shown in the middle panel. On the two wings to the right are St. Peter and St. Louis; to the left St. Paul and St. Sebastian. This work has still the Byzantine trait, which longest survived in Venice.
The Venetians were very slow in developing their art, for the rise of the art of painting in Venice, about the middle of the 15th century, occurred not until more than a century and a half after its rise in Florence. It took the Venetians a long time to break through mediaeval trammels and forego the antiquated, somewhat rustic style of their work.
With the sons of Jacopo Bellini, himself not sufficiently appreciated with Giovanni and Gentile Bellini, the Venetian school may be considered to have been established. No little credit, how-ever, should be accorded to Antonello da Messina, who introduced the method of oil painting of the Flemish brothers van Eyck to Italian artists. In Antonello's " Christ in the Grave" (No. 5), with three weeping angels, is shown the curious combination of Italian and Flemish method which is to be noted in most of this artist's work.
While Giovanni Bellini laid the foundation of that rich colour-scheme with its warm, golden glow, which was to become the chief characteristic of the Venetian school, Gentile Bellini saw these rich colours under light-problems which the later Dutchmen brought to perfection. There is unfortunately no example of Gentile's work in the Museum to show this tendency, but of Giovanni Bellini we find a " Baptism of Christ " (No. 4), which has been so terribly restored that little remains of Bellini's rich palette. The figures are enveloped by the twilight of a southern sky, faintly illuminating the far-off mountains. Only the Christ and the figure of John are touched by the warm evening light.
That Dürer after his visit to Venice pronounced Bellini to be " the best painter of Venice," although he had seen the work of Titian, only proves that artists are generally poor critics. Still Giovanni Bellini, with the single exception of Titian, must be regarded as the greatest master the Venetian school has produced. In all his long life of ninety years he painted under the inspiration of a genius that seemed to have owed little to scientific or theoretical knowledge. His sense of colour was inborn, as the muse is with the poet or the musician; and he played with the colour gamut as a great composer with the scales. He discovered the romance of colour as well as the secrets of harmony and of transitions, and the mode of employing single tones with the greatest effect of beauty. In his work colour attained, if not its highest truth of nature, at all events its greatest intensity and transparency. But with all the pomp of beauty, and voluptuous luxury of his colour he never left the splendid severity and the generous austerity of earlier traditions.
It is unfortunate that the catalogue casts doubt upon another panel, a " Young Woman arranging her Hair " (No. 13), signed by Bellini, which it credits to his pupil Francesco Bissolo, accusing him of having forged the signature. This beautiful Venus is far too exquisite, both in modelling and colour, to have come from the hand of this insignificant pupil. It is known that Bellini, even after he had passed his eightieth year — and this painting is dated 1515— executed work that was filled with the fire of his youth.
Bellini's younger rival, Alvise Vivarini, could not quite reach the talents of the older master, although he exercised great influence on the younger men, especially on his most talented pupil Lorenzo Lotto. In Alvise's " Mary and the Child" (No. 12), with two angels playing musical instruments, we find the colours lighter and louder, while the sitting angels are also less restful than we note in Bellini's manner. The work is by no means as important as Alvise's large altarpieces that are found in Venice. Religious severity and asceticism marked the school of Alvise, even after the Bellini had become paganised.
A magnificent work, in tempera, is found here by Cima de Conegliano, who was influenced by both his predecessors. His " Madonna under the Orange-tree" (No. 19) is a significant composition. Mary is seated on a rocky throne; on her right stands St. Louis, and on her left St. Jerome, while Joseph with a donkey is visible at the foot of a hill crowned by a castle. The finely pencilled landscape displays the artist's love for animated nature in picturing fowls, hare and deer, plants and trees. It was an altarpiece which the artist painted for the Church of Santa Chiara in Murano.
Trained in the same school was the Greek Marco Basaiti, from whom we find a smaller replica of the artist's large painting which is now in the Academy at Venice. It represents " The Call of the Sons of Zebedaeus " (No. 1), where Christ, surrounded by his first disciples, finds James and John ready to follow Him, as they hurriedly step from their vessel on the shore of the Galilean lake.
Another of the more talented pupils of Giovanni Bellini — we need not tarry before the work of Francesco Bissolo (No. 15), or of Andrea Previtali (No. 14) was Vincenzo Catena, who later became strongly influenced by Giorgione. We find here a characteristic portrait of an " Old Man with a Book " (No. 20). A much finer work by Catena is found, however, in the Berlin Museum.
Although the Museum does not possess a work of Gentile Bellini, as has been stated, still we find his most prominent pupil, Vittore Carpaccio, represented by a painting that clearly indicates the diverging tendencies of the Bellini brothers. Carpaccio shows a "Risen Christ " (No. 7), adored by virgin-like angels. If we compare this work with Giovanni Bellini's " Baptism of Christ," of which I have spoken, we see there the glow of jewels in the gloom of twilight — here we see bright sunshine wherein the colours blend themselves.
