HotFreeBooks.com
The Venetian School of Painting
by Evelyn March Phillipps
1  2  3  4  5     Next Part
Home - Random Browse

Transcriber's note:

1) Variations in the spelling of names and recording of some questionable dates have been left as printed in the original text.

2) Chapter IX—Sala del Gran Consiio possibly should be Sala del Gran Consiglio.

3) Likely corrections are noted in brackets within the text in the format [TN: . . .].



THE VENETIAN SCHOOL OF PAINTING



THE VENETIAN SCHOOL OF PAINTING

by

EVELYN MARCH PHILLIPPS

With Illustrations



Books for Libraries Press Freeport, New York

First Published 1912 Reprinted 1972

International Standard Book Number: 0-8369-6745-3 Library of Congress Catalog Card Number: 70-37907

Printed in the United States of America By New World Book Manufacturing Co., Inc. Hallandale, Florida 33009



PREFACE

Many visits to Venice have brought home the fact that there exists, in English at least, no work which deals as a whole with the Venetian School and its masters. Biographical catalogues there are in plenty, but these, though useful for reference, say little to readers who are not already acquainted with the painters whose career and works are briefly recorded. "Lives" of individual masters abound, but however excellent and essential these may be to an advanced study of the school, the volumes containing them make too large a library to be easily carried about, and a great deal of reading and assimilation is required to set each painter in his place in the long story. Crowe and Cavalcaselle's History of Painting in North Italy still remains our sheet anchor; but it is lengthy, over full of detail of minor painters, and lacks the interesting criticism which of late years has collected round each master. There seems room for a portable volume, making an attempt to consider the Venetian painters, in relation to one another, and to help the visitor not only to trace the evolution of the school from its dawn, through its full splendour and to its declining rays, but to realise what the Venetian School was, and what was the philosophy of life which it represented.

Such a book does not pretend to vie with, much less to supersede, the masterly treatises on the subject which have from time to time appeared, or to take the place of exhaustive histories, such as that of Professor Leonello Venturi on the Italian primitives. It should but serve to pave the way to deeper and more detailed reading. It does not aspire to give a complete and comprehensive list of the painters; some of the minor ones may not even be mentioned. The mere inclusion of names, dates, and facts would add unduly to the size of the book, and, when without real bearing on the course of Venetian art, would have little significance. What the book does aim at is to enable those who care for art, but may not have mastered its history, to rear a framework on which to found their own observations and appreciations; to supply that coherent knowledge which is beneficial even to a passing acquaintance with beautiful things, and to place the unscientific observer in a position to take greater advantage of opportunities, and to achieve a wide and interesting outlook on that cycle of artistic apprehension which the Venetian School comprises, and which marks it as the outcome and the symbol of a great historic age.

The works cited have been principally those with which the ordinary traveller is likely to come into contact in the chief European galleries, and, above all, in Venice itself. The lists do not propose to be exhaustive, but merely indicate the principal works of the artists. Those in private galleries, unless easy of access or of first-rate importance, are usually eliminated. It has not been thought necessary to use profuse illustrations, as the book is intended primarily for use when visiting the original works.



CONTENTS

PART I

CHAPTER I PAGE VENICE AND HER ART 3

CHAPTER II PRIMITIVE ART IN VENICE 11

CHAPTER III INFLUENCES OF UMBRIA AND VERONA 21

CHAPTER IV THE SCHOOL OF MURANO 29

CHAPTER V THE PADUAN INFLUENCE 33

CHAPTER VI JACOPO BELLINI 39

CHAPTER VII CARLO CRIVELLI 44

CHAPTER VIII GENTILE BELLINI AND ANTONELLO DA MESSINA 48

CHAPTER IX ALVISE VIVARINI 58

CHAPTER X CARPACCIO 68

CHAPTER XI GIOVANNI BELLINI 81

CHAPTER XII GIOVANNI BELLINI (continued) 92

CHAPTER XIII CIMA DA CONEGLIANO AND OTHER FOLLOWERS OF BELLINI 103

PART II

CHAPTER XIV GIORGIONE 121

CHAPTER XV GIORGIONE (continued) 132

CHAPTER XVI THE GIORGIONESQUE 140

CHAPTER XVII TITIAN 144

CHAPTER XVIII TITIAN (continued) 157

CHAPTER XIX TITIAN (continued) 173

CHAPTER XX PALMA VECCHIO AND LORENZO LOTTO 184

CHAPTER XXI SEBASTIAN DEL PIOMBO 198

CHAPTER XXII BONIFAZIO AND PARIS BORDONE 203

CHAPTER XXIII PAINTERS OF THE VENETIAN PROVINCES 212

CHAPTER XXIV PAOLO VERONESE 228

CHAPTER XXV TINTORETTO 243

CHAPTER XXVI TINTORETTO (continued) 254

CHAPTER XXVII BASSANO 269

PART III

CHAPTER XXVIII THE INTERIM 281

CHAPTER XXIX TIEPOLO 297

CHAPTER XXX PIETRO LONGHI 309

CHAPTER XXXI CANALE 314

CHAPTER XXXII FRANCESCO GUARDI 321

BIBLIOGRAPHY 329

INDEX 333



ILLUSTRATIONS

BY AT

1. Madonna with S. Liberale Giorgione Castelfranco and S. Francis Frontispiece

2. Adoration of the Antonio da Murano Berlin Magi 31

3. Agony in Garden Jacopo Bellini British Museum 41

4. Procession of the Gentile Bellini Venice Holy Cross 52

5. Altarpiece of 1480 Alvise Vivarini Venice 60

6. Arrival of the Carpaccio Venice Ambassadors 75

7. Pieta Giovanni Bellini Brera 87

8. An Allegory Giovanni Bellini Uffizi 94

9. Fete Champetre Giorgione Louvre 136

10. Portrait of Ariosto Titian National Gallery 156

11. Diana and Actaeon Titian Earl Brownlow 161

12. Holy Family Palma Vecchio Colonna Gallery, Rome 185

13. Portrait of Laura di Lorenzo Lotto Brera Pola 194

14. Marriage in Cana Paolo Veronese Louvre 234

15. S. Mary of Egypt Tintoretto Scuola di San Rocco 258

16. Bacchus and Ariadne Tintoretto Ducal Palace 261

17. Baptism of S. Lucilla Jacopo da Ponte Bassano 274

18. Antony and Cleopatra Tiepolo Palazzo Labia, Venice 304

19. Visit to the Pietro Longhi National Gallery Fortune-Teller 310

20. S. Maria della Salute Francesco Guardi National Gallery 324



LIST OF PAINTERS

Paolo da Venezia, fl. 1333-1358. Niccolo di Pietro, fl. 1394-1404. Niccolo Semitocolo, fl. 1364. Stefano di Venezia, fl. 1353. Lorenzo Veneziano, fl. 1357-1379. Chatarinus, fl. 1372. Jacobello del Fiore, fl. 1415-1439. Gentile da Fabriano, 1360-1428. Vittore Pisano (Pisanello), circa 1385-1455. Michele Giambono, fl. 1470. Giovanni Alemanus, fl. 1440-1447. Antonio da Murano, circa 1430-1470. Bartolommeo Vivarini, fl. 1420-1499. Alvise Vivarini, fl. 1461-1503. Antonello da Messina, circa 1444-1493. Jacopo Bellini, fl. 1430-1466. Jacopo dei Barbari, circa 1450-1516. Andrea Mantegna, 1431-1506. Carlo Crivelli, 1430-1493. Bartolommeo Montagna, 1450-1523. Francesco Buonsignori, 1453-1519. Gentile Bellini, circa 1427-1507. Giovanni Bellini, 1426-1516. Lazzaro Bastiani, fl. 1470-1508. Vittore Carpaccio, fl. 1478-1522. Girolamo da Santa Croce. Mansueti, fl. 1474-1510. Giovanni Battista da Conegliano (Cima), 1460-1517. Vincenzo Catena, fl. 1495-1531. Bissolo, 1464-1528. Marco Basaiti, circa 1470-1527. Andrea Previtali, fl. 1502-1525. Bartolommeo Veneto, fl. 1505-1555. N. Rondinelli, fl. 1480-1500. Girolamo Savoldo, 1480-1548. Giorgio Barbarelli (Giorgione), 1478-1511. Giovanni Busi (Cariani), circa 1480-1544. Tiziano Vecellio (Titian), 1477-1576. Palma Vecchio, 1480-1528. Lorenzo Lotto, 1480-1556. Martino da Udine (Pellegrino di San Daniele). Morto da Feltre, circa 1474-1522. Romanino, 1485-1566. Sebastian Luciani (del Piombo), 1485-1547. Giovanni Antonino Licinio (Pordenone), 1483-1540. Bernardino Licinio, fl. 1520-1544. Alessandro Bonvicino (Moretto), circa 1498-1554. Bonifazio de Pitatis (Veronese), fl. 1510-1540. Paris Bordone, 1510-1570. Jacopo da Ponte (Bassano), 1510-1592. Jacopo Robusti (Tintoretto), 1518-1592. Paolo Caliari (Veronese), 1528-1588. Domenico Robusti, 1562-1637. Palma Giovine, 1544-1628. Alessandro Varotari (Il Padovanino), 1590-1650. Gianbattista Fumiani, 1643-1710. Sebastiano Ricci, 1662-1734. Gregorio Lazzarini, 1657-1735. Rosalba Carriera, 1675-1757. G. B. Piazetta, 1682-1754. Gianbattista Tiepolo, 1696-1770. Antonio Canale (Canaletto), 1697-1768. Belotto, 1720-1780. Francesco Guardi, 1712-1793.



