252 x 232 mm
252 x 232 mm
‘Avant-Garde’ in the Late Medieval Apse of Santa Maria in Trastevere
One of the oldest churches in Rome – Santa Maria in Trastevere – has one of the most ‘avant-garde’ mosaic apse decoration in the city’s history. In the turmoil that plagued the papacy in the early twelfth century, Pope Innocent II had created a unique monumental image of the Royal Couple (the adult Christ and his mother). It took more than a century for the mosaic’s striking innovations to be digested and carried forward by Italian artists. In preparation for the auspicious date of 1300 and the founding of the first Holy Year, Cimabue in Assisi, Torriti in Santa Maria Maggiore, and finally Cavallini in Santa Maria in Trastevere, demonstrated their response to the earlier mosaic, and their equally ‘avant-garde’ amplifications of its visual motifs and theological ideas. Cavallini, moreover, worked in concert with an aristocratic churchman, literary expert, poet, and brother of the patron of his mosaics. The Cardinal Jacopo Stefaneschi provided six three-line hexameter poems – one for each scene in the Marian cycle that circles the apse. Together the artist and the poet devised synchronized units, verbal and visual, that coordinate with the image in the conch above. The aim of this essay is to define these unparalleled occurrences and the relations between them for the first time.
The Virgin and the Virtues. Charity in Ambrogio Lorenzetti’s Representation of Good Government
Before Ambrogio Lorenzetti painted Il Buon Governo in the municipal palace of Siena the divine virtues had never before been included in depictions of rulers. Furthermore, he made Charity most important. She surmounts all the other virtues surrounding the personification of Siena. Lorenzetti painted an allegory in which charity is regarded as the motivation for people to subordinate themselves to the common good and act accordingly. The Virgin functioned as catalyst. She was considered to be the governor of Siena since the Battle of Montaperti. The divine virtues, characteristic of the Virgin, should be the most important features of Siena’s governors in order for Siena to become a reflection of the heavenly Jerusalem.
Fra Antonio Falier da Negroponte’s Madonna and the First Venetian Imperial Style
Still neglected, a major mid-Quattrocento pala by Fra Antonio Falier da Negroponte remains in its original church, San Francesco della Vigna. This study aims to re-evaluate the altarpiece’s sources, date, initial appearance and significance for the history of Venetian art. The pala’s first location is proposed as High Altar for the church before Sansovino’s renovation.
The Madonna della Rovere: Raphael in the Workshop of Pietro Perugino
Having recently reappeared, the tondo representing the Madonna and Child with Two Adoring Angels provides us with new material for a reconsideration of the collaboration between artists in the workshop of Perugino. It also furnishes new data for a reassessment of the work of the young Raphael. The tondo’s noble provenance – it was part of the della Rovere family collection for over five hundred years – is an additional factor confirming the work’s importance. Already at first glance the painting can be associated with several works executed in the bottega of Pietro Vannucci, Perugino, at the turn of the Cinquecento, as well as works by the young Raphael.
An analysis of the della Rovere tondo in its historical and social context, its iconography, the Umbrian and Florentine pictorial tradition, as well as a study of its stylistic characteristics, suggests that this important work of art was executed in the studio of Pietro Perugino c. 1498–1502 by the young Raphael, with some participation by Perugino himself, especially in the figure of the Christ Child. The two angels on both sides of the Madonna seem to have been done in full by Raphael. The very Raphaelesque Mother lost a little in the quality once the glazes were gone, and the present state of conservation does not allow for a conclusion as to whether this figure was painted by Raphael himself or by another artist in the Perugino studio. The della Rovere tondo seems to be the result of collaboration between Perugino and the young Raphael, much like Leonardo da Vinci’s contribution to the Baptism of Christ by Andrea Verrocchio in the Uffizi. With time the pupils surpassed their masters.