Carpaccio may be considered as the earliest Italian master of genre; and as the minstrel, the tale-teller he has had no superior in the school of Venice. He delighted to depict the Venice he loved so much, its external aspects, as well as its more intimate relations, the splendour of its fêtes, and the varied, vivid, luxurious and glowing life of its people. He was essentially a romantic painter, and even in his religious subjects he charms with the liveliness of his fancy. Yet is his piety unaffected and his gaiety is steadied by a flavour of sincere earnestness.
Two other canvases, marked in the catalogue as by Carpaccio (Nos. 8 and 11), have with good reason been assigned by Berenson to Gentile's weaker pupil, Lazzaro Bastiani.
With the beginning of the 16th century a decided change is taking place in what may best be called the art-motif of the Venetian painters. It is no longer religion, although the religious subject is still largely used. But the object of art becomes now frankly the representation of material beauty, the seeking for effects of line, light and colour for mere sensuous and pictorial purpose.
The most positive in influence upon his contemporaries in this direction was Giorgio Barbarelli da Castelfranco, called Giorgione. He is represented here by two fine paintings, and a third, which the catalogue surmises to belong to Correggio, has by Dr. Gustav Ludwig been also ascribed to the Castelfranco master.
No. 16 bears the title of " The Three Eastern Sages," but Wickhoff sees in it a scene from the VIII Book of Virgil's Aeneid with great probability, for this canvas hung with a pendant, called " Aeneas in Purgatory," in the house of Taddeo Contarini in Venice in 1525. According to Wickhoff, then, we see here the Trojan Aeneas in oriental costume, with white turban and purple coat, showing to King Evander, in amber-coloured mantle with ruby-coloured hood, the place where the Capitol was to be erected ; while the King's son, Pallas, in green drapery and white shirt, is seated not far off, already with geometric figures making calculations for the foundations. The characterful bearing of the men, the beautiful landscape with its great moss-grown rock and dark tree-trunk in the foreground, and the warm harmony of colour with a golden tone, make this a painting of striking significance.
Nothing is known of Giorgione but that he loved music and women; and only a few paintings, not a score in all, are absolutely known to be from his hand, the best of which is a magnificent Ma-donna with Saints, in the church of Castelfranco. Our canvas, however, supported by oldest provenance, is among the most authoritatively ascribed paintings of the great master.
We find likewise his hand in No. 63, which the catalogue surmises to be by Correggio, as already stated. It bears the title " St. Sebastian," but Ludwig and Wickhoff call it an Apollo. No other Venetian but Giorgione and Palma Vecchio, Lorenzo Lotto, and Cariani have been named could have painted this dreamish head, surrounded by its rich haircovering. Also No. 23, an " Adoration of the Shepherds," if indeed a studiowork, bears traces of the master's own hand.
Giorgione's place in Venetian art is one of transition from the older manner of the deeply religious, even austere painting of Giovanni Bellini to the final, humanistic manner of the most complete master of all, Titian. He influenced both his master Bellini and his pupil Titian by the re-fined poetry of his style. Without much grasp of the intellectual, and with little of the devotional spirit, he surcharged his contemporaries in the few years of his active life with a subtle feeling of beauty for its own sake. Notably in his landscape with figures, already advanced by Bellini, did he succeed in giving a perfect blend of nature and human nature in which few have equalled him and none, excepting perhaps Titian, has ever surpassed him. And no man, not even Leonardo, Raphael, Titian, or Michelangelo, has stamped his spirit, the Giorgionesque, so markedly upon the works of those that came after him as the poet-painter of Castelfranco.
The greatest of the masters of the first half of the 16th century owe much to Giorgione's influence. The youngest of these, Sebastiano del Piombo, who left Venice to go over to the Roman artist-circle, shows here a bust of " Cardinal Pucci " (No. 17) in middle age. It is a strong, speaking portrait, and one of the finest likenesses of men the artist has produced.
The " Portrait of a Youth" (No. 22), which has had many attributions — the catalogue suggests Jacopo de' Barbari has more recently been credited as an early work by Lorenzo Lotto, of whom I will speak when we see his greater work in the next gallery. It bears a strong resemblance in style to an early work by Lotto, now in the Naples Museum, the portrait of Fra Bernardo dei Rossi.
Entering now the SECOND GALLERY we find no less than twelve examples by Palma Vecchio, six of which are bust portraits of young women. Palma obtained a characteristic individuality in these al-most ideal heads. Plate V presents one of these (No. 143), a lady with ash-blond hair, her voluminous dress of brownish striped stuff with a brocaded front. Equally important is No. 137, the so-called " Violante," who was a favoured model of the day in Venice, as her features frequently occur on the canvases of both Palma and Titian. The face is delicately drawn, her complexion is of dazzling purity, her eyes dark, and her flowing, wavy hair, confined by a narrow ribbon, is of that peculiar golden hue affected by the beautiful women of Venice, and which Palma's brush was so skilful in rendering. The other portraits are fully as interesting, with varying poses and colour schemes. Some of these, however, are much damaged by over-zealous cleaning, so that their beautiful glazes are for ever lost.