PART I



CHAPTER I

VENICE AND HER ART

Venetian painting in its prime differs altogether in character from that of every other part of Italy. The Venetian is the most marked and recognisable of all the schools; its singularity is such that a novice in art can easily, in a miscellaneous collection, sort out the works belonging to it, and added to this unique character is the position it occupies in the domain of art. Venice alone of Italian States can boast an epoch of art comparable in originality and splendour to that of her great Florentine rival; an epoch which is to be classed among the great art manifestations of the world, which has exerted, and continues to exert, incalculable power over painting, and which is the inspiration as well as the despair of those who try to master its secret.

The other schools of Italy, with all their superficial varieties of treatment and feeling, depended for their very life upon the extent to which they were able to imbibe the Florentine influence. Siena rejected that strength and perished; Venice bided her time and suddenly struck out on independent lines, achieving a magnificent victory.

Art in Florence made a strictly logical progress. As civilisation awoke in the old Latin race, it went back in every domain of learning to the rich subsoil which still underlay the ruin and the alien structures left by the long barbaric dominion, for the Italian in his darkest hour had never been a barbarian; and as the mind was once more roused to conscious life, Florence entered readily upon that great intellectual movement which she was destined to lead. Her cast of thought was, from the first, realistic and scientific. Its whole endeavour was to know the truth, to weigh evidences, to elaborate experiments, to see things as they really were; and when she reached the point at which art was ready to speak, we find that the governing motive of her language was this same predilection for reality, and it was with this meaning that her typical artists found a voice. No artist ever sought for truth, both physical and spiritual, more resolutely than Giotto, and none ever spoke more distinctly the mind of his age and country; and as one generation follows another, art in Tuscany becomes more and more closely allied to the intellectual movement. The scientific predilection for form, for the representation of things as they really are, characterises not Florentine painting alone, but the whole of Florentine art. It is an art of contributions and discoveries, marked, it is needless to say, at every step by dominating personalities, positively as well as relatively great, but with each member consciously absorbed in "going one better" than his predecessors, in solving problems and in mastering methods. Florentine art is the outcome of Florentine life and thought. It is part of the definite clear-cut view of thought and reason, of that exactitude of apprehension towards which the whole Florentine mind was bent, and the lesser tributaries, as they flowed towards her, formed themselves on her pattern and worked upon the same lines, so that they have a certain general resemblance, and their excellence is in proportion to the thoroughness with which they have learned their lesson.

The difference which separates Venetian from the rest of Italian painting is a fundamental one. Venice attains to an equally distinguished place, but the way in which she does it and the character of her contribution are both so absolutely distinct that her art seems to be the outcome of another race, with alien temperament and standards. Venice had, indeed, a history and a life of her own. Her entire isolation, from her foundation, gave her an independent government and customs peculiar to herself, but at the same time her people, even in their earliest and most precarious struggles, were no barbarians who had slowly to acquire the arts of civilised life. Among the refugees were persons of high birth and great traditions, and they brought with them to the first crazy settlement on the lagoons some political training and some idea of how to reconstruct their shattered social fabric. The Venetian Republic rose rapidly to a position of influence in Europe. Small and circumscribed as its area was, every feature and sentiment was concentrated and intensified. But one element above all permeates it and sets it apart from other European States. The Oriental element in Venice must never be lost sight of if we wish to understand her philosophy of art.

There are some grounds, seriously accepted by the most recent historians, for believing that the first Venetian colonists were the descendants of emigrants who in prehistoric times had established themselves in Asia and who had returned from thence to Northern Italy. "These colonists," says Hazlitt, "were called Tyrrhenians, and from their settlements round the mouth of the Po the Venetian stock was ultimately derived." If the tradition has any truth, we think with a deeper interest of that instinct for commerce which seems to have been in the very blood of the early Venetians. Did it, indeed, come down to them from the merchants of Tyre and Carthage? From that wonderful trading race which stretched out its arms all over Europe and penetrated even to our own island? From the first, Venice cut herself adrift, as far as possible, from Western ties, but she turned to Eastern people and to intercourse with the East with a natural affinity which savours of racial instinct. All her greatness was derived from her Asiatic trade, and her bazaars, heaped with Eastern riches, must have assumed a deeply Oriental aspect. Her customs long retained many details peculiar to the East. The people observed a custom for choosing and dowering brides, which was of Asia. The national treatment of women was akin to that of an Oriental State; Venetian women lived in a retirement which recalled the life of the harem, only appearing on great occasions to display their brocades and jewels. Girls were closely veiled when they passed through the streets. The attachment of men to women had no intellectual bias, scarcely any sentiment, but "went straight to the mark: the enjoyment of physical beauty." The position of women in Venice was a great contrast to that attained by the Florentine lady of the Renaissance, who was highly educated, deeply versed in men and in affairs, the fine flower of culture, and the queen of a brilliant society. The love for colour and gorgeous pageantry was of Semitic intensity and seemed insatiable, and the gratification of the senses was a deliberate State policy. But passionate as was the spirit of patriotism, enthusiastic the love and loyalty of the people, the civic spirit was absent. The masses were contented to live under a despotic rule and to be little despots in their own houses. In the twelfth century the people saw power pass into the hands of the aristocracy, and as long as the despotism was a benevolent one, the event aroused no opposition. Like Orientals, the Venetians had wild outbursts, and like them they quieted down and nothing came of them. As Mr. Hazlitt remarks, "their occasional resistance to tyranny, though marked by deeds of horrid and dark cruelty, left no deep or enduring traces behind it. It established no principle. It taught no lesson." Venice was a Republic only in name. The whole aspect of her government is Eastern. Its system of espionage, its secret tribunals, its swift and silent blows,—these are all Oriental traits, and the East entering into her whole life from without found a natural home awaiting it. We should be mistaken, however, in thinking that the Venetians in their great days were enervated and lapped in the sensuality which we are apt to associate with Eastern ideals. Sensuality did in the end drain the life out of her. "It is the disease which attacks sensuousness, but it is not the same thing." The Venetians were by nature men with a deep capacity for feeling, and it is this deep feeling which has so large a share in Venetian art.

The painters of Venice were of the people and had no wide intellectual outlook at its most splendid moment, such as was possessed by those men who in Florence were drawn into the company of the Medici and their court of scholars, and who all their lives were in the midst of a society of large aims and a free public spirit, in which men took their share of the responsibilities and honours of a citizen's life. The merchant-patrons of Venice are quite uninterested in the solving of problems. They pay a price, and they want a good show of colour and gilding for their money. Presently they buy from outside, and a half-hearted imitation of foreigners is the best ambition of Venetian artists. Art, it has been said, does not declare itself with true spontaneity till it feels behind it the weight and unanimity of the whole body of the people. That true outburst was long in coming, but its seeds were fructifying deep in a congenial soil. They were fostered by the warmth and colour of Oriental intercourse, and at last the racial instinct speaks with no uncertain accent in the great domain of art, and speaks in a new and unexpected way; as splendid as, yet utterly unlike, the grand intellectual declaration of Florence.

Let us bear in mind, then, that Venice in all her history, in all her character, is Eastern rather than Western. Hers is the kingdom of feeling rather than that of thought, of emotion as opposed to intellect. Her whole story tells of a profoundly emotional and sensuous apprehension of the nature of things; and till the time comes when her artists are inspired to express that, their creations may be interesting enough, but they fail to reveal the true workings of her mind. When they do, they find a new medium and use it in a new way. Venetian colour, when it comes into its kingdom, speaks for a whole people, sensuous and of deep feeling, able for the first time to utter itself in art.

We have to divide the history of the Venetian School into three parts. The first extends from the primitives to the end of Giovanni Bellini's life. He forms a link between the first and second periods. The second begins with Giorgione and ends with Tintoretto and Bassano, and is the Venetian School proper. Thirdly, we have the eighteenth-century revival, in which Tiepolo is the most conspicuous figure, and which is in an equal degree the expression of the life of its time.



CHAPTER II

PRIMITIVE ART IN VENICE

The school of Byzantium, so widespread in its influence, was particularly strong in Venice, where mosaics adorned the cathedral of Torcello from the ninth century and St. Mark's became a splendid storehouse of Byzantine art. The earliest mosaic on the facade of St. Mark's was executed about the year 1250, those in the Baptistery date during the reign of Andrea Dandolo, who was Doge from 1342 to 1354. Yet though the life of Giotto lies between these two dates, and his frescoes at Padua were within a few hours' journey, there is no sign that the great revolution in painting, which was making itself felt in every principal centre of Italy, had touched the richest and most peaceful of all her States.

