BACHIACCA Madonna and child and the young St John the Baptist
The highly lit, elongated, idealised figures that dominate the foreground with their strong colours contrast with the more naturalistic rural scene. St John appears in an animal skin to indicate his adult life as a preacher penitent in the desert. The wheat upon which the Christ child rests alludes to communion bread. Roses and jasmine represent the purity of the Virgin and Christ’s passion and the acanthus plant by the Madonna’s elbow alludes to the Roman spear, which would pierce Christ’s side at his crucifixion.
Matyrdom of St Catherine
Bassano was a leading 16th century Venetian Mannerist and this was painted in his youth. When Catherine remained true to her faith and refused the advances of a Roman Emperor in Alexandria, she was bound to a wheel with spikes. This works depicts the confusion of the moment when a thunderbolt destroyed the wheel, and an angel appears, bathed in a supernatural light. The controlled composition of the powerful twisted torsos is painted in luminescent, carefully delineated colours.
Adoration of the shepherds
Bassano was a leading 16th century artist who trained in Venice but worked in Bassano and demonstrated his knowledge of Roman Mannerist exaggeration in his figures. The idealised depiction of the Virgin and child contrasts with the rugged detail of the shepherds. The drapery of the Christ child and the Virgin is luminous against the sombre earthy colours elsewhere. Majestic ruins allude to classical studies.
Paris BORDONE Rest after the flight into Egypt with St Jerome
Escaping the danger of Herod’s actions the Holy family fled to Egypt. The lion in the background indicates the exotic nature of the landscape. The penitent St Jerome in the foreground seems to see the Holy family as if in a vision and Joseph, by handing Jesus an apple, is referring to Christ’s calling as redeemer of mankind from original sin. The colour and landscape setting are reminiscent of Titian and Giogione respectively.
Campi introduced a regional realism to the Carracci Academy in Bologna and also influenced Carravaggio, who was born in Lombardy. This sentimental subject is treated formally in a strong composition of repeated shapes. From a high viewpoint the bounteous harvest of fruit and vegetables is visible, as is the woman who is as round and fresh as the fruit she displays. The painting may be an allegory of love, symbolised by the grapes in her hand.
Narcissus rejected the love of all, including the love of the nymph Echo and for his cruelty was condemned by the god Nemesis to drown while admiring his own reflection. Employing dramatic naturalism, Caravaggio places the lone figure in a strong, clear light, close to the frame to bring the viewer from the real world to this mythological event. Narcissus’ hand is about to cup the water. The artist probably painted directly on the canvas without preliminary drawings.
Portrait of the Countess Bentivoglio
The date 1589 is inscribed in Roman numerals under the graceful hand of this elegant Italian noblewoman. Ludovico Carracci, with his cousins Agostino and Annibale, reformed Italian art in the late 1500s with a return to classical imagery and techniques. Carefully observed, the white ruff, red skirt and deep black dress add drama to this refined portrait.
With his cousin Ludivico, and his brother Agostino, Annibale established an academy in Bologna based on the traditions from the High Renaissance, especially careful preparation, study of anatomy and drawing from life. At 35 Annibale travelled to Rome to commence the decoration of the Farnese Palace, thus re-establishing Rome as the creative centre of painting. This work reveals evidence of naturalism from Bologna, light from Venice and grandeur from Rome. St Margaret, a 3rd century Christian martyr, refused to renounce her faith to marry so was devoured by Satan in the form of a dragon. The cross she carried caused the dragon’s belly to burst open releasing her and she is shown crushing the serpent with her foot. The motto may refer to her gesture, which entreats us to lift up our hearts to the Lord.
Adoration of the Magi
Correggio must have painted the Adoration of the Magi in around 1517, shortly after his Four Saints altarpiece, now in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, and not long before he executed the frescoes in the Camera di San Paolo, Parma. Although the complex, confident composition of the Adoration represents the beginning of his mature achievement, in other respects it remains a transitional work.
Study for the head of Christ for The Last Supper
Versatile genius of the Renaissance, Leonardo created this drawing for his wall painting in Milan The Last Supper. The artist defined the role of artist as philosopher when he portrayed the moment Jesus said to the disciples ‘I tell you, one of you will betray me’. The earliest traces of red and black chalk, assumed to be by Leonardo’s hand, remain. This drawing, now more than 500 years old, was considered so important it was continually ‘updated’ and reworked.
Madonna and Child
In Florence, del Sarto probably worked from a life sketch but often departed from the ‘coloured drawing’ and composed his paintings using patches of colour and shade. The Madonna, perhaps modeled on his wife, occupies a compressed space between green curtains and a stone parapet as she supports a child of classical rather than natural proportions. His twisting pose and the strong colours point the way to Mannerism.
Moses defending the daughters of Jethro
This artist developed Florentine Mannerism, influenced by Michelangelo. Figures are muscular and in inventive poses, compressed into a space which has little depth. The painting may contain several stories. Moses is the central pivot for this turbulent composition but also appears in the red drapery rushing to save his future bride. He defends the seven daughters of Jethro from men who have deprived them of water for their flocks.
This reflects on different experiences of ‘love’. The idealised noble figure, holding a wild-orange as a symbol of love, occupies a shadowed spiritual space of melancholy love. The other young man is more aggressively realistic and stands in direct lighting. During his short career, Giorgione inspired by mythology or secular literature produced paintings shrouded in mystery.
