252 x 232 mm
252 x 232 mm
Constantine the Great at Tournus: An Iconographic Study of the Galilee at Saint Philibert’s Church
Tournus Abbey has never been analysed otherwise than by the formalist method. A change in approach will permit to uncover new secrets relating to this monument. A study of the political context – not an easy matter – reveals a very close relationship between Italy and Burgundy around the year 1000, and the twinning of the two construction sites: of Saint-Bénigne in Dijon and that of Saint-Philibert in Tournus.
Almost ignored by historians, the putsch in 1002 at least partially explains the ‘white mantle of churches’, a vast reconstruction movement which Rudolf Glaber believed to have started in that year. Dijon and Tournus are the chefs-d’oeuvre of a co-ordinated wave of construction with a focus on political separatism.
The evocation of Constantine’s accession to power permeates the whole conception of galilee. This is the only part of the abbatial structure analysed here. Several monuments constructed between 310 and 320 served as inspiration to the architect; they are here reproduced in a reduced size. This evocation seems to be connected to Constantine’s Vision of the Cross, an event which, according to an ancient tradition, took place in the Tournus area. This episode is certainly related to the life of Saint Valerien, the evangelist of Tournus, in the second century. This is the first time that such a long legitimising tradition has been described.
The study also reveals that the architect of this abbey can be no other than Guillaume de Volpiano, and the commissioner Otte-Guillaume, duke of Burgundy, his second cousin.
‘A Most Beautiful Brawl’: Beholding Splendor and Carnage in Renaissance Italy
Going beyond the violent imagery conventional to Italian representations of the subject, Domenico Ghirlandaio’s Massacre of the Innocents (1485–1490) presents an unsettling mixture of dazzling beauty and graphic violence. The fresco, located in the high chapel of the Florentine church of Santa Maria Novella, juxtaposes sumptuous fabrics and gleaming metal surfaces with bloodied and broken infant bodies. While representations of the Massacre often featured piles of mangled corpses, the prominent inclusion in the fresco of pieces of the Holy Innocents – severed heads and arms – was a highly atypical divergence from the established iconography of the scene. This article considers how the depiction of body parts in the Ghirlandaio fresco – and in a related painting of the same subject by Matteo di Giovanni – shaped the viewing experience. I argue that in their original devotional context, these paintings would have fostered a ‘reliquary mode of seeing’ by combining formal features characteristic of reliquaries with the representation of relic-like body fragments. Furthermore, the relationship with reliquary devotion was made exceptionally palpable and immediate by the presence of relics of the Holy Innocents in the churches were both paintings were located. The body parts in the paintings thus would have served as metonyms for the relics themselves: the depicted heads and limbs framed with painted signs of material splendor, the actual relics encased in precious materials.
Seeing Red: Was Titian Too Young to Know Better?
The picture now in Antwerp depicting Jacopo Pesaro, the bishop of Paphos, and Pope Alexander VI before Saint Peter is sometimes referred to as Titian’s earliest painting. In writing about it Panofsky suggested ‘there is hardly any trace of blue: St. Peter is clad in a red mantle (Titian did not as yet know, or chose to disregard, the tradition according to which St. Peter should wear a yellow mantle over a blue coat)’. But did such an iconographic cannon of color exist during the Renaissance and if so, was Titian simply too young to know better when he put Peter in red? A quick look at other North Italian paintings by artists such as Mantegna, Girolamo Dai Libri and Giovanni Bellini suggests that Titian was probably well aware of a tradition of dressing Saint Peter in red and yellow. No doubt, he was also fully aware that certain colors were given moral meanings in emblem books and contemporary poetry. Red, for example, was a color of the liturgical calendar marking Christ’s Passion and the blood of the martyrs and was specifically associated with papal authority. Saint Peter, we might posit, is shown in pontifical red because he represents the divinely sanctioned authority of the Church. This authority is underscored by the red and gold papal banner being presented to him, by the pope and Jacopo Pesaro before the papal fleet sailed into battle against the Turks. From at least the eleventh century, popes had personally bestowed specially blessed banners on warriors leading military expeditions. It is hard simply to dismiss Titian’s choice of red in the Antwerp picture as a youthful misstep when one realizes that around 1526 he again used red and yellow for Peter’s garments in the San Nicolò della Lattuga altarpiece. Titian, it seems, was not too young to know that within different contexts, Saint Peter’s role and hence the color of his drapery might change.
