Master Paintings Week
vendredi 3 juillet 2015 -
vendredi 10 juillet 2015
Maison d’Art at Harris Lindsay 67 Jermyn Street, St James’s London SW1Y 6NY
Splendours of the Venetian Cinquecento
It is rare, today, to find a gallery with a display of great Venetian masters of the sixteenth century as fine as Maison d’Art of Monaco. The paintings selected for this exhibition offer an exemplary and convincing documentation of Venice’s Golden Age, providing a precise reflection of the paths taken by Venetian painting, from the Classicism of Bellini right up to the chiaroscuro nocturnes of Bassano, which stand as a prelude to the world of Caravaggio.
We start with an unpublished painting by Alvise Vivarini, an extraordinarily polished Salvator Mundi that revives the magical, introspective world of Antonello da Messina, its foreshortened spaces competing with those of Giovanni Bellini.
There follows a variant of Giovanni Bellini’s Madonna degli Alberetti, whose authenticity – beside the fact that it is signed – has not been doubted by any scholar who has examined it at first hand. Its quality is so high that it is impossible to distinguish Bellini’s touch from that of any possible workshop collaborator. The importance and beauty of this picture stand out even more when compared with the version in the Accademia in Venice, a work reduced to a rather raw state by a series of restorations over the course of two centuries.
Two masterpieces by Paris Bordone are also present : an early, post-Giorgionesque Diana and Callisto, connected in subject and style with other similar works, two of them in the Kress Collection ; and the Ecce Homo, a canvas from the artist’s maturity, probably painted — as recorded by his biographer Giorgio Vasari — for the Cardinal of Lorraine in Paris in 1559. Likewise, Jacopo Bassano is represented by two works : the Allegory of Fire, a mythological subject — resembling others painted as part of a series related to the Four Seasons — set in a kitchen, or in this case a forge, opening out onto a Venetian landscape with the foothills of the Alps in the distance ; and the Crucifixion, which adopts the much-favoured composition carried out in fresco by Jacopo Bassano in his old age in the parish church at Castigliano, and which may be identified as one of the small-format paintings of this subject seen by Karel van Mander at an art dealer’s in Rome between 1574 and 1576.
The Portrait of a Gentleman in Black, signed in capital letters in Greek by Domenico Theotokopoulos, is one of El Greco’s most interesting works from the enduringly mysterious period of his move from Italy to Spain. The Venetian style of this painting recalls the late works of Titian, and even more so of Tintoretto and Bassano, and portrays a sitter (his identity unknown at present) whose black clothing reflects the Spanish fashion that was widespread in Italy but does not fully correspond to the formal etiquette used in the portraits painted by El Greco in Toledo. This canvas will be included in the exhibition El Greco in Italy, to be held in Treviso at the Casa dei Carraresi in October 2015 – April 2016.
Finally, the Samaritan Woman at the Well by Carletto Caliari is an example of a late sixteenth-century iconographical topos found in Lombard-Veneto painting (and influenced by a well-known composition by Michelangelo), rendered in the style made famous by Veronese.
As an ensemble these works offer a broad view of the wealth and variety of Venetian painting of the Cinquecento, showing the range of taste and fashion that evolved during that century through the oeuvre of prominent masters such as Vivarini, Bellini, Bordone, Bassano, El Greco, and Veronese, each of whom spoke an individual artistic language. At the same time, these masters were able to interact with one another’s work in creative ways, clearly distinguishing themselves in their concepts of both style and form from other areas of Italian artistic endeavour.