Penance and Proselytizing in Michelangelo’s Portrait Medal
Considerable academic attention has been dedicated to Michelangelo’s purported self-portraits in the Last Judgment, Pauline Chapel, and Florentine Pietà. It is perplexing, then, that scholarship has fallen largely silent on the artist’s portrait medal (1560) and has dismissed its elusive impresa as having ‘no obvious application to Michelangelo’. This article considers how Michelangelo’s portrait medal, and its impresa especially, should be understood as one of the artist’s most public instances of self-fashioning. Taking Psalm 50:15 as his motto and a blind pilgrim as his image (likened to the soul and body, respectively, by Paolo Giovio), Michelangelo presents himself through the medal as a penitent artist-evangelist in the tradition of the Old Testament King David. The impresa also makes a bold statement of Michelangelo’s potential as a religious artist, bearing witness to his belief that he would only be able to render service to God after he had been redeemed in the eyes of heaven. This conception of self is not unique to the medal, however, and explores similar themes to those found both in the writings of Savonarola and the artist’s late poetry. Michelangelo’s poetry and portrait medal are thus evidence of the artist’s attempt to reconcile the conflicting interests of art and religion at the end of his life.
Michelangelo and the Devils of Purgatory
The current vogue for Michelangelo as ‘spiritual’ or ‘heretic’ has lead scholars to ignore the cave of Purgatory in his Last Judgement, located above the altar of the Sistine Chapel precisely in order to highlight the Roman doctrine. This paper recalls the ancient belief of devils active in Purgatory, and the expiatory function that the liturgy held in the Pope’s chapel. In addition, implied references to Purgatory in the correspondence of the artist confirm this aspect of Michelangelo’s religion.
An Attempt to Situate Titian’s Paintings of the Penitent Magdalen in Some Kind of Order
The half-length Penitent Magdalen was probably the most commercially successful and most repeated subject painted by Titian and his studio. In treating it Titian was no doubt stimulated by the comparably extensive production of Penitent Magdalens by the Milanese painter Giampietrino, but it was Titian’s visualisation of the subject that became canonical. Titian produced the Penitent Magdalen in two closely related types, in both of which her pose is based on the antique model of the Venus Pudica. In Type I, a nocturne, she is set in an unforgiving grotto and is entirely nude but covered with her abundant hair. Titian seems to have invented this formula around 1530 and to have continued to paint versions of it for about a decade. In Type II, probably invented c. 1550 and repeated with variations into the 1570s, the Magdalen is placed in more hospitable country and draped: in all but one instance she wears a prayer-shawl. This type is diurnal and Titian sometimes indicates different times of day. Both types exist in different sizes but all known autograph or studio examples of Type II are larger than all known examples of Type I. Between the abandonment of Type I and the development of Type II, Titian experimented with at least two variant arrangements, although the evidence for these is limited.
This article was prompted by the appearance of two hitherto unknown versions of Type II and aided by the opportunity of examining little-studied versions of both types. It makes use of previously unpublished X-rays of some of the surviving examples and includes discussion of painted and engraved copies of paintings now unlocated or destroyed. It endeavours to arrange Titian’s and his studio’s versions of the Penitent Magdalen in a plausible chronological sequence and, as far as possible, to connect surviving or recorded paintings with references in written sources.
From Dal Ponte to Bassano. The Legacy of Jacopo, the Shops of His Sons and the Artistic Identity of Michele Pietra, 1578–1656
The article reconstructs the history, evolution and organisation of the Bassano workshops across the broad span of their existence from 1578 to 1656. Careful historical reconstruction has outlined the profiles of four workshops on the basis of documents, many of which were hitherto unknown and/or unpublished.
The first bottega, directed in Bassano by Jacopo, was supplemented by parallel, yet interconnected, enterprises that were established in Venice by his sons Francesco (1578–1592) and Leandro (1587–1621). Upon Jacopo’s death, his other two sons, Giambattista and Girolamo, took over the family business (1592–1606), whose commercial position was progressively supported and improved as a result of Leandro’s leadership in the Venetian art market. Francesco died only a few months after his father and his shop was inherited by and divided among his three brothers.
