Venetian Mannerist Whose Work Academy Of Art What

Venetian Mannerist Whose Work Academy Of Art What

Venetian Mannerist Whose Work Academy Of Art What

Introduction

We return to the Renaissance, this time in Venice. We will study the most important painters, as well as the specific styles and subjet matter that arises in this location.

Venetian Renaissance

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Venice

Module 4 will focus on the Renaissance phenomenon in Venice. During the Renaissance, Venice was a republic that remained independent from the rest of Italy and in the mid- to late 16th century escaped the political turmoil that affected Rome and Florence with the invasion of the Spanish and later the French. Located on the Adriatic Sea, Venice had long dominated trade in the area. As time went on, the Turks began to challenge Venetian dominance of the Adriatic and Mediterranean and soon became the Venetians’ worst enemies.

The Venetian love of rich colors and textures that characterizes the art of the period was influenced by their trade with the near East, the Orient and beyond. The art of the Venetian Renaissance tends to be much more secular than that produced in Rome and Florence. The term secular refers to subject matter or themes that are non-religious, the opposite of religious or “sacred” art. For a number of reasons including its influx of Eastern influence, its geographical isolation and political independence from the rest of Italy, its distance from Rome and the Vatican, and festive culture, Venetian art is characterized by worldly themes of pleasure, sensuality, the pastoral, the mythological, as well as some religious subject matter. Due to the often erotic overtones of many Venetian artworks, along with the carefree and often indulgent lifestyle of the Venetians, Venice became a primary target of the Spanish Inquisition.

As an urban island floating on a lagoon, Venetian art is suffused with light, color and warmth not seen in High Renaissance art produced in Rome & Florence. Light and color are the most important formal elements in the art of Renaissance Venice. Venetian artists also tend to favor outdoor Arcadian landscape scenes that take the local viewer away from the dense urban fabric of the crowded island. It has been said that the art of Renaissance Venice stresses the senses, while the art of Renaissance Rome and Florence stresses the intellect. As you move through this module, take time to formulate your own assessment.

Giovanni Bellini, Part 1

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Giovanni Bellini’s San Zaccaria Altarpiece

We begin our exploration of the Venetian Renaissance with the San Zaccaria Altarpiece painted in 1505 by Giovanni Bellini. Bellini is credited with creating the “Venetian style.” Trained by his father in the early Renaissance International Style, Bellini was also influenced by the intense color and light of 15th century Flemish oil paintings. Unlike his contemporaries in Rome and Florence who worked primarily in tempera, Bellini chose to use oil paints, giving his paintings a rich luminous quality full of vibrant, reflective colors. Bellini’s San Zaccaria Altarpiece of 1505 is an early example of the Venetian Renaissance style and shares many similarities with those works produced around this time in Rome and Florence.

The familiar subject of the Madonna and Child surrounded by saints is represented with many High Renaissance characteristics such as, volumetric figures in well-integrated figural group arranged in a three-dimensional pyramidal composition, conveying a sense of serenity but with monumental visual impact.

Bellini’s lines are neither hazy nor sharp.Unlike the High Renaissance masters, what concerns Bellini and other Venetian painters in fact is not line disegno, but color, a method referred to as colorito. It is Bellini’s luminous, warm color palette that gives the scene an atmosphere of serenity.

Giovanni Bellini, Part 2

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Bellini’s Feast of the Gods

The next painting by Bellini that we will examine is the Feast of the Gods painted in 1529. The artist Titian, who we will discuss later in this module, is credited as having worked on this commission, possibly painting the landscape. Commissioned by the Duke of Venice, also know as the Doge, this nearly six-foot canvas was to hang in his private library. The subject matter comes from the ancient poet Ovid’s play entitled “Fasti.” Bellini’s scene depicts a mythological banquet of the gods. Set in an Arcadian landscape, the gods of Olympus take part in a sensual picnic where satyrs and nymphs cater to their every need. Arcadia is the idyllic land of paradise in Ancient Greece. Arcadian landscapes refer to the notion of the pastoral ideal; a place of perfection and pleasure that must have appealed to those stuck in the urban bustle of Venice’s crowded island.

Bellini chose to depict the gods as contemporary Venetian peasants and yet based their form on Greco-Roman figures and poses. The sensual theme is tinged with erotica; notice the god with his hands between the legs of a sleeping nymph. The light is a soft, glowing, late-afternoon light. Bellini juxtaposes vibrant jewel-toned colors with soft, flesh-tones and polished metals. The Feast’s Arcadian theme of pleasure; song, drink, relaxation, idealism, playfulness, youth and erotic sensuality exemplify the mood frequently conveyed in Venetian art.

