Artibus et Historiae no. 67 (XXXIV), 2013

252 x 232 mm
ISSN 0391-9064

Art in Sixteenth-Century Venice: Context, Practices, Developments. Proceedings of a Conference in Honour of Peter Humfrey (University of St Andrews, 3rd–6th May 2012) – PART ONE

KEITH CHRISTIANSEN – Bellini and the Meditational 'poesia' (pp. 9–20)

In the years around 1480 Giovanni Bellini created a group of works in which landscape acquires a new prominence. The group is comprised of the Transfiguration in the Museo di Capodimonte, Naples, the Resurrection in Gemäldegalerie, Berlin, and the Saint Jerome in the Uffizi, Florence, all of which are altarpieces, and the Saint Francis in the Wilderness in the Frick Collection, New York. The Frick picture is crucial to our understanding of the transformation in Bellini’s art, for it was a private commission intended for a domestic setting (in 1525 it hung in the portega of the Contarini palace). In the altarpieces Bellini, in effect, introduced the dynamic he had perfected in his paintings for private devotion, in which the viewer is engaged in a new way – one that emphasized the subjectivity of an individual’s experience of a work of art.

The most important contribution to our understanding of this new dynamic has been made by Augusto Gentili. Gentili believed that the landscapes are ‘semiotic’: each detail carries a meaning or allusion to the primary theme. This seems, indeed, to be the case with some of Bellini’s paintings, but not all. There are cases in which the background establishes the contemporary relevance of the religious subject that is presented for meditation. But the process of meditation is an associative one, and it was his recognition of the subjective aspect of meditational practice that stands behind the rich allusiveness of Bellini’s landscapes. The fact that the painting in the Frick was commissioned by someone who belonged to the same confraternity as Bellini – the Scuola Grande di San Marco – suggests that one of the ways in which we can attempt to recreate the range of responses his paintings were intended to evoke is by recalling the various laude that were sung. These, too, are part of the devotional world of the fifteenth century. They also remind us that in addition to patristic literature, there was a popular, vernacular culture that was equally – perhaps even more – important in shaping Bellini’s ideas about devotional painting and the responses of his clients and viewers. This more open-ended poetics of landscape marks a new chapter in the history of devotional painting and sets the stage for the great poesie of Giorgione and Titian.

BEVERLY LOUISE BROWN – As Time Goes By: Temporal Plurality and the Antique in Andrea Mantegna’s 'Saint Sebastian' and Giovanni Bellini’s 'Blood of the Redeemer' (pp. 21–48)

Mantegna’s Vienna Saint Sebastian and Giovanni Bellini’s Blood of the Redeemer are small devotional panels in which the pagan past is used as a reminder of the Christian present. Saint Sebastian is likely to have been painted for Jacopo Antonio Marcello, a prominent Venetian humanist, while Bellini’s panel must have been commissioned by someone with close ties to the secular cannons of San Giorgio in Alga, who believed that mediation was fundamental for the renewal of Christian life and symbolized this by establishing new chapters in abandoned monastic buildings. Although the classical remains in Mantegna’s picture are all’antica inventions, they seem archeologically ‘correct’. Bellini, on the other hand, inflated the micro-sculpture of coins and gems into monumental presences. Both artists used classical ruins as signposts in the progression of time, pointing the way towards the ascendance of Christianity. Christ (or his surrogate Saint Sebastian) stands mid-way between the barrier of pagan fragments and the sun-drenched landscape of eternal salvation. In order to leave one temporal sphere and pass into the other, the viewer must contemplate the true mystery of the Eucharist.

ANCHISE TEMPESTINI – Giovanni Bellini nella storia dell’arte del XX secolo (pp. 49–55)

Giovanni Bellini in the Twentieth-Century History of Art

The bibliography about Giovanni Bellini from the sixteenth to the nineteenth century is essentially in the writings of Marcantonio Michiel, Paolo Pino, Giorgio Vasari, Francesco Sansovino, Carlo Ridolfi, Marco Boschini, Anton Maria Zanetti, Joseph Archer Crowe, Giovanni Battista Cavalcaselle, Giovanni Morelli, Gustavo Frizzoni, Pompeo Molmenti, Bernard Berenson and Roger Fry. The author of the present paper decided to turn to the writings published about the artist in the twentieth century, and the article critically examines the art-historical literature on the painter in the above period.