Yet local art in Venice was no outcome of Byzantinism. It rose as that of the mosaicists fell, but its rise differs from that of Florence and Siena in being for long almost imperceptible. Artists were looked upon merely as artisans in all the cities of Italy, but in Venice before any other city they had been placed among the craftsmen. The statute of the Guild of Siena was not formulated till 1355; that of Venice is the earliest of which we have any record, and bears the date of 1272. There is scarcely a word to indicate that pictures in the modern sense of the term existed. Painters were employed on the adornment of arms and of household furniture. Leather helmets and shields were painted, and such banners as we see in Paolo Uccello's battlepieces. Painted chests and cassoni were already in demand, dishes and plates for the table and the surface of the table itself were treated in a similar way. Special regulations dealt with all these, and it is only at the end of the list that anconae are mentioned. The ancona was a gilded framework, having a compartment containing a picture of the Madonna and Child, and others with single figures of the saints, and these were the only pictures proper produced at this date. The demand for anconae was, however, large, and they were very early placed, not only in the churches, but in the houses of patricians and burghers. Constant disputes arose between the painters and the gilders. Pictures were habitually painted upon a gold ground, but the painters were forbidden to gild the backgrounds themselves. "Gilding is the business of the gilder, painting that of the painter," says a contemporary record. "Now the gilder contends that if a frame has to be gilt and then touched with colour, he is entitled to perform both operations, but the painter disputes this right, and maintains that the gilder should return it to him when the addition of painting is desired." It was, however, finally decided by law that each should exercise both professions, when one or the other played a subordinate part in the finished work. Though the art of mosaic was falling into decay as painting began to emerge, yet the commercial manufactory of Byzantine Madonnas, which had been established as early as 600, went on, on the Rialto, without any variation of the traditional forms.

Florence very early discarded the temptation to cling to material splendour, but as we pass into the Hall of the Primitives in the Venetian Academy, we see at once that Venetian art, in its earlier stages, has more to do with the gilder than the painter. The Holy Personages are merely accessories to the gorgeous framework, the embossed ornaments, the real jewels, which were in favour with the rich and magnificent patrons. There is no sign of any feeling for painting as painting, no craving after the study of form as the outcome of intellectual activity, no zest of discovery, such as made the painter's life in Florence an excitement in which the public shared. What little Venice imbibes of these things is from outside influence, after due lapse of time. A prosperous, luxurious city of merchants and statesmen, she was too much bound up in the transactions and sensations of actual life to develop any abstract and thoughtful ideals.

Perhaps the first painting we can discover which shows any sign of independent effort is the series which Paolo da Venezia painted on the back of the Pala d' Oro, over the high altar of St. Mark, when it was restored in the fourteenth century. This reveals an artist with some pictorial aptitude and one alive to the subjects that surround him. It tells the story of St. Mark's corpse transported to Venice. The first panel contains a group of cardinals of varying types and expressions; in another the disciple listening to St. Mark's teaching, and crouching with his elbows on his knees, has a true, natural touch. The dramatic feeling here and there is considerable. The scene of the guards watching the imprisoned Saint through the window and seeing the shadow of two heads, as the Saviour visits him, imparts a distinct emotion; and there is force as well as feeling for decorative composition in the panel in which the Saint's body lies at the feet of the sailors, while his vision appears shining upon the sails.

Except for the exaggerated insistence on the gilded elaborations of the early ancona, there is not much to differentiate the early art of Venice from that of other centres; but we notice that it persevered longer in the material and mechanical art of the craftsman. Tuscan taste made little impression, and many years elapsed before work akin to that of Giotto attracted attention and was admired and imitated. A man like Antonio Veneziano met with the fate of the innovator in Venice. He had too much of the simplicity of the Tuscan and was compelled to carry his work to Pisa, where his naif and humorous narratives still delight us in the Campo Santo. It was in 1384 that he was employed to finish the frescoes of the life of S. Ranieri, which had been left uncompleted at Andrea da Firenze's death, and the fondness for architecture and surroundings in the Florentine taste, which secured him a welcome, may, as Vasari says, be derived from Agnolo Gaddi, who had already visited Padua and Venice.

In the last years of the fourteenth century tributary streams begin to feed the feeble main current. In 1365 Guariento, a Paduan, was employed by the State to paint a huge fresco of Paradise in the Hall of the Gran Consiglio of the Ducal Palace. This, which lay hid for centuries under the painting by Tintoretto, was uncovered in 1909 and found to be in fairly good preservation. It can now be seen in a side room. It tells us that Guariento had to some extent been influenced by Giotto. The thrones have long Gothic pendatives, the faces have more the Giottesque than the Byzantine cast and show that the old traditions were crumbling.

When painting in Venice first begins to live a life of its own, Jacobello del Fiore stands out as the most conspicuous of the indigenous Venetians. His father had been president of the Painters' Guild. Jacopo himself was president from 1415 to 1436. He was a rich and popular member of the State and a man of high character. His works, to judge by the specimens left, hardly attained the dignity of art, though in the banner of "Justice," in the Academy, the space is filled in a monumental fashion and the figure of St. Gabriel with the lily has something grand and graceful. We trace the same treatment of flying banners and draperies and rippling hair in the fantastic but picturesque S. Grisogono in the left transept of San Trovaso. Jacobello's will, executed in 1439 in favour of his wife Lucia and his son, Ercole, with provision for a possible posthumous son, shows him to have been a man of considerable possessions. He owned a slave and had other servants, a house, money, and books. Among his fellow-workers who are represented in Venice are Niccolo Semitocolo, Niccolo di Pietro, and Lorenzo Veneziano. The important altarpiece by the last, in the Academy, has evidently been reconstructed; two Eternal Fathers hover over the Annunciation, and the Saints have been restored to the framework in such wise that the backs of many of them are turned on the momentous central event. In the "Marriage of St. Catherine," in the same gallery, Lorenzo gets more natural. The Child, in a light green dress with gold buttons, has a lively expression, and looks round at His Mother as if playing a game. The chapel of San Tarasio in San Zaccaria contains an ancona of which the central panel was only inserted in 1839, and is identical with Lorenzo's other work. One of the finest and most elaborate of all the anconae is in San Giovanni in Bragora, and is also the work of Lorenzo. In this, as well as in that of San Tarasio, the Mother offers the Child the apple, signifying the fruit of the Tree of Jesse and symbolical of the Incarnation. This incident, which is found thus early in art, was evidently felt to raise the group of the Mother and Child from a representation of a merely earthly relationship to a spiritual scene of the deepest meaning and the highest dignity.

Niccolo di Pietro has several early works of the last decade of the fourteenth century, from which we gather that he began as a Byzantine, but that he imitated Guariento and was tentatively drawn to the Giottesque movement, but not, we may remember, before Giotto had been dead for some sixty years. Niccolo di Pietro has been confounded with Niccolo Semitocolo, but it is now realised that they were two distinct masters. The most important work of Michele Giambono which has come down to us is the signed ancona with five saints, now in the Venetian Academy. It is unusual to find a saint in the central panel instead of the Madonna. The saint is on a larger scale than his companions, and has hitherto passed as the Redeemer, but Professor Venturi has identified him as St. James the Great. He has the gold scallop-shell and pilgrim's staff. It is clear from his size and position that the ancona has been painted for an altar specially dedicated to this Apostle.

The saints on the right are S. Michael and S. Louis of Toulouse. Between S. John the Evangelist and S. James is a monastic figure which has evidently changed places with S. John at some moment of restoration. If the two figures are transposed, their attitudes become intelligible. S. John is inculcating a message inscribed in his open book, while the monk is displaying his humble answer on his own page. The use in it of the term servus suggests that he is a Servite, though the want of the nimbus precludes the idea that he is one of the founders. It is probable that he is S. Filipo Benizzi, who, though considered as a saint from the time of his death, was not canonised for several centuries.

The Mond Collection includes a glowing picture by Giambono; a seated figure clad in rich vestments and holding an orb, probably representing a "Throne," one of the angelic orders of the celestial Hierarchy.[1]

[1] These interesting particulars are given by Mr. G. M'N. Rushforth in the Burlington Magazine for October 1911.

Works are still in existence which may be ascribed to one or other of these masters, or of which no attribution can be made, but we know nothing positive of any other artists of the time which preceded the influence of Gentile da Fabriano. Nothing leads us to suppose that the Venetian School in its origin had any pretension to be a school of colour, or that it could claim anything like real excellence at a time when the Republic first became alive to the movement which was going on in other parts of Italy, and decided to call in foreign talent.

PRINCIPAL WORKS

Paolo da Venezia.

Venice. St. Mark's: The Pala d' Oro. Vicenza. Death of the Virgin.

Lorenzo da Venezia.

Venice. Academy: Altarpiece. Correr Museum: Saviour giving Keys to St. Peter. S. Giovanni in Bragora: Ancona. Berlin. Two Saints.

Nicoletto Semitocolo.

Venice. Academy: Altarpiece. Padua. Biblioteca Archivescovo: Altarpiece.

Stefano da Venezia.

Venice. Academy: Coronation of Virgin, with false signature of Semitocolo.

Jacobello del Fiore.

Venice. Academy: Justice. S. Trovaso: S. Grisogono.

Niccolo di Pietro.

Venice. S. Maria dei Miracoli: Altarpiece.

Michele Giambono.

Venice. Academy: St. James the Great and other Saints. London. Mond Collection: A "Throne."



