232 x 252 mm
Studies in Renaissance Art and Culture in Honour of Debra Pincus - Guest Editor: Sarah Blake McHam
232 x 252 mm
Studies in Renaissance Art and Culture in Honour of Debra Pincus - Guest Editor: Sarah Blake McHam
‘Resplendent Brushes’: Giovanni Bellini’s Resurrection Altarpiece for San Michele di Murano, Venice
In 1474–1475, the humanist Felice Feliciano of Verona wrote a letter to Giovanni Bellini in which he praised the artist’s ‘resplendent brushes’ (micanti pennelli). This overlooked passage from the early critical literature on Bellini, which is mainly characterized by rhetorical tropes and comparisons with the antique, suggests that the luminous qualities of his art were appreciated by his contemporaries. This paper examines Bellini’s painterly resplendence as it might have been understood by a fifteenth-century audience, through a reconsideration of the visual sources, composition, and symbolism of the artist’s Resurrection altarpiece for San Michele di Murano, Venice (now Gemäldegalerie, Berlin). A painting of the Resurrection by the Louvain artist Dieric Bouts for an altarpiece in an unknown Venetian church (now Norton Simon Museum, Pasadena) is recognized as the primary inspiration for Bellini’s composition. The identification of Bellini’s figure of Christ in a naturalistically rendered dawn sky with the celestial phenomenon of the morning star (stella del mattino) presents an opportunity to reconcile symbolic and naturalistic interpretations of the artist’s sacred landscapes.
Titian, Friendship, and the Vienna Ecce Homo for Giovanni d’Anna
Titian’s most monumental work for a private setting is the Ecce Homo in Vienna, a dramatic crowd scene painted for the Venetian palace of his friend (compare) Giovanni d’Anna. Giovanni, also known as Jan de Hane, was the son of the wealthy Flemish merchant Martin de Hane, knighted by the Habsburgs, who had settled in Venice where he became a cittadino originario. Martin’s sons and grandson went on to embellish the family’s adopted city through artistic patronage. The Ecce Homo, whose Northern iconography was first associated with its patron’s nationality by Panofsky in 1956, claims our attention for its complex grandeur, its unusual approaches to devotional content, and its incorporation of portraits of people close to Titian, including Aretino in the guise of Pontius Pilate. This paper considers the impact of friendship on Titian’s conception of a painting on a scale unprecedented for a Venetian domestic interior, with a treatment simultaneously tragic and festive. While many mysteries persist, portrait medals of Jan de Hane and his family may contribute to an understanding of the picture’s meaning.
Vain Legislation against vana ostentazione: Sumptuary Laws in the Venetian Dominion
Venetian officials in the terraferma and stato da mar were expected to walk a fine line between lordliness and modesty in the exercise of their administrative duties. But the desire to achieve a measure of personal magnificence – discouraged at home by the traditional ethos of mediocritas – was irresistible. Coats of arms proliferated on public structures, lavish ceremonial entries and exits became the norm, and local elites honored departing officials with expensive gifts.
This paper tracks the interplay between such initiatives in self-glorification and legislative attempts by the Venetian Senate and Council of Ten that attempted to circumscribe activities and objects that promoted the cult of the individual over the celebration of the Serenissima during the early modern period (15th–18th c.).
Voids Matter: Donatello’s Lamentation
Donatello’s small bronze relief of the Lamentation, now in the Victoria and Albert Museum, London, is one of the most moving and expressive masterpieces in his career. The bronze is cast with unfinished surfaces as Donatello sometimes favored, particularly in his late sculpture, but nowhere else did he – or any other Renaissance sculptor – deliberately cut out voids between the figures. This essay will offer new insights into the underlying devotional reasons and the visual sources for this break with tradition. It will also suggest that the bronze relief was never intended to be a panel for the portals of Siena Cathedral, as sometimes argued, but was instead created for private worship.
Confusing Signatures on Bronzes: Sculptor and Castor in Renaissance Venice
According to Rona Goffen’s definition given in her 2001 essay Signatures: Inscribing Identity in Italian Renaissance Art, a signature ‘announces an artist’s responsibility for the work, even when it is a collaborative effort. The name is understood as a trademark announcing that the conception but not necessarily the execution is by the master’. As valid as this statement is for many if not most signatures, it cannot be applied to some of the most famous creations of Renaissance bronze sculpture in Venice. Goffen’s definition reflects a notion of artistic authorship which is deeply ingrained in our subconscious: We simply consider the intellectual process of inventing a work of art as more important than everything else. However, this ideal of the supremacy of invenzione is challenged when one looks at the equestrian monument of Bartolomeo Colleoni, the flag poles on Piazza San Marco, and the altarpiece in Cappella Zen, which were all signed by the casters and not by the masters who had designed them.
A careful analysis of the signatures, documents, and historical information reveals that the reason for these signatures was not primarily excessive pride on the part of the Venetian bronze founders but rather the Venetian government’s desire to send a message during the very threatening War of the League of Cambrai, which was intended to convey that Venice had plenty of resources to cast monumental bronzes. That meant that the city had enough of the precious alloy to make an endless supply of artillery and wage war as long as necessary.