Jacopo Palma Vecchio, signifying the old, or elder, to distinguish him from his grand-nephew of the same name, who is known as Palma Giovine, or the younger, was born in Bergamo, but went to Venice when very young, and spent there the remainder of his life. With Titian he was a pupil of Giovanni Bellini, but his work bears stronger evidence of the influence of both Titian and Giorgione, as well as of Lorenzo Lotto, whom he in turn influenced.
Judicious criticism cannot place Palma beside the giants of Venetian art, Giorgione, Titian, Tintoretto, Veronese; although he did much to popularise the new thought in painting. This was, however, more as a follower than as an initiator. His landscapes are of an exquisite beauty, and a serene and cheerful, though never a very animated, spirit pervades his scenes. His drawing is, how-ever, less correct, as is especially seen when he 'essayed the nude, which was rarely the case. Still, his conception of the nude was quite as elevated as with the greater masters. As a colourist Palma has his own position. He laid his colours on thinly — only in the light-places are they loaded — and, having obtained his effects by means of glazing, he obliterated all strokes of the brush according to the delicate manner of Titian in his early youth.
Of the genre pieces by Palma which we find here, No. 140, in which Mary with the Child is surrounded by John the Baptist, St. Barbara, St. Catharine, and St. Celestine, excels above all. It is a presentation of the sacra conversazione which became peculiar to Venetian art. Slightly less harmonious in colour is the " Homecoming of Mary " (No. 139), although the vivacity of movement of the meeting women must be regarded.
A follower of Giorgione's mythological genre is found in Bonifacio Veronese, witnessed by No. 156, " The Triumph of Purity over Love," and by No. 201, " The Triumph of Love." In the first we see a wagon, drawn by four unicorns, on which are seated Laura, Penelope, and Lucretia, with Cupid bound at their feet. The wagon is surrounded by persons who withstood the enticements of love, as Socrates, Scipio, Joseph, the son of Jacob, and Judith, carrying the head of Holofernes. The pendant to this canvas, it must be said, is given with greater animation. The blind god of love is enthroned on a chariot, drawn by four white horses. Even Jupiter sits captive at his feet, while those who were wounded by the amorous darts surround the chariot. Orpheus holds gently the fainting Eurydice, Ganymede looks up to Father Zeus, Mars and Venus, Apollo and Daphne, Medea and Jason, Helen and Paris, even Aristoteles with Phryne fail not.
A "Daughter of Herodias" (No. 145), also by Bonifacio, presents Salome in conventional attitude. A " Portrait of a Young Woman" (No. 157), catalogued as by Bonifacio, has by Berenson been ascribed to F. Beccaruzzi, who painted in the style of Pordenone, often also imitating Titian and Lotto.
The Vienna Museum excels in its presentation of the work of Tiziano Vecellio. No other museum can boast of as wide a survey of this master's work in all his periods. Almost a score of undoubted works of the great Venetian are found here, and as many more that were finished by his hand and go by his name, or are faithful copies of his composition. Truly this Second Gallery is dominated by his genius.
Titian's earliest work here, still in the style of Giorgione, who greatly influenced him after he left Giovanni Bellini's studio, is the socalled " Gypsy Madonna" (No. 176). This painting of Mary and the Child, both with down-cast eyes, already foreshadows the wonderful splendour that is to come. On the left, forming a background to the figures, is a silken curtain, to the right a rolling landscape.
Also comparatively early is No. 180, the " Madonna with the Cherries" (Plate VI). It is a Bellini composition, when we compare it with paintings in the Venetian Academy and in the Prado, but carried out to marvellous perfection. Over the golden tone of Bellini lies a purple shimmer. It seems as if rubies, emeralds and turquoises glow through the colours. The Madonna has handed the Child some ripe cherries, but Jesus will first have his mother taste. Joseph on the one side is interested in the artless play, while Zacharias looks down on the cherubic John who wants to take part.
Titian painted the "Ecce Homo" (No. 178) when he had arrived at the full maturity of his power, in 1543. He himself considered it one of his masterpieces, for he proudly signed it in full, Titianus Eques fet he had been knighted by the Emperor Charles V. The composition is masterful in its cutting loose from geometric rules, to which Bellini always adhered. The principal figure, the Christ, stands on the extreme left, only subsidiary figures in the middle, on the right the embittered mob of his enemies; yet all is so drawn together by the play of light and shade, by the colour-harmony, that nothing disturbs the unity of the ensemble.
Famous among the mythological compositions of Titian is the " Danaë " (No. 174), receiving in her lap the golden rain of Jupiter — an unrivalled nude-painting of supple richness and splendour. The authenticity has been attacked by Berenson, but with little reason. The signature is, however, a forgery.