CHAPTER III

INFLUENCES OF UMBRIA AND VERONA

Gentile da Fabriano, the Umbrian master, when he reached Venice in the early years of the fifteenth century, was already a man of note. He had received his art education in Florence, and he brought with him fresh and delicate devices for the enrichment of painting with gold, which, derived as it was from the Sienese assimilation of Byzantine methods, was very superior in fancy and refinement to anything that Venice had to show. He was a man of a gentle, mystic temperament, but he was accustomed to courts, and a finished master whose technique and artistic value was far beyond anything that the local painters were capable of. He spent some years in Venice, adorning the great hall with episodes from the legend of Barbarossa; one of these, which is specially cited, was of the battle between the Emperor and the Venetians. Gentile was working till about 1414, and the walls, finished by Pisanello, were covered by 1416. After this Gentile remained some time in Bergamo and Brescia, and settled in Florence about 1422. The year after reaching Florence, he painted the famous "Adoration of the Magi," now in the Florentine Academy. Even after leaving Venice his fame survived; pictures went from his workshop in the Popolo S. Trinita, and he sent back two portraits after he had returned to his native Fabriano.

We have no positive record of Gentile and Vittore Pisano, commonly called Pisanello, having met in Venice, but there is every evidence in their work that they did so, and that one overlapped the other in the paintings for the Ducal Palace.

The School of Verona already had an honourable record, and its Guild dates from 1303. The following are its rules, the document of which is still preserved, while that of Venice has been lost:

RULES OF THE VERONESE GUILD (abridged)

1. No one to become a member who had not practised art for twelve years.

2. Twelve artists to be elected members.

3. The reception of a new member depends on his being a senior.

4. The members are obliged in the winter season to take upon themselves the instruction of all the pupils in turn.

5. A member is liable to be expelled for theft.

6. Each member is bound to extend to another fraternal assistance in necessity.

7. To maintain general agreement in any controversies.

8. To extend hospitality to strange artists.

9. To offer to one another reciprocal comfort.

10. To follow the funerals of members with torches.

11. The President is to exercise reference authority.

12. The member who has the longest membership to be President.

There were also by-laws, which provided that no master should accept a pupil for less than three years, and this acceptance had to be definitely registered by the public notary, a son, brother, grandson, or nephew being the only exceptions. No master might receive an apprentice who should have left another master before his time was out, unless with that master's free consent. There were penalties for enticing away a pupil, and others to be enforced against pupils who broke the agreement. Severe restrictions existed with regard to the sale of pictures, no one but a member of the Guild being allowed to sell them. No one might bring a work from any foreign place for purposes of sale. It might not even be brought to the town without the special permission of the Gastaldiones, or trustees of the Guild, and those trustees were permitted to search for and destroy forged pictures. Every painter, therefore, had to subordinate his interests and inclinations to the local school. It helps us to understand why the individual character of the different masters is so perceptible, and one of the primary causes of this must have been the careful training of the pupils in the master's workshop.

The fresco left by Altichiero, Pisanello's first master, in the Church of S. Anastasia in Verona, shows how worthily a Veronese painter was at this early time following in the footsteps of Giotto. Three knights of the Cavalli family are presented by their patron saints to the Madonna. The composition has a large simplicity, a breadth of feeling which is carried into each gesture. The knights with their raised helmets, in the pattern of horses' heads, are full of reality, the Madonna is sweet and dignified, and the saints are grand and stately. The picture has a delightful suavity and ease, and the colouring has evidently been lovely. The setting is in good proportion and more satisfactory than that of the Giottesques. From the series of frescoes in S. Antonio, Verona, we gather that while Venice was still limited to stiff anconae, the Veronese masters were managing crowds of figures and rendering distances successfully. Altichiero puts in homely touches from everyday life with a freedom which shows he has not yet mastered the principles of selection or the dignified fitness which guided the great masters; as, for instance, in the case of the old woman, among the spectators of the Crucifixion, who shows her grief by blowing her nose. He lets himself be drawn off by all manner of trivial detail and of gay costume; but again in such frescoes as S. Lucia, or the "Beheading of St. George," in the Paduan chapel of the Santo, he proves how well he understands the force of solid, simply-draped figures, direct in gesture and expression, while the decorative use he makes of lances against the background was long afterwards perhaps imitated, but hardly surpassed, by Tintoretto.

Pisanello, who followed quickly upon Altichiero and his assistant, Avanzi, exhibits the same chivalresque and courtly inclinations which commended Gentile da Fabriano to the splendour-loving Venetians. Verona, under the peaceful but gallant government of the Scaligeri, had long been the home of all knightly lore, and the artists had been employed to decorate chapels for the families of the great nobles. Among these, Pisanello had attained a high place. Though very few of his paintings remain, they all show these influences, and his subtly modelled medals establish him as a master of the most finished type. A much destroyed fresco in S. Anastasia, Verona, portrays the history of St. George and the Dragon. In the St. George we probably see the portrait of the great personage in whose honour the fresco was painted. He is mounting his horse, which, seen from behind, reminds us of the fore-shortened chargers of Paolo Uccello. The rescued princess, also a portrait, wears a magnificent dress and an elaborate headgear in the fashion of the day. Other horses, fiery and spirited, are grouped around, and in the band of cavaliers, beyond St. George, every head is individualised; one is beautiful, another brutal, and so on through the seven. A greyhound and spaniel in the foreground are superbly painted, the background is excellent, and a realistic touch is given by the corpses which dangle unheeded from the trees outside the castle-gate. A ruined, but fortunately not restored, "Annunciation" in S. Fermo, has a simple, slender figure of the Virgin sitting by her white bed, and the angel, with great sweeping, rushing wings and bowed, child-like head with fair hair, is a most sweet and keen figure, thrilling and convincing, in contrast to all the dead, over-worked frescoes round the church. All these paintings are too small to be the least effective at the height at which they are placed, and can only be seen with a good glass. Pisanello's art is not well adapted to wide, frescoed walls, and he seems to have enjoyed painting miniature panels, such as the two we possess. In these he is full of originality, and shows his love for the knightly life, the life of courts, in the armed cap-a-pied figure of St. George, whose point-device armour is crowned by a wide Tuscan hat and feather. The artist's knowledge and love of animals and wild nature comes out in them, and his interest in beauty and chivalry as opposed to the outworn conventionalities of ecclesiastic demands.

We shall be able to trace the influence of both the Umbrian and the Veronese painter on men like Antonio di Murano and Jacopo Bellini, and it is important to note the likeness of the two to one another. In Gentile's "Adoration" we have on the one hand the Holy Family and the gay pageant of the kings, of which we could find the prototype in many an Umbrian panel. On the other we see those contrasting elements which were struggling in Pisanello; the delight in flowers and animals, in gaily apparelled figures, in dogs and horses. The two have no lasting effect, but though they created no actual school, they gave a stimulus to Venetian art, and started it on a new tack, enabling it to open its channels to fresh ideas. During the time they were in Venice, Jacobello del Fiore shows some signs of adapting the new fashion to his early style, and the horse of S. Grisogono is very like that of Gentile in the "Adoration," or like Pisano's horses. Michele Giambono is actually found in collaboration, in the chapel of the Madonna da Mascoli in St. Mark's, with such a virile painter as the Florentine, Andrea del Castagno, who is evidently responsible for God the Father and two of the Apostles; but Castagno must have been thoroughly antipathetic to the Venetians, and though he may have taught them the way to draw, he has not left any traces of a following.

Facio, writing in 1455, speaks of Gentile's work in the Ducal Palace as already decaying, while Pisanello's was painted out by Alvise Vivarini and Bellini.

PRINCIPAL WORKS

Gentile da Fabriano.

Florence. Academy: Adoration of the Magi. Milan. Brera: Altarpiece.

Altichiero.

Padua. Capella S. Felice, S. Antonio: Frescoes. Capella S. Giorgio, S. Anastasia: The Cavalli Family.

Pisanello.

Padua. S. Anastasia: St. George and the Dragon. Verona. S. Fermo: Annunciation. London. S. George and S. Jerome; S. Eustace and the Stag.



CHAPTER IV

THE SCHOOL OF MURANO

The important little town of Murano, a satellite of Venice, lies upon an island, some ten minutes' row from the mother State, distinct from which it preserved separate interests and regulations. Its glass manufacture was safeguarded by the most stringent decrees, which forbade members of the Guild to leave the islet under pain of death. Its mosaics, stone work, and architecture speak of an early artistic existence, and we recognise the justice of the claim of Muranese painters to be the first to strike out into a more emancipated type than that of the primitives. The painter Giovanni of Murano, called Giovanni Alemanus or d' Alemagna, names between which Venetian jealousy for a time drew an imaginary distinction, had certainly received his early education in Germany, and betrays it by his heavier ornamentation and more Gothic style; but he was a fellow-worker with Antonio of Murano, the founder of the great Vivarini family, and the Academy contains several large altarpieces in which they collaborated. "Christ and the Virgin in Glory" was painted for a church in Venice in 1440, and has an inscription with both names on a banderol across the foreground. The Eternal Father, with His hands on the shoulders of the Mother and Son, makes a group of which we find the origin in Gentile da Fabriano's altarpiece in the Brera, and it is probable that one if not both masters had been studying with the Umbrian and absorbing the principles he had brought to Venice. It is easy to trace the influence of Giovanni d' Alemagna, though not always easy to pick out which part of a picture belongs to him and which to Antonio working under his influence. In S. Pantaleone is a "Coronation of the Virgin," with Gothic ornaments such as are not found in purely Italian art at this period, but the example in which both masters can be most closely followed is the great picture in the Academy, the "Madonna enthroned," where she sits under a baldaquin surrounded by saints. Here the Gothic surroundings become very florid, and have a gingerbread-cake effect, which Italian taste would hardly have tolerated. Many features are characteristic of the German; the huge crown worn by the Mother, the floriated ornament of the quadrangle, the almost baroque appearance of the throne. Through it all, heavily repainted as it is, shines the dawn of the tender expression which came into Venetian art with Gentile.