The evolution of such a family business was not at all a natural or painless process, as traditionally suggested. It was, instead, the result of Jacopo’s careful and flexible planning, as well as of legal arbitration between father and sons, a complicated procedure that has been discussed in detail in the article.
At the very beginning of the third decade of the seventeenth century, Girolamo’s workshop, which he had meanwhile set up in Venice (1606–1621), was re-capitalised unexpectedly by one of his collaborators, Michele Pietra. Pietra extended his artistic services to include restoration and possibly the production of forgeries of works by famous painters of the sixteenth century (Bassano and Titian included). The analysis of unpublished documentation illuminates the role and importance of Pietra’s shop in terms of commercial strategies and the volume of production.
The article also takes into consideration the appreciation of the style and manner promoted by the four workshops. In particular, the study and attribution of new works, as well as the examination of key commissions, have presented the contributions of the various painters in a new historical perspective. But, more importantly, the paper also demonstrates how a style, which once belonged to Jacopo alone, came to be associated with a distinctive manner – the brand – of an entire clan of artists.
The Rediscovered Portrait of Prospero Farinacci by Caravaggio
Caravaggio’s early production as a portrait painter is still the subject of research and a fount of enigmas. Despite the numerous citations in documents, only rarely have these been linked unequivocally to paintings known to date. This is also the case with the ‘portrait of Farinaccio criminalist painted on a head-size canvas believed to be by Michelangelo from Caravaggio’, that was listed in the 1638 inventory of the Marquis Giustiniani and with ‘the speaker wearing a robe, painted by Caravaggio’ on a head-size canvas, owned in 1652 by Caterina Campani, Onorio Longhi’s wife.
The present multidisciplinary research examines the rediscovery of the portrait of Prospero Farinacci by Caravaggio. The painting, undisclosed until now, hides an underlying female portrait. The authors investigate both compositions from a technical, iconographical and critical point of view, supporting Caravaggio’s attribution. The technical researches allow cross-validation in the brushwork and materials of the picture, compared to Caravaggio’s early painting technique and style. The portrait of Maffeo Barberini, recently re-ascribed to Caravaggio, shows a significant similarity, while the underlying woman of the retrieved painting closely resembles the gipsy of the Louvre Fortune teller. In addition a newly introduced and advanced imaging technique (Ma-XRF) has detected on the male portrait the feature of the lawyer’s robe, which supports the identification with Prospero Farinacci.
The intriguing topic of physiognomic accuracy versus stylizing tendency in Caravaggio’s portraiture is considered with the aid of Giulio Mancini’s observations.
Besides, the possible interpretation of the underlying figure as a religious subject sheds a light on the obscure activity of the young Caravaggio in Lorenzo Carli’s workshop, recently brought to scholars’ attention by new documents and hypotheses.
Darkness in a Positive Light: Negative Theology in Caravaggio’s Conversion of Saint Paul
In his second version of the Conversion of St Paul for the Cerasi Chapel (1601), Caravaggio emphasizes darkness – not light – as an essential condition of mystical union. Caravaggio’s darkness, typically interpreted as a signifier of ‘realism’, possesses a metaphorical quality that goes well beyond mere tenebrism. Through an analysis of the interrelated themes of darkness and blindness in Caravaggio’s Conversion of Saint Paul, this paper suggests that the artist drew inspiration from Negative Theology, a strand of Neoplatonism that describes the path to the divine as one of increasing darkness. In looking at this painting within the context of seventeenth-century mysticism and its texts (Pseudo-Dionysius and St John of the Cross especially), it is possible to interpret Caravaggio’s use of darkness as an experimental dialectic on Negative Theology. A comparative analysis of Caravaggio’s two versions of Paul’s conversion (the earlier one was rejected) illustrates his radical reinterpretation of Pauline iconography and an increased emphasis on themes of darkness and negation. Given the profound stylistic change represented by Caravaggio’s revised composition – a picture completed only months after the first one was rejected – the Neoplatonic overtones in the second version very likely stem at least partially from suggestions from Caravaggio’s patrons. The Augustinian Fathers of the Madonna della Consolazione, responsible both for the rejection and re-commissioning of Caravaggio’s Cerasi laterals, were well versed in the Neoplatonic teachings of St Augustine and his insistence on the ineffability of the divine. Caravaggio’s dramatic stylistic shift towards darkness represents a sophisticated response to the changing ways in which spiritual conversion was conceived in the seventeenth-century Catholic Church.