WILLIAM L. BARCHAM – Deferential or Formulaic? Antonio Vivarini and the Sacred Image of the Man of Sorrows (pp. 57–72)

This essay examines the four pinnacles of the Man of Sorrows produced by the Vivarini workshop for polyptychs painted between 1440 and 1450, the Parenzo, Madonna, Praglia and Certosa Altarpieces. These panels of the Imago pietatis heralded by at least ten years or more Giovanni Bellini’s famed series of innovative interpretations of the same figure of c. 1455–1470. Unlike Bellini’s versions, those executed by Antonio Vivarini, his brother-in-law and younger brother (Giovanni d’Alemagna and Bartolomeo Vivarini) negotiated between a time-honored iconic serenity and the practical requirements of specific devotional cults. While complying with historic traditions, the Vivarini atelier nonetheless adapted to innovative pictorial solutions and aptly met the needs of individual altar dedications and exacting groups of patrons, among them Benedictine nuns in Venice, Benedictine brothers in Praglia and Carthusian monks in Bologna. By exploring the sponsorship and site of each commission, we can attempt to re-assess the art of Antonio and his collaborators. Most important, we avoid the pitfall of evaluating the early production of the workshop by wrongly examining it through the lens of later repetitions of the same subject produced by Bartolomeo and Alvise (Antonio’s son) during the 1460s, ’70s and ’80s.

LILIAN ARMSTRONG – A Manuscript of Francesco Petrarca’s 'Libro degli uomini famosi' Illuminated by Cristoforo Cortese in Early Quattrocento Venice (pp. 73–100)

In this paper it is argued that the manuscript of Francesco Petrarca’s Libro degli uomini famosi now in the Morgan Library and Museum, New York (MS Glazier 36) was lavishly illuminated for a patron who determined or accepted an unusual iconographic program. The historiated initials, painted around 1406 by the well-known Venetian miniaturist Cristoforo Cortese, stress only a few of Petrarch’s thirty-six Roman heroes, instead of representing each hero in the sequence as had been the case in earlier illustrated manuscripts of the text. The Trial of Scipio Africanus, the Assassination of Julius Caesar, Pompey sailing to the site of his murder, and the Funeral of Cleopatra are somber choices. Four miniatures appear to have been added slightly later; although three mitigate the melancholy mood by representing more glorious moments in the lives of Scipio and Caesar, a fourth includes further suicides, those of Augustus’ enemies.

The conflict between Venice and Padua in the years 1404–1405 and the murder of Francesco II da Carrara and his sons are invoked as contemporary political events perhaps affecting the iconographic choices.

DAVID ALAN BROWN – Art and Espionage: Michael Straight’s Giorgione (pp. 101–116)

This essay attempts to connect the two sides of the American arts administrator Michael Straight’s activities. At Cambridge University in the 1930s Straight had been recruited as a Soviet spy. Later a deep interest in the arts led him to form a collection of paintings and drawings from which he donated the portrait of Giovanni Borgherini and his Tutor to the National Gallery of Art, Washington. At the time his espionage was exposed in the 1960s, Straight had the painting, dubiously attributed to Giorgione, X-rayed. Beneath the painted surface appeared a radically different conception for the boy’s head, which can, in fact, be associated with Giorgione. The contemporaneous unveiling of Straight and of Borgherini raises questions about the identity of the sitter and the collector that may help to explain Straight’s fascination with the picture.

CAROLYN C. WILSON – St Joseph and the Process of Decoding Vincenzo Catena’s 'Warrior Adoring the Infant Christ and the Virgin' (pp. 117–136)

Catena’s large horizontal canvas in the National Gallery, London, is believed to have been painted during the last decade of the artist’s life (1521–1531) for the portego of a private Venetian palazzo. The precise subject and the circumstances of the commission remain elusive. Although the warrior wears western European armor, and is accompanied by a page dressed and coiffed in western European style, his accessories, as long recognized, include objects of apparent Islamic workmanship. The picture has been thought to commemorate an episode of conversion or diplomacy. It may alternatively constitute a sociopolitical allegory pertaining to the uneasy position of Venice with respect to her western European neighbors and the Ottoman Empire during the period to which the picture is assigned.