Giorgione

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Giorgione’s The Tempest

The next artist of the Venetian Renaissance that we will examine is the master Giorgione. Known as not only a talented artist, but a pastoral poet who loved to sing and play the lute, Giorgione was a student of Giovanni Bellini who had a great understanding of light and color. Giorgione’s favorite themes were typically Venetian and included: nature, pleasure, classical mythology and the classical female nude. His use of sfumato and mysterious landscapes in his work, point to the influence of Leonardo da Vinci.

Giorgione is popularly known as the “Father of Modern Painting” due to his innovative oil-on-canvas technique. Before this time artists used oil on wood panel, but Giorgione, along with Titian would pioneer this new painting technique that many of us now take for granted as old hat.

Giorgione’s The Tempest is said to be his most famous work, done shortly before his death from the plague. Again, the artist presents us with an enigmatic picture: What’s going on? It appears that a storm is approaching as a mercenary soldier observes a gypsy woman nursing her baby. The Arcadian setting is familiar and includes a classical nude female. Recent X-rays show that in the original under-drawing Giorgione had a woman in place of the soldier. Thus, the image seems to be personal in nature, more about mood than storytelling.

According to the curator at the Academia in Venice, where this painting is housed, the story may depict that of the youth Paris, the son of the King of Troy. It may perhaps depict the moment when Paris takes his leave from the nymph Oenones and their child Corythus. The royal shepherd is leaving his wife and child in the mountains for the most beautiful woman in the world, Helen, the Queen of Sparta, who was promised him by Aphrodite. This was to lead to the Trojan War, during which Paris, as well as Oenones and their son, perished. The approaching storm with bolts of lightning and the small monument with broken column may allude to the terrible fate in store for Troy and the three people depicted here.

Titian, Part 1

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Titian’s Pastoral Symphony

Now we come to the painter who is not only a Renaissance master on par with Leonardo and Michelangelo, because of his technical innovations and compelling subject matter. Tiziano Vecelli, otherwise known as Titian, was the most prolific and prodigious of the Venetian painters. As we have seen in previous paintings, Titian worked with a number of Venetian artists. After Bellini’s death in 1516, Titian replaced him as the official painter to the Republic of Venice. Titian also had a long list of prestigious patrons, including the Spanish King Charles V who elevated the artist to noble rank.

Titian was an incredible colorist who perfected the oil on canvas mode of painting established by Giorgione. Until this development, many painters were using the oil or tempera on wood technique. Titian’s technique involved a very strict process. And this involved an underpainting of reddish brown which he believed would lend warmth to the surface. Then the luminous oil color was laid over that layer. Drawing, or disegno, played almost no role.

Titian used layer upon layer of thin glazes. These glazes are known as velatura, or what the Italians call a veiling quality, so their layers are veils of color. This helped unify the overall tonal range. The very last step would be flicks of lead white, often smudged with his very own fingertip. And that would create reflective sparkle.

Titian also employed a method of composing his compositions from a series of triangles punctuated by diagonals. The triangles would lend stability to the composition while the diagonals would suggest dynamic movement.

Titian’s oil painting Pastoral Symphony of 1508 is one of the most famous works of the Venetian Renaissance and one that has a great deal of controversy surrounding it. While the painting was initially attributed solely to Giorgione, over time, experts began to believe that some of the figures may have been painted by Giorgione’s young student Titian, whose early painting style was very similar to his master’s. Additional research has led scholars to the recent conclusion that the entire painting is the work of Titian.

A distinct Venetian characteristic of this work is that it is more about mood than narrative or meaning. This raises a number of questions: What is the setting? What is going on here? Who are these people? Are these men aware of their nude companions?

The Venetian love of the pastoral accounts for the setting, an Arcadian landscape in which we see two musicians accompanied by two nude female figures. While the men are in contemporary Venetian garb, the women have stepped right out of classical antiquity; they are reminiscent of ancient goddesses of love and nature.

The musicians are inspired by the women, who are muses, personifications of inspiration. (A personification is a representation of an abstract idea or object in human form.) The lute represents poetry or music, the player is a poet, and the well from which the muses gather water symbolizes inspiration.

All of this poetic inspiration takes place in a serene paradise bathed in the warm sfumato haze of afternoon light. The overall mood is at once sensual and sentimental, evoking a feeling of tranquility and longing. What Titian gives the viewer is indeed a mere theme rather than a story.