The signature of the Venetian casters demonstrated furthermore that Venice had not only bronze in abundance, but it also had so many talented casters that the Senate could afford to have them make sculptures instead of cannons.
Medea Colleoni: A Renaissance Tomb of Her Own by G. A. Amadeo
Although recognized as the first Renaissance tomb by a Lombard artist, the funerary monument of Medea Colleoni remains inadequately studied. This paper aims to reveal the tomb’s innovative character by a close analysis of its design, heraldry, epitaph, iconography, and other relevant literary and visual sources. Medea Colleoni was an illegitimate daughter of Bartolomeo Colleoni, captain general of the Venetian army from 1455 to 1475, and one of the richest men of his time. Soon after her death in 1470, the general commissioned her tomb from the Milanese artist Giovanni Antonio Amadeo. The author proposes for the first time that Amadeo was influenced by a particular type of Florentine tomb design pioneered by Bernardo and Antonio Rossellino who mitigated the sharp separation of the sacred figures from the human. Amadeo pushed beyond his Tuscan sources by bringing the Madonna and Child, Saint Catherine of Alexandria, and Saint Catherine of Siena into the center of tomb close to Medea’s effigy. By so doing, Amadeo created a unique female-centered monument that legitimates Medea’s identity as the daughter of Bartolomeo Colleoni, while also projecting an extraordinary image of her piety.
An Axis for Quattrocento Tomb Design: From Florence to Venice, Naples, and Rome
The development of the monumental marble tomb in fifteenth-century Italy reveals extraordinary cross-pollination between cities, artists and patrons. By considering the movement of Florentine sculptors, their works and their designs, this paper isolates some key moments in the exchange. Ideas first articulated in Florence migrated to Venice and Naples and Rome. The desire for Florentine-style tombs in each of these cities suggests an aesthetic choice. Florentine tombs, like other sculptures identified as Florentine in origin, became increasingly popular over the course of the fifteenth century. The practicalities associated with erecting a Florentine-style tomb led to three different means of transfer: artists traveled to and from Florence, carrying knowledge of tombs they saw in that city to other places; the tombs were carved in Florence and then shipped from there to cities across Italy and, finally, artists provided drawings that were employed by local sculptors in the creation of tombs that deliberately evoked Florentine types. This process was replaced, at the end of the Quattrocento, with a new and equally fervent desire for Roman-style tombs.
Bramante’s Portrait Medal: Classical Hero/Christian Architect
The magisterial portrait medal of Bramante stands out among artists’ medals of the Renaissance for its compelling portrayal of the architect shown in advanced age and in heroic nudity, complemented on the reverse by Lady Architecture and a distant view of New Saint Peter’s basilica. The medal represents the first example of an artist laying claim to his own work on a medal, previously the exclusive prerogative of the patron. This study reveals the personal nature of the medal’s iconographic program by introducing a classical source for the portrait and identifying the imagery and inscriptions with Bramante’s elevation by Pope Julius II as keeper of the papal seal.
The Itinerant Artist and the Islamic Urban Prospect: Guillaume-Joseph Grélot’s Self-portraits in Ambrosio Bembo’s Travel Journal
Guillaume-Joseph Grélot had been drawing antiquities, inscriptions, and urban prospects in Ottoman and Safavid dominions for four years when, in 1674 in Isfahan, he met Ambrosio Bembo, a young Venetian noble. The encounter inspired Bembo, who was returning from India, to employ the French artist to illustrate the diary he had been keeping of his travels. During their journey to Aleppo by caravan, and to Venice by galley, Grélot made fifty-one drawings of bridges, antiquities, costumes, monuments, caravanserais, monasteries, harbors, and cityscapes. Focusing on the four prospects in which Grélot depicts himself making the views – Aleppo, Persepolis, Respé, and Canea (Chania) – this essay explores the trope of the artist in the landscape. Grélot provides a performative variation on the theme: dressed in Persian, Turkish, and French costumes, his guises invite questions about working in and moving between cities in diverse Islamic jurisdictions. The essay argues that Grélot fused the conventions of figures that appeared on the edges of earlier city views for new rhetorical purposes.
Jan Borreman’s Wooden Models for Bronze Sculpture: A Documentary Reconstruction
Documentary evidence makes it clear that wooden models were a standard part of the production process in Northern bronze sculpture, something distinctly different from sculptural practice in Italy. The focus here is on the carved wooden models for metalwork in the documented work of Jan Borreman (active c. 1479–1520), among his most prestigious sculptural commissions for patrons in the Burgundian Netherlands. Through analysis of bronze projects associated with Borreman, the paper explores the fundamental role of wooden models in Northern sculptural practice. The very nature of models – often ephemeral and part of specialized production in collaboration with other artists – has obscured this important aspect of Northern Renaissance art. Evidence suggests that the skill of the Northern sculptor in translating a drawing into a three-dimensional design was valued as much as – or beyond – that of invention.