Giovanni d' Alemagna and Antonio da Murano were no doubt widely employed, and when the former died Antonio founded and carried on a real school in Venice. In 1446 he was living in the parish of S. Maria Formosa with his wife, who was the daughter of a fruit merchant, and the wills of both are still preserved in the parish archives. Gentile da Fabriano had set the example for gorgeous processions with gay dresses and strange animals; winding paths in the background and foreshortened limbs prove that attention had been drawn to Paolo Uccello's studies in perspective, while many figures and horses recall Pisanello. A striking proof of the sojourn of Gentile and Pisanello in Venice is found in an "Adoration of Magi," now ascribed to Antonio da Murano, in which the central group, the oldest king kissing the Child's foot, is very like that in Gentile's "Adoration," but the foreshortened horses and the attendants argue the painter's knowledge of Pisanello's work. A comparison of the architecture in the background with that in the "St. George" in S. Anastasia shows the same derivation, and the dainty cavalier, who holds a flag and is in attendance on the youngest king, is reminiscent of St. George and St. Eustace in Pisanello's paintings in the National Gallery, so that in this one picture the influences of the two artists are combined.

Antonio took his younger brother, Bartolommeo, into partnership, and the title of da Murano was presently dropped for the more modern designation of Vivarini. Both brothers are fine and delicate in work, but from the outset of their collaboration the younger man is more advanced and more full of the spirit of the innovator. In his altarpiece in the first hall of the Academy the Nativity has already a new realism; Joseph leans his head upon his hand, crushing up his cheek. The saints are particularly vivid in expression, especially the old hermit holding the bell, whose face is brimming with ardent feeling.

PRINCIPAL WORKS

Giovanni d' Alemanus and Antonio da Murano.

Venice. Christ and the Virgin in Glory; Virgin enthroned, with Saints.

Antonio da Murano.

Berlin. Adoration of Magi.



CHAPTER V

THE PADUAN INFLUENCE

And now into this dawning school, employed chiefly in the service of the Church, with its tentative and languid essays to understand Florentine composition, resulting in what is scarcely more than a mindless imitation, and with its rather more intelligent perception of the Humanist qualities of Pisanello's work, there enters a new factor; or rather a new agency makes a slightly more successful attempt than Gentile and Castagno had done to help the Venetians to realise the supreme importance of the human figure, its power in relation to other objects to determine space, its modelling and the significance of its attitude in conveying movement. Giotto had been able to present all these qualities in the human form, but he had done so by the light of genius, and had never formulated any sufficient rules for his followers' guidance. In Ghiberti's school, at the beginning of the fifteenth century, the fascination of the antique in art was making itself felt, but Donatello had escaped from the artificial trammels it threatened to exercise, and had carried the Florentine school with him in his profound researches into the human form itself. Donatello had been working in Padua for ten years before Pisanello's death, and in an indirect way the Venetians were experiencing some after-results of the systematising and formulating of the new pictorial elements. Though the intellectual life had met with little encouragement among the positive, practical inhabitants of Venice, in Padua, which had been subject to her since 1405, speculative thought and ideal studies were in full swing. There was no re-birth in Venice, whose tradition was unbroken and where "men were too genuinely pagan to care about the echo of a paganism in the remote past." St. Mark was the deity of Venice, and "the other twelve Apostles" were only obscurely connected with her religious life, which was strong and orthodox, but untroubled by metaphysical enthusiasms and inconvenient heresies. Padua, on the other hand, was absorbed in questions of learning and religion. A university had been established here for two centuries. The abstract study of the antique was carried on with fervour, and the memory of Livy threw a lustre over the city which had never quite died out. It seemed perfectly right and respectable to the Venetians that the savants, lying safely removed from the busy stream of commercial life, should cultivate inquiries into theology and the classics, which would only have been a hindrance to their own practical business; but such, as it was well known, were of absorbing interest in the circles which gathered round the Medici in Florence. The school of art, which was now arising in Padua, was fed from such sources as these. The love of the antique was becoming a fashion and a guiding principle, and influenced the art of painting more formally than it could succeed in doing among the independent and original Florentines.

Francesco Squarcione, though, as Vasari says, he may not have been the best of painters, has left work (now at Berlin) which is accepted as genuine and which shows that he was more than the mere organiser he is sometimes called. He had travelled in Greece, and was apparently a dealer, supplying the demand for classic fragments, which was becoming widespread. When he founded his school in Padua he evidently was its leading spirit and a powerful artistic influence. His pupils, even the greatest, were long in breaking away from his convention, and few of them threw it off entirely, even in after life. That convention was carried with undeviating thoroughness into every detail. Draperies are arranged in statuesque folds, designed to display every turn of the form beneath; the figures are moulded with all the precision and limitations of statuary. The very landscape becomes sculpturesque, and rocks of a volcanic character are constructed with the regularity of masonry. The colour and technique are equally uncompromising, and the surface becomes a beautiful enamel, unyielding, definite in its lines, lacquer-like in its firmness of finish, while the Gothic forms, which had hitherto been so prevalent, were replaced by more or less pedantic adaptations from Roman bas-reliefs. This system of design was practised most determinedly in Padua itself, but it soon spread to Venice. Squarcione himself was employed there after 1440, and though Antonio da Murano clung to the old archaic style he saw the Paduan manner invading his kingdom, and his own brother became strongly Squarcionesque.

The two brothers of Murano come most closely together in an altarpiece in the gallery of Bologna, where the framework is more simple than Alemanus's German taste would have permitted, and the Madonna and Child have some natural ease, and the delicacy of feeling of primitive art. Bartolommeo, when he breaks away and sets out to paint by himself, is crude and strong, but full of vital force. In his altarpiece of 1464, in the Academy, he gives his saints reality by taking them off their pedestals and making them stand upon the ground, and though they are still isolated from one another in the partitions of an ancona, their sparkling eyes, individual features, and curly beards give them a look of life. The draperies, thin and clinging, with little rucked folds, which display the forms, and the drawing of the bony structure, exaggerated in the arms and legs, are Squarcionesque. The rocks and stones, too, show the Paduan convention. In several of his other altarpieces, Bartolommeo introduces rich ornaments and swags of fruit, such as Donatello had first brought to Padua, or which Paduan artists delighted to copy from classic columns. Antonio's manner to the end is the local Venetian manner, infused as it was with the soft and charming influence of Gentile da Fabriano and Pisanello, but Bartolommeo adopts the new and more ambitious style. Though not a very good painter, and inclined to be puffy and shapeless in his flesh forms, he was the head of a crowd of artists, and works of his school, signed Opus factum, went all over Italy, and are found as far south as Bari. Works of his pupils are numerous; the "St. Mark enthroned" in the Frari is as good if not better than the master's own work, and the triptych in the Correr Museum is a free imitation.

Round this early school gathered such painters as Antonio da Negroponte and Quirizio da Murano, who were both working in 1450. Negroponte has left an enthroned Madonna in S. Francesco della Vigna, which is one of the most beautiful examples of colour and of the fanciful charm of the Renaissance that the early art of Venice has to show. The Mother and Child are placed in a marble shrine, adorned with antique reliefs, rich wreaths of fruit swag above her head, a little Gothic loggia is full of flowers and fruit, and birds are perched on cornucopias. On either side, four badly drawn little angels, with ugly faces and awkwardly foreshortened forms, foreshadow the beautiful, music-making angels which became such a feature of North Italian art. The Divine Mother, adoring the Child lying across her knees, has an exquisite, pensive face, conceived with all the delicacy and simplicity of early art. It seems quite possible, as Professor Leonello Venturi suggests, that we have here the early master of Crivelli, in whom we find the love of fruit garlands, of chains of beads and rich brocades carried to its farthest limits, who takes keen pleasure in introducing the ugly but lively little angels, and who gives the same pensive and almost mincing expression to his Madonnas.

PRINCIPAL WORKS

Antonio da Murano and Bartolommeo Vivarini.

Bologna. Altarpiece.

Bartolommeo Vivarini.

Venice. Academy: Altarpiece, 1464; Two Saints. Frari: Madonna and four Saints. S. Giovanni in Bragora: Madonna and two Saints. S. Maria Formosa: Triptych. London. Madonna and Saints. Vienna. S. Ambrose and Saints.

Antonio da Negroponte.

Venice. S. Francesco della Vigna: Altarpiece.



CHAPTER VI

JACOPO BELLINI

While Venice was assimilating the spirit of the school of Squarcione, which in the next few years was to be rendered famous by Mantegna, another influence was asserting itself, which was sufficient to counteract the hard formalism of Paduan methods.