The charming little " Tambourine Player " (No. 181), and the gracious Allegories (Nos. 173 and 187) —their meaning is not quite clear — are delightful genre pieces. These may well have been first studies for the larger Allegories in Munich and Paris. One of the latest works is his " Nymph and Shepherd" (No. 186), where the half-draped nude figure lies on a panther skin, slightly turning her head to listen to the pipe-playing shepherd seated behind her. Here we find a peculiarity which is seen also in Rembrandt's latest work a slight sketchiness in detail, notably here in the landscape; a feeling as if all need not be said if the power of life, the vital elements of light and movement are assured.
Titian stands among the first of portrait painters. Only Hals and Velasquez, Rubens and Rembrandt can be compared with him in the rendering of the human countenance as vital presentments. No less than ten portraits are found here.
Who does not know that wonderful portrait of the " Girl in Fur " (No. 197) ? It represents Eleanora the beautiful daughter of Isabella d'Este, of whom there is also a portrait (No. 163), which Titian painted in 1534, after an earlier sketch. Eleanora, later Duchess of Urbino, excelled in physical beauty and mental qualities, and frequently inspired the master, for portraits of her are also in the Pitti, in the Uffizi, and in the Tribuna at Florence as Venus. The striking appearance of the delicate body from, the folds of the enshrouding dark mantle, the chaste girlishness of the features, and the subdued splendour of the colour-scheme, make this a portrait of lasting impression.
But while the master infuses the delicacy, the charm of femininity in his female portraits, he signalised the strength of character in his male counterfeits. Look at his Jacopo de Strada (No. 182), the Imperial antiquary ; at the Filippo Strozzi (No. 154), the proud Florentine patrician; at the Elector Johann Friedrich of Saxony (No. 191), a hero through his unbending will — all these proclaim the power of dominion. With gentler brush he depicted Benedetto Varchi (No. 177), the renowned poet and historian of Florence. " St. James " (No. 162) and a " Young Priest " (No. 165) are supposed by Crowe and Cavalcaselle to have been originally a double portrait of Ranuccio Farnese with his teacher Leoni. Also the portraits of Fabrizio Salvaresio (No. 150) and of Titian's physician Parma (No. 167) are characteristic and representative of the painter's mastery over life.
There is no greater name in Italian art than that of Titian. Rounded completeness, teres atque rotundus, as Vasari expressed it, is what stamps Titian as a master among masters. Other painters may have equalled him in single qualities ; personal preference may even vaunt the peculiar perfections of different favourites above the master in some special branch — we must, after all is said, still turn to Titian and accord him the palm for excellence in all. Whether we take his portraits, his landscapes, his religious subjects, or his drawing, his colour, his light-management, in all he is the legitimate master of the brush, second to none.
It remains yet to point out the works which belong to Titian's studio, either finished by him, or copies of his work. The " Mary with the Child and Sts. Jerome, Stephen and George " (No. 166) is a studio-copy of the famous original in the Louvre ; and the " Holy Family with the little St. John and St. Catharine " (No. 149) is a changed repetition of a painting now in the National Gallery in London, possibly by Andrea Schiavone. Although the " Christ and the Adulteress " (No. 161) is an unfinished work, and presumably only painted after Titian's design, it still bears this mark of the master's inventive genius, and also indubitable traces of his own handiwork. So is " Christ with the Earth-globe " (No. 164) after Titian's design, but not well enough painted to have been executed by him. His own carrying out of this conception is found in the Hermitage at St. Petersburg. The " Burial of Christ " (No. 179), although signed by Titian, can only have received his finishing touches. It is a replica of an original in the Louvre. The " Self-portrait " (No. 196) is a copy after the original in Dresden. And still a half score of other paintings in this gallery bear the impress of the master's workshop.
Titian's pupil and closest imitator, although by no means of surprising talent, was Andrea Meldolla, called Schiavone, by whom a score of paintings are found here. The smaller ones were decorations for cassone fronts. Many of these are interesting because they give a genre-like presentation of con-temporary Venetian life.
Paris Bordone, another one of Titian's pupils, was of greater importance, but four mythological scenes and two female portraits still proclaim him to be of secondary rank. His " Venus and Adonis " (No. 253), in which Venus holds the weapons of her lover, as they sit under the tree, being crowned by a floating Cupid, is a better treatment of the subject than that found in the London National Gallery under the title " Daphnis and Chloe." A large " Conflict of Gladiators " (No. 238) reminds one of Titian's composing, and was, as Vasari states, painted for the city of Augsburg in Germany.
A painter who was as unique in his way as Titian, or Michelangelo, or Rubens, was Jacopo Robusti, called Tintoretto, the son of a dyer of silk (tintore), whose only known schooling was for ten days in Titian's studio; after which he developed himself under the device which he blazed in his studio, " il disegno di Michelangelo, il colorito di Tiziano." His was the most vigorous and most prolific artistic temperament that has ever existed. He be-came an improvisator by the very force of his impetuosity; and the phenomenal energy with which he painted gave him the name " il furioso."