Titian, Part 2

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Titian’s Venus of Urbino

Titian’s most famous and beloved painting is the “Venus of Urbino” done in 1538 for the wealthy Duke of Urbino. Over the centuries much debate has surrounded the subject matter and interpretation of this painting which is full of hidden symbols. In the discipline of art history hidden symbolism is called iconography. Let’s look at some of the iconography in this scene. In the background, two women are gathering items from two long chests called cassoni. A cassone is a marriage chest where a bride kept her trousseau as she moved into her new home. On the windowsill above the cassoni is a myrtle plant which is an evergreen plant symbolizing marital fidelity. As we move to the foreground we see a sleeping dog. Dogs, known for their loyalty are also symbols of fidelity, think of the popular nickname for a dog: “Fido.” Fido comes from the Latin word for fidelity. This dog is sleeping though… what can this mean? Finally, we see a bouquet of flowers held by the nude woman. Flowers have a number of symbolic associations including, love, lust, reproduction, or female genitalia. When we look at this image and read the iconography new meanings emerge. Scholars agree that this painting seems to have multiple interpretations: Does the scene depict a courtesan (a prostitute) in her bedroom? A beautiful young bride? Or a mythological Venus? No one is quite sure, and perhaps that is the way Titian and his patron wanted it to be, a bit uncertain.

Titian’s ability with colorito is evident in his use of deep Venetian red. This sensual, carnal color of the bed cushions, flowers and skirt of the woman in the background contrasts wonderfully with the soft, warm flesh tones of the classical nude. As with his Renaissance contemporaries in Rome and Florence, Titian understands and uses perspective. Notice the clear division of space into fore, middle and background. His attention to balance, however, is not as rigorous as the High Renaissance painters. Rather, it is as subtle as the small dog at the end of the bed, a pendant figure to used to balance out the composition. Titian’s classical nude is every bit as volumetric as Michelangelo’s nudes, but infused with sfumato, less sculptural, creating a luminous and sensual figure. Due to the artist’s exquisite handling of paint and iconography, the Venus of Urbino remains one of the most popular nudes in the history of art, beguiling generations of viewers.

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Titian’s Venus of Urbino (detail)

Titian, Part 3

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Isabella d’Este

Throughout this course we will see various portraits, some of which we have already examined. Titian’s portrait of Isabella d’Este painted between 1534 and 1536 provides us with another example from this enduring genre. Along with his many other artistic abilities, Titian was a gifted portraitist. Here we see his portrait of the Duchess of Mantua, Isabella d’Este who was the Renaissance’s greatest female patron of the arts. A true Renaissance woman, Isabella gathered painters, writers, musicians, composers and scholars around her and collected ancient artifacts as well as contemporary Renaissance art by masters from all over Italy and the North. She had a great interest in literature and in her 20s she sponsored a translation of Virgil. She married at 15 and was know for her great beauty, immense fortune and brilliant mind. She was a successful diplomat and administrator whose motto was “Neither hope nor fear.”

Surprisingly, she was past the age of 60 when Titian painted this portrait. Isabella requested to be depicted as she looked in her 20s. Titian followed his patron’s wishes and idealizes her through youthful representation.

However, the great portraitist manages to convey the strength, self-confidence and energy that defined Isabella’s older personality.Notice the attention to detail in this portrait, not only her personality traits, but the texture of her garments, the polish of her jewels and flush of pink on her cheeks.

Tintoretto

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Tintoretto’s Last Supper

The later generation of Venetian Renaissance painters was led by a student of Titian’s known as Tintoretto, the “little tinter.” Tintoretto was greatly inspired not only by his teacher’s use of color, but also by Michelangelo’s use of line and his rendering of figures. Tintoretto’s work is very unique and many experts consider him to be a Venetian Mannerist whose work strongly anticipates the Baroque style of the 17th century. His unique style is characterized by powerfully dramatic compositions of deep spirituality and mysticism.

Tintoretto’s Last Supper painted in 1594 is a good example of his individual style, which became more intense and spiritually focused toward the end of his life. This 12-by-18-foot oil on wood composition was painted for the inside of the grand Venetian church, San Giorgio Maggiore. The dynamic composition features over 30 figures and depicts the Last Supper taking place in a bustling contemporary Venetian tavern complete with barmaids, dogs and even a cat! Tinteretto used dioramas as preparatory studies, to aid with his complex figural arrangements.