Seldom mentioned is the massive, pivotally placed, standing figure of St Joseph. Catena’s picture is contemporary with a distinct, long overlooked surge in activity in Venice and elsewhere in Italy, in the establishment of Joseph’s liturgical cult and the civic embrace of his patronage as heavenly mediator in troubled times. Understanding of the intensity of St Joseph’s contemporary cult in the Veneto, his evangelizing role in theology and devotion, the typology of the saint as Spouse and Protector of the Church and hence champion of the Church Militant, and his invocation in Friuli – and likely elsewhere – as protector against the Turk provides an additional avenue for our eventual deciphering of Catena’s work. Specific attention is paid to the civic embrace of St Joseph’s cult in Udine in 1500, following the Ottoman incursion of 1499; in Venice in 1512, during the Cambrai War; and its continuing importance in Venice in 1530. Two unusual aspects of Catena’s composition are addressed: Joseph’s gesture and Mary’s expression. Briefly noted are potential ecclesial symbols and other meaningful representations of St Joseph by Catena.

PATRICIA FORTINI BROWN – A Death in Venice: The Forgotten Tomb of Alvise Della Torre (pp. 137–159)

High on the wall of the right-hand aisle of the Frari above the door leading to the cloister is a simple wooden casket in front of a painting that depicts a canopy with curtains held back by two winged putti. Among the notable features of the painting, now difficult to see because of its height and the ravages of time, are five coats of arms and a narrative grisaille decorating the canopy and a bloody skull above the casket. It will be shown that this overlooked monument is the visual residuum of a vendetta involving three noble families from the Patria del Friuli. Indeed, the painting, attributed here to Andrea Schiavone, offers a precious window into a past in which Republican values clashed with the deeply rooted feudal traditions of the mainland.

DEBRA PINCUS –Signatures of the Lombardo Workshop (pp. 161–174)

The signatures of Venetian painters have been the subject of considerable interest in recent years, but relatively little attention has been paid to the epigraphic – carved – signatures of Venetian Renaissance sculptors. Under examination here is a group of signatures from the Lombardo workshop, the most important sculptural workshop in Venice in the years before Sansovino, covering the period from approximately 1470 into the early 1520s. The focus is on the signatures of Pietro Lombardo and his son Tullio. Issues under consideration include the models provided by the calligraphers of Venice’s bourgeoning book culture and the importance of contact with antique Roman inscriptions, either at first hand or through inscription albums.

STEFANIA MASON – Le vanità di un cardinale: Alvise Pisani e il suo inventario (1570) (pp. 175–184)

The Vanity of a Cardinal: Alvise Pisani and His Inventory (1570)

The discovery of the inventory of belongings of Alvise Pisani (Venice, 1522–1570), preserved at the time of his death in the palace of Santa Maria Zobenigo, provides an opportunity to re-examine the ecclesiastic career of a member of one of the most distinguished and wealthiest Venetian families belonging to the ‘papalist’ group.

A protégé of his mighty uncle, cardinal Francesco Pisani, Alvise became a bishop elected for five years and then a cardinal, dividing his short life between his Venetian residence and Palazzo Venezia in Rome, and occasionally sojourning also in the bishopric of Padua.

With the aid of a book by his tutor, Nicolò Liburnio, published in 1546 and dedicated to Pisani, an attempt has been made to reconstruct his cultural formation, and through an analysis of the works of art inventoried, as well as the commissions made for his uncle, particularly for the bishops’ villa at Luvigliano, his artistic tastes. His rich and rather secular wardrobe reflects the life in which the boundaries between religious power and secular world were blurred, as confirmed by his last will and testament hardly suitable for a religious person, to such a degree that it induced the pope to declare his conduct as ‘unworthiness to the degree of cardinal’.