The volume of Tintoretto's work far exceeds that of any other Italian. Huge canvases hang in the church of Il Redentore, in the Scuola di San Rocco, in the church of Santa Maria dell' Orto, in the Academy and the Doge's Palace in Venice, as well as in numberless other places. And in all these we see facility and luxuriousness of invention, boldness and ease, a natural impulsiveness of temperament, instant and spontaneous creation forced by the necessity of expression and satisfaction in the rendering of ideas.
Yet, his very facility has injured his reputation. His genius seems to have urged him on to produce so much that he often neglected to bring his work to the perfection of which he was capable. Too often his aim seems merely to fill his enormous canvases without much care as to how he filled them; and Annibale Carracci truly said of him, " Tintoretto is often inferior to Tintoretto."
The most striking quality of his work is the turbulent, often convulsive movement of the figures by which he renders the instantaneousness of motion, even the swiftness of flight, as no one, save Rubens, has ever done. But thereby they lack the magisterial quality of the figures of Titian, or the imposing force of those of Michelangelo. This irregular, almost spasmodic explosiveness is also seen in his colour, where violent contrasts of light and dark are given with impassioned audacity. The variety, brilliancy, and indescribable glamour of his light as juxtaposed to the tormenting gloom of his shade shows an excess of exuberance which, however dramatic, is somewhat fatiguing, often even painful. The treatment of chiaroscuro is with Tintoretto a most powerful, dramatic accessory; yet, it cannot compare with the handling of those greatest masters of chiaroscuro, Correggio and Rembrandt. With Correggio light is an irradiating presence, with Rembrandt it is a penetrating mystery with Tintoretto a pictorial adjunct.
But sometimes Tintoretto forewent the region of the vast, tempestuous, and tragic, and then we find that this fiery genius could with equal mastery pierce and irradiate the placid and tender secrets of the soul, and give in pure and limpid flow a gentle scene of sensuous delight. In this spirit he painted the " Bacchus and Ariadne," in the Doge's Palace, " Adam and Eve," in the Venice Academy, and here in the Vienna Museum " Susannah and the Elders " (No. 239), a most perfect lyric of the sensuous fancy from which sensuality is absent. Rarely has the play of light on the softly modelled body, without any half-shadows, been given with such wonderful virtuosity. Susannah is just leaving her bath, and has not detected the elders — one grey-head bending around the rosehedge that shields her. She is still unconscious of their nearness, and is ornamenting herself with rich jewels.
Of his many mythological subjects we find here " Apollo and the Muses " (No. 241), somewhat sketchy, but full of charm and expression. The nine Muses are gathered at the border of the Hippokrene, playing on musical instruments, while Apollo, with lyre and bow, floats above in the hollow of a cloud. The Dresden Gallery has a somewhat similar composition. " Lucretia " (No. 234) was formerly ascribed to Titian, but it is doubtful whether it even belongs to Tintoretto, to whom it is now given, as it lacks that vital expression which we always find in his work.
The drawbacks which I have enumerated against an unqualified approval of Tintoretto's art do not refer to his portraiture. There is no question made of his high rank as a portrait painter. While in Titian's portraits we are to recognise the type of the persons he depicts, in Tintoretto's we find more the individuality of the sitter portrayed, in which respect he may well be ranked with Dürer and Rembrandt. A half dozen of these portraits are hanging in this gallery and claim our admiration. No. 250, a knee-piece of a man of thirty-five years, with dark hair and beard, standing at a table, is the most impressive with its fiery mien, high fore-head and sunken eyes. The portrait of a young man (No. 258) is an early work.
Jacopo's son, Domenico Tintoretto, closely followed his father's footsteps and their paintings are often confused. But he failed to reach the height of his father's management of light, colour, and form. Over a dozen of his paintings, some large figure compositions, others portraits, are indicated on the tablets, but need not occupy us further.
In the second half of the 16th century there were a number of painters who found their training in Venice, but, settling in their native places, retained local characteristics. From this have resulted the schools of Brescia, of Vicenza, of Bergamo. We may not tarry before the large number of canvases which represent here these numerous artists, but must confine ourselves to the principal works.
One of the leading artists of the school of Brescia in the beginning of the 16th century was Giovanni Girolamo Savoldo, an interesting personality, because we find in his work the experiments of the juxtaposition of light and shade, which were brought to perfection by Rembrandt. This is evident in his imaginative portrait of " Aristoteles " (No. 213), where the face, the hands, and the green blouse of the middle-aged man are artfully lighted. An early work, possibly a study for the larger painting in the church of S. Rocco, at Venice, is his " Burial of Christ " (No. 208). Here the artist surrounds the figures of Joseph of Arimathea, the Maries, and John with a soft, mysterious light that plays tenderly over the body as it lies on the stone slab.
The greatest artist of this provincial school of Brescia was undoubtedly Alessandro Bonvicino, called Moretto, although not all of his works are of equal strength. The " St. Justina " (No. 218. Plate VII) is, however, the finest known example of his brush. The picture has been much written about, and has even been the foundation of a German novel. The Saint, whose features are of a distinguished and delicate beauty, looks with gentle benevolence down upon the donor who is kneeling at her left. At her feet lies a white unicorn as an emblem of maidenly purity. There is nothing more to be desired in this painting — so perfectly composed, of such beautiful colour harmony, and in which pure, human characteristics are so tenderly depicted.