When Gentile da Fabriano left Venice, he carried with him, and presently established with him in Florence, a young man, Jacopo Bellini, who had already been working with him and Pisanello, and who was an ardent disciple of the new naturalistic and humanist movement. Both Gentile and his apprentice were subjected to annoyance from the time they arrived in Florence, where the strict regulations which governed the Guilds made it very difficult for any newcomer to practise his art. The records of a police case report that on the 11th of June 1423 some young men, among them, one, Bernabo di San Silvestri, the son of a notary, were observed throwing stones into the painter's room. His assistant, Jacopo Bellini, came out and drove the assailants away with blows, but Bernabo, accusing Jacopo of assault, the latter was committed to prison in default of payment. After six months' imprisonment, a compromise of the fine and a penitential declaration set him at liberty. The accounts declare that Gentile took no steps to be of service to his follower; but Jacopo soon after married a girl from Pesaro, and his first son was christened after his old master, which does not look as though they were on unfriendly terms. Jacopo travelled in the Romagna, and was much esteemed by the Estes of Ferrara, but he was back in Venice in 1430. He has left us only three signed works, and one or two more have lately been attributed to him, but they give very little idea of what an important master he was.



His Madonna in the Academy has a round, simple type of face, and in the Louvre Madonna, which is attributed but not signed, it is easy to recognise the same arched eyebrows and half-shut, curved eyelids. In this picture, where the Madonna blesses the kneeling Leonello d' Este, we see how Pisanello acted on Jacopo and, through him, on Venetian art. The connection between the two masters has been established in a very interesting way by Professor Antonio Venturi's discovery of a sonnet, written in 1441, which recounts how they painted rival portraits of Leonello, and how Bellini made so lively a likeness that he was adjudged the first place. The landscape in the Louvre picture is advanced in treatment, and with its gilded mountain-tops, its stag and its town upon the hill-side, is full of reminiscences of Pisanello, especially of the "St. George" in S. Anastasia. We come upon such traces, too, in Jacopo's drawings, and it is by his two sketch-books that we can best judge of his greatness. One of these is in the British Museum; the other, in the Louvre, was discovered not many years ago in the granary of a castle in Guyenne. These drawings reveal Jacopo as one of the greatest masters of his day. He is larger, simpler, and more natural than Pisanello, and he apparently cares less for the human figure than for elaborate backgrounds and surroundings. Many of his designs we shall refer to again when we come to speak of his two sons. His "Supper of Herod" reminds us of Masolino's fresco at Castiglione d' Olona. He sketches designs for numbers of religious scenes, treated in an original and interesting manner. A "Crucifixion" has bands of soldiers ranged on either side, an "Adoration of the Magi" has a string of camels coming down the hill, the executioners in a "Scourging" wear Eastern head-dresses. In a sketch for a "Baptism of Christ" tall angels hold the garments in the early traditional way; on one side two play the lute and the violin, while the two on the other side have a trumpet and an organ. He has sketches for the Ascension, Resurrection, Circumcision, and Entombment, repeated over and over again with variations, and one of S. Bernardino preaching in Venice (where he was in 1427). Jacopo delights even more in fanciful and mythological than in sacred subjects. A tournament with spectators, a Faun riding a lion, a "Triumph of Bacchus" with panthers, are among such essays. The fauns pipe, the wine-god bears a vase of fruit. His love of animals is equal to that of Pisanello, and S. Hubert and the stag with the crucifix between its horns is directly reminiscent of the Veronese. His horses, of which there are immense numbers, sometimes look as if copied from ancient bas-reliefs. His treatment of single nude figures is often poor and weak enough, and his rocks have the flat-topped, geological formation of the Paduan School, but no one who so drank in every description of lively scene about him could have been in any danger of becoming a mere archeological type, and it was from this pitfall that he rescued Mantegna. To judge by his drawings, Jacopo did not overlook any source of art open to him; he delights in the rich research of the Paduans as much as in the varieties of wild nature and all the incidents of contemporary life first annexed by Pisanello. He is often very like Gentile da Fabriano, he makes raids into Uccello's domains of perspective, he is frankly mundane and draws a revel of satyrs and centaurs with a real interpretation of the lyrical and pagan spirit of the Greeks, and he has an idealism of the soul, which found its full expression in his son, Giovanni. We cannot call Jacopo Bellini the founder of the Venetian School, for its makings existed already, but it was his influence on his sons which, above all, was accountable for the development of early excellence. His long, flowing lines have a sweep and a fanciful grace which form an absolute antidote to the definite, geometrical Paduan convention. In Jacopo we see the thorough assimilation of those foreign elements which were in sympathy with the Venetian atmosphere, and while up to now Venice had only imbibed influences, she was soon to create for herself an artistic milieu and to become the leader of the movement of painting in the north of Italy.

PRINCIPAL WORKS

Jacopo Bellini.

Brescia. Annunciation and Predelle. Verona. Christ on Cross. Venice. Academy: Madonna. Museo Correr: Crucifixion. London. British Museum: Sketch-book. Paris. Madonna and Leonello d' Este: Sketch-book.



CHAPTER VII

CARLO CRIVELLI

We must turn aside from the main stream when we come to speak of Carlo Crivelli, who, important master as he was, occupies a place by himself. A pupil of the Vivarini and perhaps, as we have noted, of Antonio Negroponte, Crivelli was profoundly influenced by the Paduans, from whom he learned that metallic, finished quality of paint which he carried to perfection. Crivelli shows intellect, individuality, even genius, in the way in which he grapples with his medium and produces his own reading, and the circumstances of his life were such as to throw him in upon himself and to preserve his originality. His little early "Madonna and Child" at Verona is linked with that of Negroponte by the elaborate festoons, strings of beads, and large-patterned brocades used in the surroundings, and has those ugly, foreshortened little putti, holding the instruments of the Passion, of the type elaborated by Squarcione and Marco Zoppo, and which, in their improved state, we are accustomed to think of as Mantegnesque.

When Crivelli was thirty-eight years old, he was condemned to six months' imprisonment and to a fine of two hundred lire for an outrage on a neighbour's wife. Perhaps it was to escape from an unenviable reputation that he left Venice soon after and set up painting in the Marches, where he lived from 1468 to 1473. He then went on to Camerino in Umbria, where his great triptych, now in the Brera, was painted, and a few years later he was in Ascoli, with a commission for an Annunciation in the Cathedral. This is the picture now in the National Gallery, in which the Bishop holds a model of the Duomo. After 1490 he worked in little towns in the Marches, and is not mentioned after 1493. He does not seem ever to have come back to Venice.

Shut up in the Marches, where there was little strong local talent, and where he could not keep up with the progress that was taking place in Venice, he was obliged himself to supply the artistic movement. He kept the Squarcionesque traditions to the end, but moulded them by his own love of rich and exuberant decoration. Moreover, he was of a very intense religious bias, and this finds a deeply touching and mystical expression, more especially in his Pietas. The love of gilded patterns and fanciful detail was deep-seated in all the Umbrian country. His altarpieces were intended as sumptuous additions to rich churches, and were consequently arranged, with many divisions, in the old Muranese manner. His great ancona, in the National Gallery, is a marvel of elaborate ornament and enamel-like painting. The Madonna is delicate, almost affected in her refinement. Her long fingers hold the Child's garment with the extreme of dainty precision, the croziers and rings of the saints and bishops are embossed with gold and real jewels. The flowers in the panel of "The Immaculate Conception," which hangs beside it, are twisted into heads of mythological beasts and grotesques or cherubs; but Crivelli has plenty of strength, and his male saints have vigorous, bony limbs and fierce fanatical eyes. It is, however, in his colour that he charms us most, and though he does not touch the real fount, he is of all the earlier school the most remarkable for subtle tender tones and lovely harmonies of olive-greens and faded rose and cream embossed with gold.

Crivelli continued executing one great ancona after another, limiting his progress to perfecting his technique, and his influence was most deeply felt by such Umbrian painters as Lorenzo di San Severino and Niccola Alunno. The honours paid him testify to the reputation he acquired. He was created a knight and presented with a golden laurel wreath. But though he never, that we can hear of, revisited his native State, he always adds Venetus to the signature on his paintings, a fact which tells us that far from Venice and in provincial districts, her prestige was felt and gave his work an enhanced commercial value. He had no after-influence upon the Venetian School, and in this respect is interesting as an example of the tenacity exercised by the Squarcionesque methods, when, unchecked by any counter-attraction, they came to act upon a very different temperament; for in his love of grace and beauty and of rich effects, and especially in his intensity of mystic feeling, Crivelli is a true Venetian and has no natural affinity with the classic spirit of the Paduans.

PRINCIPAL WORKS

Venice. SS. Jerome and Augustine. Ascoli. Duomo: Altarpiece and Pieta. Berlin. Madonna and six Saints. London. Pieta; The Blessed Ferretti; Madonna and Saints; Annunciation; Ancona in thirteen compartments; The Immaculate Conception. Mr. Benson: Madonna. Sir Francis Cook: Madonna enthroned. Mond Collection: SS. Peter and Paul. Lord Northbrook: Madonna; Resurrection; Saints; Crucifixion; Madonna; Madonna and Saints. Milan. Brera: SS. James, Bernardino, and Pellegrino; SS. Anthony Abbot, Jerome, and Andrew. Poldi-Pezzoli: S. Francis in Adoration. Rome. Vatican: Pieta.



CHAPTER VIII

GENTILE BELLINI AND ANTONELLO DA MESSINA

What, then, is the position which art has achieved in Venice a decade after the middle of the fourteenth century, and how does she compare with the Florentine School? The Florentines, Fra Angelico, Andrea del Castagno, and Pesellino were lately dead. Antonio Pollaiuolo was in his prime, Fra Lippo was fifty-four, Paolo Uccello was sixty-three. But though the progress in the north had been slower, art both in Padua and Venice was now in vigorous progress. Bartolommeo Vivarini was still painting and gathering round him a numerous band of followers; Mantegna was thirty, had just completed the frescoes in the Eremitani Chapel and the famous altarpiece in S. Zeno; and Gentile and Giovanni Bellini were two and four years his seniors.