A diorama is a small scale depiction of a scene or composition using figurines, often made of clay and viewed through a window or from one side. Unlike his Venetian predecessors, Tintoretto chose a dark palette punctuated with glowing areas of light. The figures are not softly modeled and sensual, but sculptural and heavily contoured. The upper register of the canvas is filled with ghostly outlines of flying figures. The theme and the mood of this image are far different from any Venetian painting that we have seen in this lesson. The dramatic religious scene with its mystical light contrasts greatly with the relaxed mood and warm light of Giorgione or Titian.

Veronese, Part 1

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Veronese’s Christ in the House of Levi

Yet another interpretation of the last supper narrative comes from the artist Veronese. His enormous oil painting Christ in the House of Levi was originally entitled the “Last Supper” but the Spanish Inquisition questioned Veronese’s interpretation of the event, calling it too festive and was bothered by the presence of German mercenary figures. During this period Germans represented a threat to the Catholic church due to the Christian reform movement started in Germany by Martin Luther known as the Protestant Reformation (which will be discussed in depth in Module 5).

Much to the Catholic Church’s chagrin, Veronese interpreted the Last Supper as a splendid courtly feast, rather than a solemn, sobering meal where dire revelations take place. The artist shares the High Renaissance sense of balance, interest in perspective and Leonardo’s horizontal emphasis. However, his use of many colors and half-tones, monumental architectural settings and a grand cast of characters is uniquely his own. Veronese’s paintings are characterized by their splendid pageantry, large-scale (usually 20 to 30 feet or more), classical architectural settings and vibrant palette.

Veronese, Part 2

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Veronese’s Triumph of Venice

Veronese’s Triumph of Venice painted in 1585 is a huge illusionist ceiling painting commissioned for the grand council hall of Doge’s Palace in Venice. The main figure is the personification of Venice crowned by the personification of Fame.

Personification occurs when an abstract idea or object is given human form. The theme is the glorification of Venice. Images such as this were meant to instill civic pride in the Venetian viewer and to convey a sense of awe and respect to a visitor from afar.

This painting exemplifies the sweeping grandeur of Veronese’s style and anticipates the drama, scale and decorative inclinations of the Baroque.

Palladio, Part 1

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Palladio’s Villa Rotonda

We will round out our discussion of the Venetian Renaissance with one other Master, the great Renaissance architect Palladio. Palladio was the chief architect of the Republic of Venice and, as all great Renaissance masters, was influenced by classical antiquity. He studied ancient Roman architecture in Rome and wrote several treatises on architecture. Palladio’s buildings and overall style were incredibly influential, especially in 18th-century England and America. He is best known for the villas he built on the Venetian mainland, the most famous and influential of which is his Villa Rotonda.

Located on the Venetian mainland in the city of Vicenza and built between the years 1566 and 1570, the Villa Rotonda was commissioned by a retired priest who liked to entertain, and use the villa as a summer home. The setting of the villa on acres of idyllic pastoral grounds reflects the love of Arcadian landscapes displayed in Venetian painting. Many Venetians often built summer homes to escape the muggy, smelly, crowded, urban existence of Venice in the hot summer months. Such estates also provided the owner with a good investment as they often raised crops on these vast grounds.

Palladio, Part 1

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Palladio’s Villa Rotonda

We will round out our discussion of the Venetian Renaissance with one other Master, the great Renaissance architect Palladio. Palladio was the chief architect of the Republic of Venice and, as all great Renaissance masters, was influenced by classical antiquity. He studied ancient Roman architecture in Rome and wrote several treatises on architecture. Palladio’s buildings and overall style were incredibly influential, especially in 18th-century England and America. He is best known for the villas he built on the Venetian mainland, the most famous and influential of which is his Villa Rotonda.

Located on the Venetian mainland in the city of Vicenza and built between the years 1566 and 1570, the Villa Rotonda was commissioned by a retired priest who liked to entertain, and use the villa as a summer home. The setting of the villa on acres of idyllic pastoral grounds reflects the love of Arcadian landscapes displayed in Venetian painting. Many Venetians often built summer homes to escape the muggy, smelly, crowded, urban existence of Venice in the hot summer months. Such estates also provided the owner with a good investment as they often raised crops on these vast grounds.

Palladio, Part 3

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The Pantheon

Palladio may have used the ancient Roman Pantheon as a model. As with so many Renaissance paintings, the villa was based on classical motifs, balance, and the mathematical relationship of harmonious parts.

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Monticello

You may recognize one of the buildings that was directly inspired by the Villa Rotonda: Thomas Jefferson’s home Monticello.