The curious thing about Moretto is that, despite the Venetian influences that had surrounded him in his schooldays, he chose to go back to his Brescia in the hills and paint quite in his own manner, in cool, silvery tones, entirely different from the hot gold of Venice. This personal colour was arrived at by his underpainting with a cool grey, made of black and white a technical peculiarity which he seems to have in common with the great Dutchman Vermeer van Delft, but the latter also used a bluish undercolour.
Girolamo Romanino was another Brescian of whom we find here a female Portrait " (No. 219). His style was softer and less incisive than that of Moretto, and his figures are heavier, with less of that aristocratic charm which Bonvicino conveyed.
The painters of Bergamo had less of local character than those of Brescia. Their works are more closely related to those of their Florentine or Venetian masters, ofttimes resulting in confusion. Thus we find some works of Giovanni Busi, called Cariani, ascribed to Giorgione, others to Carpaccio. His "Bravo " (No. 207) is considered one of his best works. A young man, crowned with vine leaves, is being attacked from behind by an assassin who conceals his weapon behind his back. Two other figure-pieces (Nos. 205 and 206) are also from his hand.
A far deeper and more talented artist was Giambattista Moroni, the gifted pupil of Mo-retto. Two portraits, of a sculptor (No. 217), and of a bearded man in a black dress (No. 216), are worth noticing, although neither is as powerful as his magnificent " Tailor " of the National Gallery.
Moroni had the marvellous talent to present in their natural union, with no indiscretion of over-emphasis, the spiritual and physical elements which go to make up that mystery of mysteries, the human individuality. He was a portrait painter pure and simple, for he never succeeded in the few sacred pictures which he essayed to reach the finest qualities of his master. His best altarpiece, the Last Supper, at Romano, is only redeemed from stupid mediocrity by the portrait-like treatment of some of the heads.
The greatest painter of Bergamo was Lorenzo Lotto, for although born in Venice he spent most of his life at Treviso and Bergamo.
With few exceptions all Lotto's works are religious pictures or portraits. The religious pictures are not, however, of any type that had been seen before — they are more the revelations of an inner consciousness, not ecstatic but devout, of self-conscious reflection, often with episodic pathos.
That subjectiveness is also seen in his portraiture. While Lotto was able to search the heart with psychological skill, and depict his sitters so that their thoughts are written in their features, still he reflected in these faces some of his own melancholic views of life, imparting to them an air of oppressive sadness which cannot always have been the sitter's condition.
The " Madonna and Child with Saints " (No. 214), in the Imperial Museum, is one of the most cheerful and buoyant of his religious works. It has exuberance, unusual with the master, a rush of life, and a brilliant, joyous colouring. This sacra conversazione is one of the finest of Lotto's works, charming in its grouping and movement, with harmony and sparkle in its transparent tinting.
The portrait shown here, a Man with a Claw in his Hand" (No. 215), is also one of his finest and most characteristic works. It represents a Venetian nobleman, wearing a dark, flowing gown, brought into relief by the scarlet curtain that forms the background of the picture. The head is full of subtlety, intellect, and distinction. We have already seen in the first gallery an early work of the artist (No. 22). The three-fold portrait of a man (No.220), which Morelli considers to be a German work, is by Crowe and Cavalcaselle given to Lotto.
In CABINET II, which we now enter, as well as in CABINET III, we find principally the works of the da Ponte family, called after their home Bassano. Three generations of painters lived there. The elder Francesco is not represented. Of his son, Giacomo Bassano, there are some good sacred pictures and an excellent portrait, the " Procurator of San Marco " (No. 309). Giacomo's eldest son, Francesco II, was the most prominent of the family. His execution, which to us must seem quite modern, and his fertile invention, are displayed in thirty canvases of religious and mythological subjects and portraits. There is a distinct Flemish flavour about them which the meagre biography of the artist has not, as yet, made clear. His brother Leandro Bassano is far less important, with a harder technique.
The Bassani occupy a prominent place in the Italian art of the 16th century. Their work was exceedingly popular in Venice because it responded in its jewel-like brilliancy to the opulent taste of the Venetians, while at the same time the scenes of every-day life around the markets of the artists' little country town was novel and interesting. Giacomo must also be considered as the first modern landscape painter. Titian and Tintoretto and Giorgione, and even Bellini and Cima before them, had painted beautiful landscapes, but they were seldom direct studies from nature, rather decorative backgrounds, or fine harmonising accompaniments to the religious or human elements of the picture. Bassano's studies of rural life present the country as it really is, and not arranged to look like scenery.
We must also note in the second cabinet a work by Domenico Theotocopuli, called El Greco, of whom we shall find another example among the Spanish paintings in the sixth cabinet. The canvas before us was evidently painted when El Greco was still a pupil of Titian. It shows an " Adoration of the Kings " (No. 272), in which El Greco's peculiar tendency to elongated features is already noticeable.