Replicas, Quotations and Serial Production in Italian Baroque Still Lifes: A Few ‘Case Studies’
This essay examines for the first time some aspects of Italian Baroque still lifes, mainly those not related to their attributions, but to the process involved in creating this kind of works. One of the features of the Italian still life was its serial production (the first real ‘commercial’ one in the modern sense of the term), which often led to entire or partial repetition of the subjects. The author examines paintings by Michelangelo Pace, Abraham Brueghel and Christian Berentz (some unpublished), who often used this method of composition, and points out that real copies were very rare. This was a new, modern way of creating and enjoying works of art, based on the decorative and commercial function of this genre, which fit in the emerging art market and changed the firmly established and consolidated relationship between patron and painter. Also these considerations can influence the question of the attribution of individual works.
Punishment as Brotherly Love: Antonio Zanchi’s Expulsion of the Profaners from the Temple and the Venetian Conforteria
The brethren of the Venetian confraternity known as the Scuola di San Fantin provided spiritual comfort (conforto) to prisoners condemned to death, offering them the possibility of forgiveness and salvation. This essay interrogates the relationship between the confraternity’s ideology of punishment and Antonio Zanchi’s Expulsion of the Profaners from the Temple, an important painting commissioned by the Scuola in 1667. After the Reformation, the subject matter of Christ’s expulsion of the moneylenders from the Temple in Jerusalem was usually deployed in Catholic regions to communicate the Church’s commitment to internal reform and its determination to cleanse itself of heresy. However, the circumstances surrounding the commission of Zanchi’s painting suggest that its significance was altogether more complex. The reading offered here first situates the painting within the broader ideology of the Italian conforteria (confraternities that assisted the condemned). In this context, the Expulsion of the Profaners expressed the idea that punishment could be a profound act of love towards sinners. A second objective, equally important, is to demonstrate that the concept of punishment as brotherly love was also fundamental to the governance of the confraternity’s own sinful brethren. Zanchi’s Expulsion was commissioned in a period marked by outbreaks of scandalous behavior on the part of some members that the Scuola’s officers sought to curb. The painting demonstrates how this confraternity, dedicated to correcting sinners and saving souls whether through prescriptive or proscriptive methods, employed images as powerful tools to shape and modulate its members’ behavior and guide them towards salvation.
Woven Bloodlines: The Valois Tapestries in the Trousseau of Christine de Lorraine, Grand Duchess of Tuscany
The aim of this paper is to provide a hypothesis concerning the commission, function and meaning of the celebrated Valois Tapestries. No documentary evidence indicating who ordered the cycle and why has so far come to light. However, on the basis of recent works on the patronage and collections of Catherine de Médicis a new interpretation can be proposed. It is known that the tapestries were taken in 1589 to Florence by Christine de Lorraine as a part of her trousseau. In the light of new research on Catherine de Médicis and her patronage, it seems plausible that the tapestries could have been commissioned by the Queen specifically for her beloved granddaughter. This assumption can be confirmed by careful re-examination of the vivid foreground portraits which represent the members of Valois and Lorraine houses. The tapestries can be thus seen as a woven genealogy of Christine de Lorraine – the proof of her royal lineage. This ‘gallery’ of portraits of her family and allies, shown in a portable and prestigious medium, would have appeared particularly appropriate as a trousseau of a princess at a foreign court. The representation of the famous fêtes organized by Catherine de Médicis can therefore be interpreted on one level as evidence of the magnificence of her court. Knowing that queen used the festivals as an instrument of power, for Christine their depiction could have served as a reminder of the political training that she had received from her grandmother.