DEBORAH HOWARD – Contextualising Titian's 'Sacred and Profane Love': The Cultural World of the Venetian Chancery in the Early Sixteenth Century (pp. 185–199)

This article looks at the cultural world of the élite public servants in the Ducal Chancery of Renaissance Venice, with a particular focus on the rôle of the Grand Chancellor. Positions in the Chancery were reserved for members of the cittadino class, a rank almost as exclusive as that of the hereditary ruling nobility. The essay briefly considers Alvise Dardani (Grand Chancellor, 1510–1511) and Gian Pietro Stella (Grand Chancellor, 1517–1523), before looking more closely at the dramatic career of Nicolò Aurelio (Grand Chancellor, 1523–1524), the supposed patron of Titian’s Sacred and Profane Love. The function of the picture is reviewed in the light of his controversial marriage to Laura Bagaroto, daughter of a Paduan traitor, and the subsequent rise and fall of his political fortunes.

JOANNA WOODS-MARSDEN – The Sword in Titian’s Portraits of Emperor Charles V (pp. 201–218)

Portraits by Titian of the Emperor Charles V, dating from the period of his coronation in Bologna in 1530, show him brandishing a drawn sword as symbol of power, an attribute unique in the history of Italian portraiture. The significance of the unsheathed sword as symbol of the Cardinal Virtue Justice is outlined, and a connection to the doctrine of theory governing the relationship of Church and State, known as the allegory of the two swords, is proposed. It is concluded that contemporaries would have read the ‘naked sword’ as a reference not only to the two swords body of doctrine but also to Charles’ emergence in 1530 as temporarily triumphant in the centuries-long struggle between emperor and pope for power within Christendom.

TOM NICHOLS – The Master as Monument: Titian and his Images (pp. 219–238)

This paper examines the problematic rôle of Titian as the synecdoche of Venetian tradition, or as its perfected telos. The older Titian seems to have understood himself in this way, as is evident from the steady flow of idealising self-portraits and other depictions of him from the mature and later periods of his career. This paper proposes that these images constructed Titian as a model of unassailable artistic authority, noting that this position was established through implied association with the elite social identity of his aristocratic and courtly patrons. It goes on to explore the more negative aspects of Titian’s predominance on younger artists in Venice, both within his workshop and across the city. Those following in Titian’s wake sought to associate themselves with him in this period, picturing him as the ‘father of art’ alongside images of themselves as chosen heir or successor. But the idea of tradition-as-personification apparent from their anxious identification may also reflect the disintegration of the traditional collective values that had long sustained the visual culture of Venice.

PAUL JOANNIDES – A Portrait by Titian of Girolamo Cornaro (pp. 239–249)

This article publishes an early male portrait by Titian, previously known only from an old copy at Petworth, which came to light recently and rapidly acquired the nickname the Commander. The author seeks to place the Commander in relation to other male portraits painted by Titian during the second decade of the sixteenth century, considering in particular its colouristic and textural relations with the Man with the Blue Sleeve. Given that the sitter looks firmly out of frame, he suggests that a pendant may have been planned, and speculates that this might have been the Knight of Malta in the Uffizi, as two ‘comradeship portraits’. Noting the sitter’s resemblance to the central figure in a triple portrait from the circle of Titian in Washington, the author identifies him as Girolamo Cornaro and based on this, and on an X-ray image that shows changes to the subject’s dress, hypothesises that Titian started the portrait soon after Girolamo’s marriage in 1510, showing him in a relaxed dress, but modified the costume and added a sword to register Cornaro’s call to military duties during the Wars of the League of Cambrai. He concludes that a more likely intended pendant would have been Cornaro’s wife, whether or not a portrait of her was ever executed. An appendix discusses the status and date of the Petworth copy.

LUBA FREEDMAN – Apelles, Giovanni Bellini, and Michelangelo in Titian’s Life and Art (pp. 251–273)

Titian (c. 1488–1576) cherished his association with Apelles when he created portraits of rulers and their administrative courtiers or paintings on mythological subjects. At the same time, as he was painting saints and sacred events, he had before him the exemplum virtutis in Giovanni Bellini (c. 1436–1516). Furthermore, while he regarded Apelles (c. 375 – c. 300 BC) as his antique exemplar and Bellini as his modern exemplar, Titian saw Michelangelo (1475–1564) as an antagonist, or anti-exemplar. Titian learned from these three great artists how to deepen the mastery of his art.