The decadence of the Venetian school may be witnessed in the THIRD GALLERY. Still prominent, and with all the excellences is Paolo Caliari, called Veronese; but already in him we find the seed of decay. For no longer does his work show spiritual depth, but rather a desire for display in form and colour. With many works that have come from Paolo's studio, on some of which he has evidently worked, we find here only two that are indubitably his own. The magnificent " Christ before the House of Jairus " (No. 396) is the most important, although the " Annunciation " (No. 404) is also rich and impressive.
The art of Paolo Veronese is the most gorgeous of the Venetian school, and the sense of splendour in his work is overpoweringly pompous, so much so that his sacred themes are " of the earth, earthy," and his Christs and Maries and Martyrs are surrounded with all the equipage of wealth and worldliness, the lust of the flesh, and the pride of life. In the " Marriage at Cana," in the Louvre, for instance, we find the startling anachronism of a superb palace of noble architecture, a vast hall, and beneath marble porticoes numerous illustrious personages, from Soliman, Sultan of Turkey, to the Emperor Charles V, together with many of the famous artists of the day playing on musical instruments. It is one blaze of worldly pomp — thus religious art had toward the end of the Renaissance become a paradox.
But with all his astonishing pageantry, his overwhelming pictorial masses, his full-blooded luxurious colouring, we must rank Veronese higher than Tintoretto, with whom he is nearest allied, because of the solidity of his workmanship and the apparent command to sobriety he put upon his imagination, which in Tintoretto is often unbridled. Although he loved strong, deep colours, they always remained heroic harmonies produced by the perfect accord of opposites. By the introduction of neutral tones, above all of the beautiful, silvery greys which permeate his architectural motives, he subdues his pictures so that nothing obtrudes, and they attain the distinction of reserve.
Of Paolo's teacher, Antonio Badile, of Verona, we find two good female portraits (Nos. 395 and 397). Many of Paolo's own pupils are represented, the most individual of whom was Battista Zelotti, with two Biblical scenes, " Judith holding the Head of Holofernes " (No. 391), and " The Anointing of King David " (No. 393).
Reminiscent of earlier, and greater men is the grand-nephew of Palma Vecchio, Palma Giovine, of whom a dozen canvases are found here. His imitative faculty was so great that one picture, representing " St. Jerome " (No. 417), is still by many critics claimed to be by Tintoretto a no mean compliment to its credit.
Imitation, the sure sign of decay and death in art, set its stamp of insipidity and insignificance on most of the works that were produced during the 17th century. But with the beginning of the 18th century a man appeared who added some strength of his own to what he had learned. This man was Giovanni Battista Tiepolo, perhaps the greatest of all painters of pure decoration. He founded himself on the study of Veronese, but was great enough to teach more than he had been taught. He gave a new impulse to art — not so much in his own country, but, while in Spain, he was the inspiration of Goya, whose work became a moving impulse to many later Frenchmen. Thus it has been truly said, " Tiepolo was the last of the old painters and the first of the moderns."
His art, however, cannot be rightly judged in the Imperial Museum, where we find only a single example, a bust-piece showing " St. Catharine of Siena " No. 446). But the extravagances of expression — these earmarks of decadence — are apparent.
One of the best painters of the 18th century in Northern Italy was Bernardo Belotto, called Canaletto, who received a commission from the Emperor Charles VI to execute a number of works that show us the castles of Schönbrunn and Schlosshof, and various sights in old Vienna. These were executed from 1758 to 1760, and are of some local and antiquarian interest. They are in the finely brushed manner of his better-known Venetian views, and full of feeling for space and atmosphere.
CABINET IV contains works of the less important artists of the Milanese and Florentine schools. A " Pieta " (No. 342), by Giulio Cesare Procaccini ; a " Christ appearing to the Apostles " (No. 335), by Battista Crespi, called il Cerano; and " Joseph's Dream " (No. 336), by his son Daniele Crespi, best represent the Milanese painters.
Among those from Florence we must note the two presentations of the " Weeping Magdalene" (Nos. 340 and 369), by Francesco Furini, and the sweetly cloying works by Carlo Dolci. Nos. 374 to 376 are excellent examples of how sentiment may precipitate to sentimentality, and become lost in insipidity.
While art in Italy was decaying towards the end of the 16th century, there flourished a slight temporary revival in Bologna, principally owing to the work of the Carracci family. The paintings displayed in the FOURTH GALLERY belong to this period.
A forerunner was Pellegrino Tibaldi, also famous as an architect. His " St. Cecilia (No. 467), accompanied in her song by two angels playing lute and harp, is still a return to nature.
The Carracci owe their importance to this nature study, and to their refusal of the bald imitation of their predecessors. They saw clearly enough that the old methods and traditions had lost force, and they proposed to substitute new ones of their own devising. It was the theory of their teaching to revive the great qualities of the masters of the beginning of the century, and to achieve, by selection and amalgamation, a combination of all excellences.