Francesco Negro, writing in the early years of the sixteenth century, speaks of Gentile as the elder son of Jacopo Bellini. Giovanni is thought to have been an illegitimate son, as Jacopo's widow only mentions Gentile and another son, Niccolo, in her will. There is every reason to believe that, as was natural, the two brothers were the pupils and assistants of their father. A "Madonna" in the Mond Collection, the earliest known of Gentile's works, shows him imitating his father's style; but when his sister, Niccolosia, married Mantegna in 1453, it is not surprising to find him following Mantegna's methods for a time, and a fresco of St. Mark in the Scuola di San Marco, an important commission which he received in 1466, is taken direct from Mantegna's fresco at Padua.

As the Bellini matured, they abandoned the Squarcionesque tradition and evolved a style of their own; Gentile as much as his even more famous brother. Gentile is the first chronicler of the men and manners of his time. In 1460 he settled in Venice, and was appointed to paint the organ doors in St. Mark's. These large saints, especially the St. Mark, still recall the Paduan period. They have festoons of grapes and apples hung from the architectural ornaments, and the cast of drapery, showing the form beneath, reminds us of Mantegna's figures. But Gentile soon becomes an illustrator and portrait painter. Much of his work was done in the Scuola of St. Mark, where his father had painted, and this was destroyed by fire in 1485. Early, too, is the fine austere portrait of Lorenzo Giustiniani, in the Academy. In 1479 an emissary from the Sultan Mehemet arrived in Venice and requested the Signoria to recommend a good painter and a man clever at portraits. Gentile was chosen, and departed in September for Constantinople. He painted many subjects for the private apartments of the Sultan, as well as the famous portrait now in the possession of Lady Layard. It would be difficult for a historic portrait to show more insight into character. The face is cold, weary, and sensual, with all the over-refined look of an old race and a long civilisation, and has a melancholy note in its distant and satiated gaze. The Sultan showed Gentile every mark of favour, loaded him with presents, and bestowed on him the title of Bey. He returned home in 1493, bringing with him many sketches of Eastern personages and the picture, now in the Louvre, representing the reception of a Venetian Embassy by the Grand Vizier. Some five years before Gentile's commission to Constantinople Antonello da Messina had arrived in Venice, and the spread and popularisation of oil-painting had hastened the casting off of outworn ecclesiastical methods and brought the painters nearer to the truth of life. Antonello did not actually introduce oils to the notice of Venetian painters, for Bartolommeo Vivarini was already using them in 1473, but he was well known by reputation before he arrived, and having probably come into contact with Flemish painters in Naples, he had had better opportunities of seizing upon the new technique, and was able to establish it both in Milan and in Venice. A large number of Venetians were at this time resident in Messina: the families of Lombardo, Gradenigo, Contarini, Bembo, Morosini, and Foscarini were among those who had members settled there. Many of these were patrons of art, and probably paved the way to Antonello's reception in Venice. At first all the traits of Antonello's early work are Flemish: the full mantles, white linen caps and tuckers, the straight sharp folds and long wings of the angels have much of Van Eyck, but when he gets to Venice in 1475, its colour and life fascinate him, and a great change comes over his work. His portraits show that he grasped a new intensity of life, and let us into the character of the men he saw around him. His "Condottiere," in the Louvre, declares the artist's recognition of that truculent and formidable being, full of aristocratic disdain, the product of a daring, unscrupulous life. The "Portrait of a Humanist," in the Castello in Milan, is classic in its deepest sense; and in the Trivulzio College at Milan an older man looks at us out of sly, expressive eyes, with characteristic eyebrows and kindly, half-cynical mouth. It was not wonderful that these portraits, combined with the new medium, worked upon Gentile's imagination and determined his bent.

The first examples of great canvases, illustrating and celebrating their own pageants, must have mightily pleased the Venetians. Scenes in the style of the reception of the Venetian ambassadors were called for on all hands, and when the excellence of Gentile's portraits was recognised, he became the model for all Venice. When his own and his father's and brother's paintings perished by fire in 1485, he offered to replace them "quicker than was humanly possible" and at a very low price. Giovanni, who had been engaged on the external decorations, was ill at the time, but the Signoria was so pleased with the offer that it was decided to let no one touch the work till the two brothers were able to finish it. Gentile still painted religious altarpieces with the Virgin and Child enthroned with saints, but most of his time was devoted to the production of his great canvases. Some of these have disappeared, but the "Procession" and "Miracle of the Cross," commissioned by the school of S. Giovanni Evangelista, are now in the Academy, and the third canvas, executed for the same school, "St. Mark preaching at Alexandria," which was unfinished at the time of his death, and was completed by his brother, is in the Brera.



These great compositions of crowds bring back for us the Venice of Gentile's day as no verbal description can do. There is no especial richness of colour; the light is that of broad day in the Piazza and among the luminous waterways of the city. We can see the scene any day now in the wide square, making allowance for the difference of costume. The groups are set about in the ample space, with the wonderful cathedral as a background. St. Mark's has been painted hundreds of times, but no one has ever given such a good idea of it as Gentile—of its stateliness and beauty, of its wealth of detail; and he does so without detracting from the general effect, for St. Mark's, though the keynote of the whole composition, is kept subservient, and is part of the stage on which the scene is enacted. The procession passes along, carrying the relics, attended by the waxlights and the banners. Behind the reliquary kneels the merchant, Jacopo Salo, petitioning for the recovery of his wounded son. Then come the musicians; the spectators crowd round, they strain forward to see the chief part of the cortege, as a crowd naturally does. Some watch with reverence, others smile or have a negligent air. The faces of the candle-bearers are very like those we may see to-day in a great Church procession: some absorbed in their task, or uplifted by inner thoughts; others looking curiously and sceptically at the crowd. Gentile tries in his crowds to bring together all the types of life in Venice, all the officials and the ecclesiastical world, the young and old. With a few strokes he creates the individual and also the type;—the careless rover; the responsible magistrate; the shrewd, practical man of business; the young men, full of their own plans, but pausing to look on at one of the great religious sights of their city. In the "Finding of the Cross" he produces the effect of the whole city en fete. It was a sight which often met his eyes. The Doge made no fewer than thirty-six processions annually to various churches of the city, and on fourteen of these occasions he was accompanied by the whole of the nobles dressed in their State robes. Every event of importance was seized on by the Venetian ladies as an opportunity for arraying themselves in the richest attire, cloth of gold and velvet, plumes and jewels. Gentile has massed the ladies of Queen Catherine Cornaro's Court around their Queen upon the left side of the canal. The light from above streams upon the keeper of the School, who holds the sacred relic on high. All round are the old, irregular Venetian houses, and in the crowd he paints the variety of men he saw around him every day in Venice. Yet even in this animated scene he retains his old quattrocento calm. The groups are decorously assisting: only here and there he is drawn off to some small detail of reality, such as an oarsman dexterously turning his boat, or the maid letting the negro servant pass out to take a header into the canal. The spectators look on coolly at one more of the oft-seen, miraculous events. The committee, kneeling at the side, is a row of unforgettable portraits, grave, benign, sour, and austere, with bald head or flowing hair. In this composition he triumphs over all difficulties of perspective; our eye follows the canals, and the boats pass away under the bridge in atmospheric light. All the joy of Venice is in that play of light on broad brick surfaces, light which is cast up from the water and dances and shimmers on the marble facades.

Gentile made his will in 1502, as well as others in 1505 and 1506. He left word that he was to be buried in SS. Giovanni e Paolo, and begged his brother Giovanni to finish the work in the Scuola, in return for which he is to receive their father's sketch-book. The unfinished piece is the "St. Mark preaching at Alexandria," and it shows Gentile still developing his capacity as a painter. It is pale in colour but brilliant in sunlight. The mass of white given by the head-dresses of the Turkish women is cleverly subdued so as not to detract from the effect of the sunlight. The thronged effect of the great square is studied with more than his usual care, and the faces have all the old individuality. The foremost figures in the crowd have a colour and richness which we may attribute to Giovanni's hand.

Gentile was always fully employed, and the detailed paintings of functions became very popular; but he was a far less modern painter than his brother, and, in fact, they represent two distinct artistic generations, though Gentile's work was so much the most elaborate and, as the quattrocento would have thought, the most ambitious.

Gentile is essentially the historic painter, yet his is a grave, sincere art, and he has an unerring instinct for the right incidents to include. He cuts out all unseemly trivialities, his actors are stern, powerful men, the treatment is historic and contemporary, but not gossipy. We realise the look of the Venice of his day, in all its tide of human nature, but we also feel that he never forgot that he was chronicling the doings of a city of strong men, and that he must paint them, even in their hours of relaxation and emotion, so as to convey the real dignity and power which underlay all the events of the Republic.

We gather from his will and that of his wife that they had no children, which perhaps makes the more natural the affectionate terms upon which he remained all through his life with his brother. Their artistic sympathies must have differed widely. Gentile's love for historical research, for costume and for pageants, found no echo in the deeper idealism of Giovanni—indeed, his offer of the famous sketch-book, as an inducement to the latter to finish his last great work, seems to hint that it was an exercise out of his brother's line; but he knew that Giovanni was a great painter, and did not trust it, as we might have expected, to his assistants, Giovanni Mansueti and Girolamo da Santacroce.