A New Agony in the Garden by Titian and His Collaborators, and the Problem of Originality in Late Titian
Throughout his career, and especially in the last three decades of his life, Titian issued from his workshop a sizeable number of variants and replicas of compositions of any subject and format. The circulation of so many paintings was boosted by a huge request from collectors across Europe, and helped Titian to establish himself as a widely celebrated artist. Over the years, the master developed an unconventional working method that privileged the unevenness of the pictorial surface over uniformity and homogeneity, thus emphasising the process of art-making. Indeed, it is especially for his peculiar, idiosyncratic handling of the brush that he was renowned, and his paintings sought after. Furthermore, this technique matched up with the cult of the personality that Titian himself fostered. At the same time, however, several of the variants and replicas produced in the late years raise the problem of how the collaboration with assistants affected the notion itself of authorship and originality. How did his innovative technique, which highlighted his virtuosity and individuality, go with the documented, extensive contribution by his collaborators? Moreover, if each variant or replica received a unique, distinctive pictorial treatment, can we still draw a clear line between originals and derivations?
By presenting a previously unpublished version of Titian’s Agony in the Garden, whose composition is known through a painting executed for Philip II and now in the monastery of San Lorenzo del Escorial, this study seeks to discuss and establish a new theory of the nature of authorship in Titian’s late collaborative works. The new painting is here acknowledged as a joint work by the master and his collaborators, and stands as an example of how the novel aesthetics developed by Titian tolerated and perhaps even encouraged the incorporation of different hands into many of his late works.
Tam foelix pictor vate, ut pictore Poeta: The Iconography of Sebastiano del Piombo’s Lunettes in the Loggia della Galatea
The ‘Loggia della Galatea’ in the Villa Farnesina has a long history among iconographers. We know that the subjects were selected to convey themes involving the Four Elements in order to celebrate the patron Agostino Chigi: Fire in relation to the vault painted by Baldassarre Peruzzi, Air for Sebastiano del Piombo’s lunettes, Earth and Water for the main frescoes on the wall, Sebastiano’s Poliphemus and Raphael’s Galatea. But whereas Chigi’s horoscope has been recognized as a perfect clockwork of astrology, with the mythological gods associated with the planets, and Chigi’s marital plans are alluded to by the Galatea, symbolizing Neoplatonic love, there has been no explanation concerning the Ovidian themes painted in the lunettes, an embarrassing assembly of baleful events, ranging from rape to abduction, violence, betrayal and death. This author provides specific new readings of them, explaining the violent stories taking place in the realm of Air as symbols of the passions according to the sixteenth-century moralizing commentaries on the Metamorphoses (up to now never considered in this context, but crucial to the understanding the overall organization of the decorative programme of the Loggia), closely connecting them to Agostino’s microcosm. Thanks to this newly discovered system of meanings, which allows for the identification of previously misunderstood subjects, such as the Cumaen Sibyl and Apollo, the lunettes can be now firmly placed into a tightly structured and consistent iconographic programme of the Loggia.
Towards the History of El Greco Forgeries: A Draft Categorisation with a Few Examples
The paper discusses the forgeries of El Greco’s paintings from the twentieth century, dividing them into the following categories: a) modern copies that are the same as the original, except for their format and some minor details; b) reinterpretations of original works, amended in order to appear to be ‘variations’ by the artist himself, using different motifs taken from his other paintings; c) more creative combinations, mixing together inspiration from works by both the painter himself and other artists with whom he was undoubtedly in contact; d) images painted in the style of El Greco, but without any actual reference to known original pieces and, if anything, with details that are quite alien to the world of the master; e) signatures on paintings that were contextually similar to the world of El Greco, and which were granted plausibility as his autograph works thanks to these inscriptions. Many examples are provided, mostly relating to works that have appeared on the art market accompanied by the expert opinion of leading specialists.
A Miracle of Art and Therefore a Miraculous Image. A Neglected Aspect of the Reception of Michelangelo’s Vatican Pietà
In the 1630s, Alessandro Sforza distinguished with crowns several Marian images ‘venerated for antiquity and miracles’, including Michelangelo’s Vatican Pietà, carved c. 1500. It was crowned in 1637, although there is no record of any miracles believed to have been worked by it. The contention of this paper is that three reasons might have contributed to the crowning of the Vatican Pietà: its reputation as a devotional image, its connection with an artistic rather than religious notion of miraculousness, and its relationship to other Marian images venerated in the Vatican Basilica (above all, the Madonna della Febbre, crowned in 1631).
