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Vital, inspirational, enduringit is almost impossible to overstate the

impact of sixteenth-century Venetian painting on European art. An


account of artists whose styles or approaches were literally transformed
by the example of

Titian
or
Veronese
would comprise a veritable whos who of the seventeenth century and beyond, from
Rubens
and
Velzquez
to Reynolds and
Delacroix
. This trend of influence began as early as the 1580s, when
Annibale Carracci
traversed northern and central Italy to view works by older artists that they believed were crucial
to their own program of artistic reforms, ultimately the foundation of the
Baroque
style.

The Triumvirate: Titian, Veronese, and Tintoretto


Of the three painters who dominated Venetian art in the sixteenth
century,

Titian
was by far the oldest. Universally admired, even by Vasari, despite the latters bias against
colore in favor of disegno (drawing)
, he was the first Italian artist to garner a truly international reputation, becoming the chosen
painter of a papal family and two emperors. During his long working life, which began about
1508 and continued until his death in 1576, he helped establish possibilities for an artistic
vocation that would have once been thought impossible. As his career came to an end, these
particular shoes as a painter of international reputeand above all as the esteemed recipient of
grand commissions from foreign princeswere filled in part by Paolo Veronese (15281588),
that unique colorist whose works were by that time filling churches and villas throughout the
Veneto. Leaving his native Verona between 1553 and 1555, Veronese had little trouble finding
civic and ecclesiastical commissions in Venice. He was so successful that two decades later,
when
Rudolf II
, the
Habsburg
emperor in Prague, wished to commission mythological paintings that could rival those by
Titian in his uncle Philips collection in Madrid, Veronese was the natural choice.

The central features of Veroneses style, a brilliant illusionism and


grand, sensuous style, were considered his greatest strengths. Adept at
all the principal genres of paintingreligious and secular, in both
fresco and

oil
he reached the height of his illusionistic brilliance and inventiveness in his fresco decorations
for the villas of the Veneto. In Boy with a Greyhound(
29.100.105
), we glimpse a similar feat of visual legerdemain, as the viewer is invited to step into the scene
and walk by the boys side through to the river beyond. Veroneses fondness for opulent detail is
on full display in the breathtaking Mars and Venus United by Love (
10.189
) and Saint Catherine of Alexandria in Prison (
1999.225
), at once sumptuous and refined, which showcase his expert use of color in their dazzling
luminosity. An equal affection for seemingly incidental detail attracted the wrath of the
Inquisition, which demanded that the artist explain the presence of drunken buffoons, armed
Germans, dwarfs and similar scurrilities in a Last Supper painted for the refectory of Santi
Giovanni e Paolo in Venice. Claiming the same right to freedom of expression as the poet and
the madman, Veronese tried to satisfy the Inquisitors by changing the title of his painting
to Feast in the House of Levi.

Of the trio of supreme painters active in Venice in the sixteenth


century, Jacopo Robusti (15191594), known as Tintoretto, inspired the
most controversy and came in for the most criticism from his peers. His
strikingly rapid, seemingly spontaneous brushwork and the occasional
looseness of his compositions prompted Vasaris stinging rebukes that
his work was done more by chance and vehemence than with judgment
and design and that he worked haphazardly. The latter accusation
was particularly unjust; in fact, Tintoretto studied his compositions
carefully by staging them in miniature, first making wax and clay
figurines of the protagonists and then placing them in a box and
lighting it to observe various effects of chiaroscuro. We know that
Tintoretto wanted to combine Michelangelos disegno with
Titians colore, but in the end it was the quality of prestezza, or
quickness, in his work that was most admired by contemporaries who
were receptive to his unique style.

Tintoretto, who never traveled, was tied to Venice and the types of
commissions the city could offer him: altarpieces and other sacred
subjects for churches and confraternity halls,

portraits
, civic projects, and mythologies. His finest portraits are gripping presentations of Venetian
patricians and statesmen (
41.100.12
). Religious works such as The Miracle of the Loaves and Fishes (
13.75
) can be described as balletic, with their theatrical figure arrangements, exaggerated poses, and
dynamic sense of movement. As Ruskin observed wryly, his figures were always flying, falling,
sinking, or biting. In his epic orchestrations, Tintoretto attempted to capture the visionary itself.

