Artibus et Historiae no. 19 (X), 1989
252 x 232 mm
ISSN 0391-9064
JAMES BECK - Leon Battista Alberti and the «Night Sky» at San Lorenzo (pp. 9—35)

Alberti was a uomo universale but his key talent was literary. He should be approached above all as a humanist whose principal vehicle of expression was the written word. As a painter and architect he was influenced by his broad background in the classics rather than by practical experience. Although no painting can be attributed to Alberti with any degree of certainty, the "night sky" cupola in the sacristy in Florence's San Lorenzo seems to have been painted by him, albeit most likely together with someone else. This conclusion may be arrived at through process of elimination, and is confirmed by evidence in the painting of Alberti's literary, astrological and historical background, as well as apparent personal references to the artist in the work - in part in rebus form. A tentative attribution for the second artist would be del Ponte. The same pattern of reasoning may be applied to the mural in the Palazzo Rucellai, which also suggests Alberti's authorship. 

JANETTA REBOLD BENTON - Perspective and the Spectator's Pattern of Circulation in Assisi and Padua (pp. 37—52)

Late Duecento and early Trecento pictorial space is usually treated as a naive early step in the process of learning to depict volume correctly. This article proposes, however, that the techniques of perspective were indeed being explored at this time and were used for purposes in addition to that of the creation of illusionistic space. Evidence for this lies in the use of certain so-called "errors" in perspective - seemingly illogical directions of recession - in combination with other devices, to influence the spectator's pattern of circulation when viewing a mural cycle. To demonstrate this thesis, the upper church of S. Francesco in Assisi and the Arena Chapel in Padua, both being of great importance in that earliest phase of what John White called the "rebirth of pictorial space", as well as other murals, are analyzed from the point of view of the spectator walking through the building to see the entire program - rather than that of the reader, who sees only isolated scenes illustrated in a book. 

ELIOT W. ROWLANDS - Filippo Lippi and His Experience of Painting in the Veneto Region (pp. 53—83)
From 1437 onwards, Fra Filippo Lippi executed a series of paintings remarkable for their depiction of space. Works such as the San Lorenzo Annunciation, the Barbadori Altarpiece, and the Uffizi Coronation of the Virgin include spatial settings that, in their originality and "compositional exuberance", have no precedents in the history of the Florentine painting. Where had Filippo learned such spatial devices as the unusual framing elements in his Coronation of the Virgin and Barbadori Altarpiece, and the illusionistic stage effects of the latter painting and his Annunciation in San Lorenzo? Nothing in Lippi's paintings prior to 1437, nor his Masacciesque heritage, hints at this tendency. Earlier works by the artist are either lost or remain the subject of controversy. Lippi is last recorded in Florence in 1432 and is next heard of in distant Padua, two tears later. By the time he returned to Florence in 1437, he was producing mature works such as the three above-mentioned paintings. The author of this article maintains that an essential, yet hitherto unexamined, catalyst to Lippi's style was his experience of painting in northeastern Italy. 
Vasari records the high esteem in which two revolutionary Quattrocento artists, Mantegna and Donatello, held the frescoes of Altichiero, and in works such as the San Lorenzo Annunciation and the Barbadori Altarpiece, Lippi also reveals himself as an eager student of this North Italian master. The articulation of the figure groups in the Uffizi Coronation, and the use of framing elements recall features found in the oeuvre of another great North Italian - Guariento, as in his Paradise fresco, which Lippi would have seen in the Doge's palace in Venice. (The Coronation's iconography also had precedents in North Italian rather than in earlier Florentine painting.) In Lippi's later works, namely the fresco cycle in Prato, Altichiero's example continued to influence our painter, as witnessed by the harmonious relation of figure to setting in the frescoes, and by the use of a rich architectural backdrop to enhance his narrative. 
MARIA LUISA RICCIARDI - Lorenzo Lotto. Il Gentiluomo della Galleria Borghese (pp. 85—106)

Lorenzo Lotto's The Gentleman in the Galleria Borghese


Lorenzo Lotto's style is free of purely gratuitous decorativeness, and, in the construction of his images, all elements of iconography and color have a double function, structural and semantic. Based on a careful examination of these assumptions, the article painstakingly analyzes The Gentleman in the Borghese Gallery in Rome, in terms of, first of all, its iconography, then its iconology, and finally its documentation, in order to make a hypothesis as to its possible sponsor. As a result, the author concludes that the subject of the portrait is Mercurio Bua (1475-1545), a Greek condottiere in the service of Venice. If this identification is correct, we can ascertain from Bua's biography that the portrait must have been painted in Treviso in 1535. 

WILLIAM E. WALLACE - Narrative and Religious Expression in Michelangelo's Pauline Chapel (pp. 107—121)
Michelangelo's two frescoes in the Pauline Chapel were painted for one of the artist's most discerning patrons, yet generally they have been considered among the artist's least successful works. They have been criticized mainly because they disobey conventional rules of composition, scale and figural proportion. The apparent oddities, however, are greatly exaggerated when the paintings are seen from the "ideal" frontal view presented in all prints and in most photographs. This essay proposes that the frontal view is the least important one in the long, narrow chapel. Michelangelo consciously adjusted the arrangement and proportions of his figures so that they would appear correct from a number of different vantage points, mostly oblique. The histories unfold as a sequence of narrative episodes, in part animated by the spectator's own movement through the chapel. By presenting the frescoes as they would be experienced in situ, the author argues that the Pauline frescoes, far from being evidence of Michelangelo's declining abilities, instead confirm his genius as a history painter. 
WALTER LIEDTKE - Peasants Fighting Over Cards by Pieter Bruegel and Sons (pp. 123—131)