Women’s Speech in the Tornabuoni Chapel
This article examines women’s speech in the Renaissance as it is represented in the frescoes painted by Domenico Ghirlandaio between 1486 and 1490 in the Tornabuoni Family Chapel in the Dominican church of Santa Maria Novella in Florence. It is argued that the upper-class Florentine women who appear in these frescoes perform as exemplars of desired female speech behavior. The representation of speech in these frescoes is considered relative to Florentine notions about speech found in texts by one of the most influential men in Renaissance Florence, the Dominican Archbishop of Florence Antonino Pierozzi (1389–1459, archbishop 1446–1459, later canonized as St Antoninus). These texts include chapters in Antoninus’s Summa theologica (c. 1440–1454) on ‘Speech and its Multiple Vices’ and ‘On the Diverse Vices of Women, Alphabetized’, which address the negative aspects of speech. Also considered are the recommendations for self-regulation of women’s speech in the Opera a ben vivere, written by Antoninus in c. 1454 for Dianora and Lucrezia Tornabuoni, both of whom may be represented in the Tornabuoni Chapel frescoes. In particular, this text stresses the sins of idle talk (i.e. gossip and tale-telling) and talking too much, two negative types of speech that were (and still often are) associated with women. In addition to the authoritative male voice of Antoninus, women’s speech in the Tornabuoni frescoes is interpreted in relation the Storie Sacre written by Lucrezia Tornabuoni in the 1460s or 1470s, which provide some alternative types of profitable speech for women, other than what is recommended by Antoninus and modeled in the frescoes.
The Commission and Iconography in Pala Fugger by Giulio Romano
This essay on Giulio Romano’s altarpiece in the Roman church of Santa Maria dell’Anima, has a double aim. The first one is to demonstrate, through a careful reading of the German literature and documents on the Fugger family, that the painting was not commissioned, as it has always been said, by the wealthy banker Jakob Fugger der Reich, who had never been to Rome, but by his nephew Anton Fugger, who was responsible for all the family business in Rome (the Papal Mint first of all) between 1517 and 1524. The second point is the analysis of the motif of a hen with chicks and an old woman with a spindle, in literature and in visual arts, from late Antiquity up to the Renaissance. The author demonstrates that both motifs are strictly related to the Fugger family and their home town of Augsburg, and that in Giulio Romano’s painting they bear a hidden message on the Fuggers’ Christian piety and protection of the weak. A majority of comparative material used in the paper is either unknown, or even totally unpublished, as, for example, the poem Gallina, written around 1515 by the scholar from the Fugger circle, Alardus Amstelredamus.
The Beginnings of Woodcut Portrait in Poland. The Images of King Sigismund I against their Literary Background
The present paper discusses woodcuts representing King Sigismund I of Poland against contemporary views on literary and picture portraits. Following classical sources, the local men of letters appreciated the depiction of moral qualities in such works more than a physical likeness. Thus literary descriptions were usually believed to outdo painted or printed pictures, but a few authors admitted that a deft visual artist could render the virtues of the sitter adequately. Consequently, royal woodcuts were usually accompanied by a few verses of text which made up for their shortcomings. Two such works, so far unknown in the literature, have been introduced here to art historical studies and several others have been interpreted anew.
Raphael, Michelangelo and Heliodorus: Intermutations on the figura serpentinata
Michelangelo’s previously unrecognised borrowing of Raphael’s figure of Heliodorus from the Vatican Stanze for his composition of Venus and Cupid, forces us to reconsider Raphael’s important role in the development of the figura serpentinata, and to consider Michelangelo’s ‘Raphaelism’. There was a dialectical relationship of influence between the two artists in which the borrowing of form was merely a starting point for each of them in the production of figures with many additional, and indeed at times antithetical, layers of complexity. In addition to the key borrowing of Heliodorus for Venus, the extended cluster of figures including Raphael’s figure of Ananias, from the Acts of the Apostles, and Michelangelo’s Saint Paul, from the Pauline Chapel, which stem from the same root idea, in the form of rapid sketches on two Raphael sheets now in the Ashmolean Museum, are discussed.
Botticelli’s Stone: Giorgio Vasari, Telling Stories, and the Power of Matter
Against the advice of a key collaborator, Giorgio Vasari enhances his Lives of the Artists with colorful anecdotes, taking up a tradition of story-telling with deep Florentine roots. Thus Botticelli terrorized his neighbor by manhandling a great rock that was effectively, in Vasari’s telling, beyond human capacity to lift.
This paper explores the resonances of this story with ideas about the powers of stone and relates these to current thinking about the agency of material objects, whether worked or unworked. Two discursive traditions are invoked. One is the place of certain kinds of stone in the Florentine imaginary as well as in the built environment and in ritual practice; here impulses from Boccaccio’s Decameron are foregrounded. The other involves the Renaissance reception of didactic poetry, notably that of Ovid and even Lucretius, which conjoins mythological and proto-scientific in explanation especially of the origins of things. We see such literary stimuli operative in programs like those devised by Vasari for the Palazzo Vecchio; these richly suggest and to a degree illustrate the properties and powers of stone.