Beyond the Triumvirate: The Genius of Venice


Throughout the sixteenth century, many gifted, even brilliant artists
struggled to compete with these three giants and their prodigious
workshops. None could avoid their influence entirely, but many devised
strategies for distinguishing their own production, often by looking
beyond Venice for new ideas. The Dalmatian artist Andrea Schiavone
(ca. 1510?1563), who settled in Venice early in his life, scrutinized
paintings and prints from central and

northern Italy
for inspiration, particularly the fluent, unlabored etchings of the Emilian
Mannerist
Parmigianino. Schiavones contemporaries generally admired his compositions (
1973.116
) but opinions on their technique differed. Pietro Aretino lamented their lack of finish, while
Tintoretto was demonstrably impressed by the painterliness of the somewhat older artist.
Schiavone made no secret of his interests in art outside of Venicehe pointedly declared it.
Nonetheless, he remained grounded throughout his career in the techniques and coloristic
virtuosity of Venetian painting.

Bonifacio de Pitati (Bonifacio Veronese) (14871553), a contemporary


of Titian and Palma il Vecchio, acquired a considerable reputation in
Venice as a painter of compositions of the Madonna and Childat once
grand and informal (

1995.536
). Like Paolo Veronese, his brilliant younger contemporary, Bonifazio was born in Verona. He
came to Venice between 1505 and 1515 and quickly familiarized himself with the work of the
citys principal painters, beginning with the elderly Giovanni Bellini and moving on to
Giorgione, Titian, and especially Palma. Another artist of Bonifazios generation, Sebastiano del
Piombo (1485/861547), left the city definitively for Rome in 1510, thus his Venetian oeuvre is
fairly small. Nonetheless, the works he made there (
1973.155.5
), inspired by Giorgione, were widely admired and imitated.

Paris Bordon (15001571) was born in Treviso on the terraferma but


moved to Venice with his mother when he was eight. According to
Vasari, Bordon went into Titians workshop for a brief period, following
earlier studies that included music and grammar. From Vasari we also
know that Bordon traveled extensively, often outside Italy-another
popular strategy for those artists trying to escape Titians immediate
influence. He worked at

Fontainebleau
, for the Fugger family in Augsberg, was active in
Lombardy
as well as Venice, and spent part of the 1540s in Milan, where he may have painted the
Museums Portrait of a Man in Armor with Two Pages (
1973.311.1
). Although known primarily as a painter of mythologies and other subjects with beautiful young
women, whose clothes and hair typically shine with metallic brilliance, Bordon could also make
sensitively rendered altarpieces and portraits.

Lorenzo Lotto (ca. 14801556), one of the great artists of the Italian
Renaissance, is the missing link in our discussion of Venetian
painting. Like Bordon, Lotto chose, or perhaps resigned himself to, a
peripatetic lifestyle (but within Italy), partly owing to difficulties
securing commissions in Venice. Prodigiously gifted, thoughtful, and
experimental, he enjoyed an extraordinary career that took him from
Venice to Treviso and Bergamo in the Veneto, to Rome, and to various
towns in the Marches. He ended his life in the

pilgrimage
town of Loreto. Although Lotto returned to Venice for several long stays, first from 1525 to
1533 and then sporadically during the following decade, the paintings he made there were
received coolly by some critics, and he was never quite comfortable in the Venetian context.

As an artist, Lotto was highly attuned to the work of his


contemporaries, including the older Giovanni Bellini and the German

Albrecht Drer
; he was also acutely aware of painting in Milan and other Lombard cities. His own work
encompasses a wide spectrum of subject matter and thematic interestslarge-scale altarpieces
and fresco cycles, intimate devotional pictures, a sizeable body of portraiture, and rare
excursions into mythological and allegorical painting, including the glorious Venus and Cupid (
1986.138
). In his portraits, which demonstrate a penetrating grasp of his sitters psychology (
65.117
), he developed a complex iconography linked to the sitters vocation and interests
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