Michelangelo and Seats of Power
This article examines a ubiquitous but little noted piece of furniture: the chair. Power and prestige are connoted when a represented subject is seated, and especially when seated in a special sort of chair, commonly known as a ‘Savonarola’ chair. The article investigates the long history of this specific type of furniture, particularly in Italian Renaissance painting, before turning to the message conveyed two eloquent examples of the symbolic power of the chair and its occupant. In two paintings from the ‘Michelangelo Gallery’ in the Casa Buonarroti (by Anastasio Fontebuoni and Cosimo Gamberucci), we see moments in the artist’s life when an x-shaped ‘seat of power’ is central to the narrative episode represented. In each of these works, the chair is a little noticed, yet eloquent protagonist.
Grace and Favour: Pius V and Sepulchral Architecture in Counter-Reformation Rome
This article examines the sepulchral monuments commissioned by Pius V (1566–1572), which include a mausoleum for himself and three tombs for men he held in high esteem. These projects have never before been discussed together and the author reconstructs the circumstances surrounding each of the commissions to demonstrate the personal and political motivations behind them. The author also considers their use of coloured marbles, looking particularly at how this relates to the paragone between painting and sculpture, concluding that these important papal commissions were not only informed by the reforming demands of their patron but by contemporary artistic theory.
The Lost Church of San Niccolò ai Frari (San Nicoletto) in Venice and its Painted Decoration
Closed in 1806 and later demolished, the little Franciscan church of San Niccolò ai Frari in Venice was previously decorated with an ensemble of sixteenth-century paintings of great distinction. These included, in addition to a major work by Titian above the high altar, a cycle by Paolo Veronese and his family assistants, also involving his younger contemporaries Paolo Fiammingo and Palma Giovane. Using contemporary documents and early printed sources, the present article traces a history of the church and provides a reconstruction of the original arrangement of these paintings, drawing new conclusions about their dating, patronage, and iconography.
The Iconographic Analysis of Caravaggio’s Saint John the Baptist in the Desert in Galleria Borghese, Rome
Caravaggio’s Saint John the Baptist (Rome, Galleria Borghese) was painted in 1609–1610 for Cardinal Scipione Borghese, the nephew of Pope Paul V, and although many scholars have carefully studied and analyzed it in the last decades, the meaning of this unusual image has not been fully revealed. This present article focuses on the parable of the Good Shepherd related in the Gospel of St John (10, 11–21) as a key to the reading of particular aspects of Caravaggio’s work, and interprets its depiction as a visual message conveyed to Cardinal Borghese that the artist strongly wished a pardon from the Pope for the murder that he had committed on 28 May 1606.
‘Paise antique’: Claude Lorrain and Seventeenth-century Responses to Antique Landscape Painting
Claude Lorrain’s evocation of the world of classical antiquity in his paintings is rightly celebrated, but his indebtedness to antique painting has been the subject of some speculation. This article explores the evidence, in the light of recent research and in the context of a heightened interest in the antique in seventeenth-century Rome. Many of the artist’s noble Roman patrons collected examples of antique painting, or drawings after them by P. S. Bartoli and his son Francesco, while illustrations to the Vatican Virgil (borrowed by both Cassiano dal Pozzo and Camillo Massimo) may have provided the starting point for Claude’s rendering of bucolic subjects.
The First and Second Versions of Guercino’s Semiramis Receiving a Messenger (1645) and Related Studio Copies
While it is widely recognized that many successful artists, such as Titian, made autograph replicas of their own paintings, this phenomenon is only beginning to be studied in the work of Guercino. He started making such replicas from the very beginning of his career, since a surprising number of duplicate versions have been identified from before his Roman period (1621–1623). Repetitions made during the period of the artist’s Account Book (from 1629 until the artist’s death in 1666), on the other hand, are a more vexed issue. The debate over prime and second versions by Guercino from his mature period was reopened in 2005 with the re-appearance on the London art market of Guercino’s lost version from Northbrook Park of his 1645 composition, Semiramis at her Toilet Receiving a Messenger, first published by Denis Mahon in 1949 and now in a private collection, New York. Less than five years earlier, another autograph version of the same subject, now in the Cobbe Collection at Hatchlands Park, had come to light and was also endorsed by Mahon. This article examines the differences between the two versions and concludes that the Cobbe version of the composition (commissioned by Cardinal Federigo Cornaro), slightly less finished, was painted first.