PRINCIPAL WORKS

Gentile Bellini.

London. S. Peter Martyr; Portrait. Milan. Brera: Preaching of St. Mark. Venice. Doge Lorenzo Giustiniani; Miracle of True Cross; Procession of True Cross; Healing by True Cross. Lady Layard. Portrait of Sultan.

Antonello da Messina.

Antwerp. Crucifixion, 1475. Berlin. Three Portraits. London. The Saviour, 1465; Portrait; Crucifixion, 1477. Messina. Madonna and Saints, 1473. Paris. Condottiere. Milan. Portrait of a Humanist. Venice. Academy: Ecce Homo. Vicenza. Christ at the Column.



CHAPTER IX

ALVISE VIVARINI

Contemporary with Giovanni Bellini were artists still firmly attached to the past, who were far from suspecting that he was to outstrip them.

One of Antonio de Murano's sons, Luigi or Alvise Vivarini, grew up to follow his father's profession, and was enrolled in the school of his uncle, Bartolommeo. The latter being an enthusiastic follower of Squarcione, Alvise was at first trained in Paduan principles. Jacopo Bellini's efforts had done something to counteract the hard, statuesque Paduan manner, and had rendered Mantegna's art more human and less stony, but Jacopo could not prevent Squarcionesque painters from importing into Venice the style which he disliked so much. Bartolommeo threw in his lot with the Paduans, and his school, especially when reinforced by Alvise, maintained its reputation as long as it only had to compete with local talent. The Vivarinis had now been firmly established in Venice for two generations, and were the best-known and most popular of her painters. Albert Duerer, on his first visit, admired them more than the Bellini. When, however, Gentile and his brother set up in Venice, a hot rivalry arose between them and the old Muranese School. The Bellini had come with their father from Padua, with all its new and scientific fashions. They had all the prestige of relationship with Mantegna, and they shared the patronage of his powerful employers. The striking historical compositions of Gentile were at once in demand by the great confraternities. Bartolommeo had never been very successful in his dealing with oil-painting, though he had dabbled in it for some years before Antonello da Messina came his way, but the perception with which the Bellini at once grasped the new technique gave them the victory. We have only to compare the formless contours of much of Bartolommeo Vivarini's work, the bladder-like flesh-painting of the Holy Child, with the clear luminous colour and firm delicate touch of Gentile, to see that the one man is leagues ahead of the other.

Alvise Vivarini had more natural affinity with his father than with his uncle. He never becomes so exaggerated in his forms as Bartolommeo. The expression of his faces is much deeper and more inward, and he has something of the devotional sweetness of early art. His first known work is an ancona of 1475 at Montefiorentino, in a lonely Franciscan monastery on the spurs of the Apennines. In the centre of the five panels the Madonna sits with her hands pressed palm to palm, in adoration of the Child asleep across her knees. The painter here follows the tradition of his father and uncle, especially in the Bologna altarpiece, in which they collaborated in 1450. Four saints stand on either side, framed in Gothic panels; it is all in the old way, and it is only by degrees that we see there is more sweetness in the expression, better modelling in the figures, and a slenderer, more graceful outline than the earlier anconae can show. Only five years after this ancona at Montefiorentino, with its stiff rows of isolated saints, we have the altarpiece in the Academy "of 1480," which was painted for a church in Treviso, and here a great change is immediately apparent. The antiquated division into panels has disappeared, nothing is left of the artificial, Squarcionesque decorations, the attitudes are simple, and the scene is a united one. The Madonna's outstretched hand, the suggestion of "Ecce Agnus Dei," makes an appeal which draws the attention of all the saints to one point, and it is made plain that the one idea pervades the entire assembly. The curtain, which symbolises the sanctuary, still hangs behind the throne, but the gold background is abandoned. Alvise has not indeed, as yet, imagined any landscape or constructed an interior, but he lightens the effect by two arched windows which let in the sky. The forms are characteristic of his idea of drawing the human figure; they have the long thighs with the knees low down, which we are accustomed to find, and he constructs a very fine and sharply contrasted scheme of light and shade. There is no trace of the statuesque Paduan draperies. The Virgin's brocaded mantle is simply draped, and the robes of the saints hang in long straight folds. No doubt Alvise, though nominally the rival of the Bellini, has more affinity with them, particularly with Giovanni, than with the Paduan artists, and as time goes on it is evident that he paints with many glances at what they were doing. In the altarpiece in Berlin he constructs an elaborate cupola above the Virgin, such as Bellini was already using. His saints are full of movement. In the end he begins to attitudinise and to display those artificial graces which were presently accentuated by Lotto.



In 1488 the two Bellini had for some time been employed in the Sala del Gran Consiglio by the Council of Ten. Alvise, with his busy school, had hoped, but hitherto in vain, to be invited to enter into competition with them. At length he wrote the following letter:—

TO THE MOST SERENE THE PRINCE AND THE MOST EXCELLENT SIGNORIA—I am Alvise of Murano, a faithful servant of your Serenity and of this most illustrious State. I have long been anxious to exercise my skill before your Sublimity and prove that continued study and labour on my part have not been useless. Therefore offer, as a humble subject, in honour and praise of that celebrated city, to devote myself, without return of payment or reward, to the duty of producing a canvas in the Sala del Gran Consiio, according to the method at present in use by the two brothers Bellinii, and I ask no more for the said canvas than that I should be allowed the expenses of the cloth and colours as well as the wages of the journeymen, in the manner that has been granted to the said Bellinii. When I have done I shall leave to your Serenity of his goodness to give me in his wisdom the price which shall be adjudged to be just, honest, and appropriate, in return for the labour, which I shall be enabled, I trust, to continue to the universal satisfaction of your Serenity and of all the excellent Government, to the grace of which I most heartily commend myself.

The "method at present in use" was presumably the oil-painting established by Antonello, which was now being made use of to replace the decorations in fresco and tempera which Guariento, Pisanello, and Gentile da Fabriano had executed, and which were constantly decaying and suffering from the sea air and the dampness of the climate. The Council accepted Alvise's offer with little delay, and he was told to paint a picture for a space hitherto occupied by one of Pisanello's, and was given a salary of sixty ducats a year, something less than that drawn by Giovanni Bellini. Unfortunately his work, scenes from the history of Barbarossa, perished in the great fire of 1577.

Venice is rich in works which show us what sort of painter was at the head of the Muranese School at the time when it rivalled that of the Bellini. Alvise has two reading saints on either side of the altarpiece of 1480, and of these the Baptist is one of his best figures, "admirably expressive of tension and of brooding thought." It is large and free in stroke, and particularly advanced in the treatment of the foliage. Close by hangs a character-study of St. Clare; type of a strenuous, fanatical old woman, one which belongs not only to the period, but will be recognised by every student of human nature. Formidable and even cruel is her unflinching gaze; she is such a figure as might have stood for Scott's Prioress, and looks as little likely to show mercy to an erring member of her order. In contrast, there is the exquisite little "Madonna and Child" with the two baby angels, still shown as a Bellini in the sacristy of the Church of the Redentore. It is the most absolutely simple and direct picture of the kind painted in Venice. The baby life is more perfect than anything that Gian. Bellini produced, and if much less intellectual than his Madonnas, there is all the tender charm of the primitives, combined with a freedom of drapery and a softness of form which could not be surpassed. The two little angels are more mundane in spirit than those of the school of Bellini; they have nothing of the mystical quality, though we are reminded of Bellini, and the painting is an exercise in his manner. In the sacristy of San Giobbe is an early Annunciation, which is now definitely assigned to Alvise. It has the old tender sentiment, and the carnations of its draperies are of a lovely tint. The priests of S. Giovanni in Bragora were great patrons of the school of the Vivarini, for here, besides several works by Bartolommeo and his assistants, is a little Madonna in a side chapel, which may be compared with the Redentore picture. The Mother sits inside a room, with the Child lying across her knees in the same pose. The two arched openings in the background of the 1480 altarpiece have become windows, through which we look out on a charming landscape of lake and mountain. In the same church a "Resurrection" is not to be overlooked. It was executed in 1498, and some of the grace and beauty of the sixteenth century has crept into it. Against the pink flush of dawn stands the swaying figure of the risen Christ, and below appear the heads of the two guards, looking up, surprised and joyful. It is perhaps the very earliest example of that soft and sensuous feeling, that rhapsody of sensation which was presently to sweep like a flood over the art of Venice. "What a time must the dawn of the sixteenth century have been when a man of seventy, and not the most vigorous and advanced of his age, had the freshness and youthful courage to greet it; nay, actually to depict its magic and glamour as Alvise does in the 'Resurrection'! Giorgione is here anticipated in the roundness and softness of the figures, and in the effect of light. Titian's Assunta is foreshadowed in the fervour of the guards' expressions." Alvise, if he never thoroughly mastered the structure of the nude, and if his forms keep throughout some touch of the archaic, some awkwardness in the thickness of the figures, with their round heads, long thighs, and uncertain proportions, is yet extraordinarily refined and tender in sentiment, his line has a natural flow and beauty, and the heads of his Madonnas and saints cannot be surpassed in loveliness.

1  2  3  4  5     Next Part
Home - Random Browse