Lanzi has pointed out how Annibale Carracci thus strove to exemplify his teachings by imitating in a single work Veronese in one figure, Correggio in another, and Titian and Parmigianino in the remainder.
Lodovico Carracci was the originator of this movement of Eclecticism, being soon supported by his two cousins, Agostino and Annibale. Also Agostino's son, Antonio, joined himself to this group.
Among the works of this family shown here those by Annibale, the most gifted member, are superior. His " Christ and the Samaritan Woman " (No. 475) is a noble composition, painted with a colourful, yet subdued palette.
A large number of works by the contemporaneous Guido Reni indicate his important place in this late Bolognese school. Important, because of the popular interest which his pseudo-Raphaelesque creations have always excited. Guido Reni was a man of great talent, who in his earlier pictures displayed beauty, artistic feeling, and high accomplishment of manner, even though we find also a certain core of commonplace. To this early period belongs his famous " Aurora " of the Rospigliosi Palace in Rome. But his passion for gambling forced him to use his brush to recoup his losses, and led him to become the greatest " pot-boiler " that ever lived.
Having invented pleasing types he reproduced these ad nauseam, with affectation, poverty of expression, monotony of gesture, insipid ideality, and mere empty, banal grace. His most accomplished trick was to portray upturned faces with eyes lifted to heaven, that become almost unbearable to modern eyes. Still, his work bears the impress of the age of which he became a complaisant reflector, satisfying the popular taste of his day. His works have through reproductions become more generally known than those of perhaps any other of the Italians. The " Baptism of Christ " (No. 551) is one of the best, and has a fine motif. The heads of the Christ, crowned with thorns (Nos. 548 and 554) are better known.
In many ways related to him is Francesco Albani, also of the Carracci school, who excelled in mythological scenes. One, and that only a studio painting, is shown here, the " Triumph of Galatea " (No. 530).
The Carracci revival was carried to Rome by Albani's pupil, Andrea Sacchi, by whom we have " Juno on the Peacock Chariot " (No. 537) wrongfully ascribed to his pupil Andrea Camassei. Later still came the more important Carlo Maratta, whose Madonnas (Nos. 540 and 541) are very attractive. Giovanni Battista Sassoferrato was entirely under the influence of Guido Reni. His
Mary with the Child " (No. 539) is a replica of apainting that hangs in the Academy of Milan.
Giovanni Francesco Barbieri, called Guercino, although originally of the Carracci school, developed himself later independently, and enjoyed fame during his lifetime. His bust of " St. Sebastian " (No. 532), and his " John the Baptist " (No. 521), are characteristic works.
Michelangelo da Caravaggio, the Neapolitan, studied in Venice with Giorgione. Later he left the Eclectic tendencies of his contemporaries and became in Rome the leader of the so-called Naturalists, who forsook the finesse of technique for broader treatment and greater realism. His method embodies a reaction against the Carracci school, and displays great strength and sincerity. He held the Bolognese masters in utmost disdain, loudly and emphatically inveighing against their system, demanding that nature, and not the older masters, should be followed. And if the artist, pursuing nature, should encounter ugliness, triviality, and baseness, he should not shut his eyes, but should record them unflinchingly. He fell, however, into the usual error of extremists for, by choice, he took as his models types of vulgar mould, criminals and vagabonds, drunkards and profligates.
An important work is his " Madonna " (No. 496), who distributes by the hands of St. Dominic and Peter Martyr rose wreaths among the people. The painting shows strength in the sharp characterisation of movement and expression, strongly demarked by a one-sided light-effect. A company of Antwerp artists, among them Rubens, Breughel, van Balen and others, bought this painting for the Dominican church of their city, where it hung as an altarpiece until 1786. Also " David with the Head of Goliath " (No. 485) and Mary with the Child and St. Anne " (No. 486) are of his brush.
The puzzling question as to which school an emigrated artist belongs — one which to-day might be raised as to many Americans residing abroad — has been decided by the Vienna Museum authorities in the case of the Spanish-born Giuseppe de Ribera, called Spagnoletto, by placing him with the Italian school, since he received his final training under Caravaggio's influence, and lived at Rome and at Naples, where he died. The " Crossbearing Christ " (No. 501), as well as " Christ and the Doctors " (No. 507), are strongly realistic in expression; while Nos. 508 and 509, showing a " Philosopher " and a " Mathematician," supposed to represent Archimedes, are typical in expression.
Ribera's most gifted pupil, Salvator Rosa, may be studied both in his landscapes and figure work, of which his " Warrior's Portrait " (No. 516) is the most striking.
( Originally Published 1911 )
The Art of The Vienna Galleries:
The Museums And Galleries Of Vienna
The Imperial Museum — The Italian Paintings
The Imperial Museum — The Italian Paintings Cont.
The French And Spanish Paintings
The Flemish And Dutch Paintings
The Early German Painters
The Nineteenth Century Paintings
The Gallery Of The Imperial Academy Of Fine Arts
The Collection Of The Prince Von Liechtenstein
The Collection Of Count Czernin
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