Titian’s adoption of the mantle of Apelles for the public outside Venice owed its inception to his observation of how Bellini worked throughout his creative life, and his rejection of Michelangelo’s disegno was grounded in his adherence to the principles governing in his master’s studio at the turn of the sixteenth century.

MIGUEL FALOMIR – Titian, Jacopo Bassano and the 'Purification of the Temple' (pp. 275–284)

Rivalry between artists was quite common in the Italian Renaissance, sometimes transcending the professional realm and becoming personal animosities. No artists, however, projected personal and professional conflicts onto their work, at least not explicitly. This absence makes Jacopo Bassano’s virulent critique of Titian in his Purification of the Temple (National Gallery, London, NG 228) not only exceptional but also difficult to understand, since no contemporary source alludes to any rivalry between the two Venetian painters. In this essay I will try to provide a satisfactory explanation of it.

JÓZEF GRABSKI – The Contribution of Collaborators in Titian’s Late Works (pp. 285–310)

In the last fifteen years a number of important studies concerning the late period of Titian’s activity have arisen. It was particularly the rôle of Titian’s collaborators and assistants working in his studio that was the focus of many insightful studies, books, and exhibitions which tried to elucidate the problem of how Titian’s bottega worked, how it was organized and what part his collaborators, whose names we know very well, played within it. Yet, the indication of the scope of their contribution in specific late works of the Cadorino was avoided, as almost impossible to be established.

The studies by Lionello Puppi, Augusto Gentili, Bernard Aikema, David Rosand, and also by the younger generation of perceptive scholars, to mention only few of them – Giorgio Tagliaferro, Andrew John Martin and Matteo Mancini – enabled us a better insight into the practices of the studio of the master from Pieve di Cadore.

However, even though the results of that research cast new light on how the studio under the leadership of Titian operated, there is scarce evidence concerning the contribution of his collaborators. A very fair manner of Palma il Giovane, who confirmed his own intervention into the Pietà in the Gallerie dell’Accademia with an explicative inscription, is an exception.

We can assume that the works produced in the house of Biri Grande in the last fifteen years of Titian’s activity were created with the help of assistants from the group of the master’s closest collaborators: his son Orazio Vecellio (1522/1525? – 1576), Emanuel Amberger, Christoph Schwarz, Valerio Zuccato, Damiano Mazza, Marco (1545–1611) and Cesare Vecellio (1521 – c. 1601), Girolamo Dente (1510 – c. 1565/70) and Giovanni Maria Verdizzotti (1537/40–1604/07).

The stylistic and qualitative analysis of the late works issued from Titian’s studio enable us to distinguish different hands in many works. The difficult stylistic and attributional analysis supported by scarce archival sources (including Titian’s correspondence with the imperial court, the letters of the ambassadors of Philipp II in Venice, and the correspondence with the Spanish governor in Milan) gives us nonetheless some insight into the division of the work in the studio.

The present study focuses only on a few selected, late paintings belonging to two groups. Some of them, namely the Portrait of Jacopo Strada, 1566 (Vienna), Tarquinius and Lucretia, c. 1570–1571 (Cambridge), the allegory of Religion Succored by Spain, 1570–1575 (Madrid), and Philip II Offering Don Fernando to Victory, 1575 (Madrid), left Titian’s studio as finished works, sometimes even signed ‘Titianus’, and were delivered to the patrons who ordered them. Other works taken here into consideration, namely the Flaying of Marsyas, c. 1575 (Kroměříž), Ecce Homo, c. 1570–1576 (St. Louis) and the Pietà (Venice), belong to a group of paintings completed in undetermined time and in unknown circumstances, which were left unfinished and found in the artist’s studio after his death in the August of 1576.

In both groups of works considered here the contribution of assistants is visible and obvious. An attempt has been made to distinguish and determine the extent of the contribution of particular collaborators, and to reveal the rôle of Titian’s elder son, Pomponio, in finishing and commercializing them, years after Titian’s death. In some cases also the hand of the artist’s younger son Orazio and that of Emanuel Amberger have been tentatively indicated.