This work has been dated to around 1523. Painted by Larciani in Tuscany, the northern influence of woodcuts by Albrecht Durer can be seen in the variety of vegetation. The exaggerated muscles of the Christ child, the contorted hand of the Virgin Mother and the caricatured face of St Joseph suggest a mannerist avoidance of realism. The pairing of angels and babies add to this contrived composition with interior space to one side and distance to the other.
Altarpiece of the Annunciation to the Virgin
Lotto was a restless traveller who absorbed many influences but left many letters and records. Here is a miraculous story told in simple and direct human terms. Gabriel announces to the Virgin ‘You shall conceive and bear a son and you shall give him the name Jesus’. Mary turns away from her reading of Isaiah 7:14, which begins ‘A young woman who is pregnant will have a son’. The light of the Christian faith fills the space which is her bed-chamber. It would have been against the decorum of the times to show Mary in fear and the cat amplifies this. The lily is a symbol of the Virgin. There is a Venetian quality to the light and colour of this altar-piece and a Northern-European attention to detail.
Study for the Resurrection of Christ
Painter, sculptor, architect and poet of the High Renaissance, Michelangelo made a group of drawings about the Resurrection of Christ. The sense of twisting movement or contropposto is conveyed particularly by the many lines which capture the movement of the legs. There are touches of shading orchiaroscuro on the torso.
Study of a male nude
Madonna and Child
Moretto, from Brescia, was one of the most distinguished Renaissance painters of the16th century. He was influenced by both the naturalism of Lombardy and the colour and light of Venice. The artist was personally involved in the local movement of Roman Catholic reform and this is reflected in this direct, solemn and moving image of the Madonna and Child which he painted for a patron for private devotion.
Portrait of Gian Gerolamo Albani
Born in Albino near Bergamo, Moroni was noted for his fine portraits of a noble clientele. Veins can be seen in the ageing transparent skin on the hands of this nobleman who wears an insignia bestowed by the Republic of Venice around his neck.
Portrait of the cavalier in red
Dressed Spanish-style in fine silk from Bergamo, a town on the outskirts of the Venetian Republic, this proud and haughty young knight is about to marry for the second time. The inscription ‘Better the last than the first’ refers to this marriage. Ivy symbolises constancy of love while the broken sculpture is a reminder of vanity and fragility.
The butcher stall
We are the buyers, leaning over the counter while the butchers offer meat from the freshly slaughtered boar. This glimpse of everyday life reflects Bolognese realism which was to have its impact on artists such as Annibale Carracci and is thought to be the first depiction of a butcher’s shop in Italian painting. It may also be a satirical reference to the pleasures of the ‘flesh’ in a time of religious unease.
Raphael was influenced by the gentle Madonna’s of Leonardo and by Michelangelo’s powerful drawings. He was the youngest of the three artists.St Blaise was a bishop and Christian martyr whose flesh was torn from his body with iron combs. Built up economically with a few solid lines and parallel hatching the drawing has been completed rapidly and confidently.
Christ bearing the cross
According to the Gospels, Jesus, prior to his crucifixion was dressed in a red mantle and a crown of thorns was placed on his head. Blood trickles down his forehead. Soldiers beat him with canes and mock him. Dominico Fetti, a Roman artist who died young, was influenced by Caravaggio’s exaggerated lighting and detailed observation. He was also interested in the lighting effects of the art of the Venetians.
Madonna and Child
A builder’s son, Tibaldi developed a strong reputation as a painter, sculptor, architect and draftsman. His early works show the influence of Raphael and the mannerist style of Parmigiano. Tibaldi’s years in Rome defined his mature style, a combination of the vigorous masculine figures of Michelangelo and graceful mannerism. In Mother and Child the strangely intersecting arms create a powerful composition of protection and restraint. The colour has the translucent quality of a fresco.
This religious drama typifies the arrival of Mannerism in Venice with its heightened colour and uninhibited figures in action. The Virgin and her cousin Elizabeth, soon to become the mother of John the Baptist, are both pregnant. Joseph and Zaccariah observe their embrace. Tntoretto wrote on his wall ‘The drawing of Michelangelo and the colouring of Titian’.
Portrait of Pietro Aretino
Titian established a reputation as Europe’s supreme portraitist because of insightful character studies such as this. Pietro Arentino was a popular writer of vigorous satirical works. He has been caught at a moment of reflection. Paint layers are transparent and smooth with confident attention to the cuffs of the shirt and evidence in the patterns of the folds of the green tunic of Titian’s teacher Bellini.
Sacred conversation : Mother and Child, St Catherine
The Virgin, holding the Christ child, and St Catherine are sumptuously clothed in their heavenly space. In stark contrast St Dominic, from Spain, wears the black cloak and white tunic of his order while the donor, thought to be Domenico Balbi, is also sombrely dressed. A light-filled landscape indicates their earthly realm. The five figures dominate the foreground in this work, which Titian painted in his youth.
Portrait of a Girl (Lavinia)
Matyrdom of St Justine
Justine of Padua became a martyr to the Christian faith when she was killed by a sword in her breast. Emperor Maximian, who ordered her persecution, sits high on his throne. Saints appeared to Justine in a vision. The dog appears in many of Veronese’s paintings and such profane inclusions in religious works caused him to be questioned by the Inquisition about his decorum. Veronese’s claim to absolute right of artistic licence remains famous as a defence case.
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