Pieter Brueghel the Younger's various paintings of "Peasants fighting Over Cards" are usually considered to record a late, lost work by Pieter Brueghel the Elder. The earliest version is dated 1610, others date from 1619, 1620, and later. Also dating from about 1619-20 is a chalk drawing by Rubens which interprets the elder Breugel's figure group in a Baroque style close to that found in Rubens's contemporary oil sketches for the ceiling paintings of the Jesuit Church in Antwerp. Rubens's version of the composition was employed by Lucas Vorsterman for his engraving, which is inscribed Pet. Bruegel invent., and is dedicated to Jan Brueghel the Elder. The latter artist may have composed some of the background elements found in a number of Pieter Brueghel the Younger's panels, and Jan Brueghel may also have painted one or two versions, now lost, of the entire composition. In any case, it is clear that the main group of figures was conceived by Pieter Bruegel the Elder, and that everything now known about this composition is transmitted to us by his sons, principally Pieter the Younger. 

SHELLEY PERLOVE - Guercino's Esther Before Ahasuerus and Cardinal Lorenzo Magalotti, Bishop of Ferrara (pp. 133—147)

Near the end of his life, Cardinal Lorenzo Magalotti, Bishop of Ferrara, commissioned Guercino to paint Esther Before Ahasuerus, a canvas portraying Queen Esther's audience with King Ahasuerus, an Old Testament subject long viewed as the prefiguration of Mary's intercession to God. On one level interpreted as Esther's petitioning of Ahasuerus, onanother as the Virgin's appeal to God, Guercino's painting may also reflect the self-proclaimed mission of its patron, as expressed in Magalotti's statutory and synodial decrees. 

VERNOR HYDE MINOR - Shapes of the Invisible: Bernini's Fiery Angels in Saint Peter's (pp. 149—155)

Although art historians have been reading Erwin Panofsky's essay on iconology for nearly fifty years, they still tend to split their analysis of works of art into "style" and "iconography". Panofsky's critical apparatus, whatever its limitations, has the virtue of seeking wholeness and unity. The popularity of the iconographical study does not disguise the fact that it offers but a fragment of meaning. The literature on Gianlorenzo Bernini's Cathedra Petri in St. Peter's is fairly typical of art historical studies in that complex humanistic themes have been explored in impressive detail, but largely without showing how Bernini's manner bears the meaning. This article examines the importance of Dionysius the Aeropagite's mystical theology as a text for the Cathedra, and describes how Bernini translates Dionysius' metaphorical language into visual metaphor, especially in regard to the two angels on either side of St. Peter's throne. 

JOHN F. MOFFITT - The «Euhemeristic» Mythologies of Velázquez (pp. 157—175)

The intention underlying Diego Velázquez's occasional ventures into classical mythological subject matter have been frequently misunderstood, in part due to the often uncompromising realism of these pictures, which has led some critics to believe that the Spanish painter wished to devaluate the significance of the Olympian gods by collectively lowering their status "to the base condition of the most vulgar, worldly objects" (Ortega y Gasset). This study corrects that misconception by showing how, on the contrary, Velázquez was deliberately reverting to a still familiar classical literary tradition of interpreting in a particular (quasi-"naturalistic") way the intrinsic meanings of classical fables and heroes. This classical mode of textual-historical (re-)interpretation was called "euhemerism" and it is here applied to all nine canvases by Velázquez, either extand or lost, that are known to have had overtly mythological subjects. Reference is made repeatedly to a book belonging to the erudite painter's private library. The work in question is an extensive anthology of euhemeristic moralizations applied to all the classical fables recounted by Ovid: Philosophia Secreta, by Juan Perez de Moya, first published in Madrid in 1585 (with four other editions subsequently appearing in Velázquez lifetime). 

ADAM MIŁOBĘDZKI - Architecture in Wood: Technology, Symbolic Content, Art (pp. 177—206)
(1) The myth of the origin of architecture from primitive wooden structures inspired architectural theory and practise for over 2,000 years. Since the end of the eighteen century, architecture, which had been a natural organic system deeply rooted in the homogenous culture of ancient times, has given way to history, so that structures in wood have been studied according to current perspectives on archaeology, art history, ethnology and, later, architectural history.
2) The interdependence between the kinds of timber and the construction and form used, can be seen not so much from the vocabulary of motifs, which have constantly changed according to current styles, as in the overall architectural syntax. The particular homogeneity of this syntax lasted well into the twentieth century in buildings derived from preindustrial vernacular architecture. In "high-style" architecture, this homogeneity already began to break down once wood came to be used to produce illusionistic effects in Baroque art, and later, in purely functional structures in modern engineering.
(3) Although in architecture the use of wood has always been in opposition to stone, and this opposition has been of both a pragmatic and a metaphysical nature, at certain times and in certain areas one can see stylistic similarities and/or a mutual interplay of formal influences between wooden and masonry architecture. Modern wooden structures have also striven to find a decorum of their own, as for example in the "rustic style" which derived from architectural mythology, and which, especially in the eastern parts of Latinized Europe, has often been symbolic of a noble, Neo-Stoic, rural lifestyle.
This semiotics of construction in wood acquired a more systematic character within the philosophical framework of the Enlightenment. Wooden structures also found a place in later concepts associating various historical, geographical, and even technical classes of form with social, religious ethical and aesthetic ideas. From about 1850, in the countries of Central and Eastern Europe, architecture in wood, because of mistaken historical conception, began to serve as a symbol of nationalistic ideals, and even of populist manias. This political symbolism became so strong that forms peculiar to wooden structures were sometimes applied to the language of masonry architecture as well.