Alberti was a uomo universale but his key talent was literary. He should be approached above all as a humanist whose principal vehicle of expression was the written word. As a painter and architect he was influenced by his broad background in the classics rather than by practical experience. Although no painting can be attributed to Alberti with any degree of certainty, the "night sky" cupola in the sacristy in Florence's San Lorenzo seems to have been painted by him, albeit most likely together with someone else. This conclusion may be arrived at through process of elimination, and is confirmed by evidence in the painting of Alberti's literary, astrological and historical background, as well as apparent personal references to the artist in the work - in part in rebus form. A tentative attribution for the second artist would be del Ponte. The same pattern of reasoning may be applied to the mural in the Palazzo Rucellai, which also suggests Alberti's authorship.
Late Duecento and early Trecento pictorial space is usually treated as a naive early step in the process of learning to depict volume correctly. This article proposes, however, that the techniques of perspective were indeed being explored at this time and were used for purposes in addition to that of the creation of illusionistic space. Evidence for this lies in the use of certain so-called "errors" in perspective - seemingly illogical directions of recession - in combination with other devices, to influence the spectator's pattern of circulation when viewing a mural cycle. To demonstrate this thesis, the upper church of S. Francesco in Assisi and the Arena Chapel in Padua, both being of great importance in that earliest phase of what John White called the "rebirth of pictorial space", as well as other murals, are analyzed from the point of view of the spectator walking through the building to see the entire program - rather than that of the reader, who sees only isolated scenes illustrated in a book.
Lorenzo Lotto's The Gentleman in the Galleria Borghese
Lorenzo Lotto's style is free of purely gratuitous decorativeness, and, in the construction of his images, all elements of iconography and color have a double function, structural and semantic. Based on a careful examination of these assumptions, the article painstakingly analyzes The Gentleman in the Borghese Gallery in Rome, in terms of, first of all, its iconography, then its iconology, and finally its documentation, in order to make a hypothesis as to its possible sponsor. As a result, the author concludes that the subject of the portrait is Mercurio Bua (1475-1545), a Greek condottiere in the service of Venice. If this identification is correct, we can ascertain from Bua's biography that the portrait must have been painted in Treviso in 1535.
Pieter Brueghel the Younger's various paintings of "Peasants fighting Over Cards" are usually considered to record a late, lost work by Pieter Brueghel the Elder. The earliest version is dated 1610, others date from 1619, 1620, and later. Also dating from about 1619-20 is a chalk drawing by Rubens which interprets the elder Breugel's figure group in a Baroque style close to that found in Rubens's contemporary oil sketches for the ceiling paintings of the Jesuit Church in Antwerp. Rubens's version of the composition was employed by Lucas Vorsterman for his engraving, which is inscribed Pet. Bruegel invent., and is dedicated to Jan Brueghel the Elder. The latter artist may have composed some of the background elements found in a number of Pieter Brueghel the Younger's panels, and Jan Brueghel may also have painted one or two versions, now lost, of the entire composition. In any case, it is clear that the main group of figures was conceived by Pieter Bruegel the Elder, and that everything now known about this composition is transmitted to us by his sons, principally Pieter the Younger.
Near the end of his life, Cardinal Lorenzo Magalotti, Bishop of Ferrara, commissioned Guercino to paint Esther Before Ahasuerus, a canvas portraying Queen Esther's audience with King Ahasuerus, an Old Testament subject long viewed as the prefiguration of Mary's intercession to God. On one level interpreted as Esther's petitioning of Ahasuerus, onanother as the Virgin's appeal to God, Guercino's painting may also reflect the self-proclaimed mission of its patron, as expressed in Magalotti's statutory and synodial decrees.
Although art historians have been reading Erwin Panofsky's essay on iconology for nearly fifty years, they still tend to split their analysis of works of art into "style" and "iconography". Panofsky's critical apparatus, whatever its limitations, has the virtue of seeking wholeness and unity. The popularity of the iconographical study does not disguise the fact that it offers but a fragment of meaning. The literature on Gianlorenzo Bernini's Cathedra Petri in St. Peter's is fairly typical of art historical studies in that complex humanistic themes have been explored in impressive detail, but largely without showing how Bernini's manner bears the meaning. This article examines the importance of Dionysius the Aeropagite's mystical theology as a text for the Cathedra, and describes how Bernini translates Dionysius' metaphorical language into visual metaphor, especially in regard to the two angels on either side of St. Peter's throne.
The intention underlying Diego Velázquez's occasional ventures into classical mythological subject matter have been frequently misunderstood, in part due to the often uncompromising realism of these pictures, which has led some critics to believe that the Spanish painter wished to devaluate the significance of the Olympian gods by collectively lowering their status "to the base condition of the most vulgar, worldly objects" (Ortega y Gasset). This study corrects that misconception by showing how, on the contrary, Velázquez was deliberately reverting to a still familiar classical literary tradition of interpreting in a particular (quasi-"naturalistic") way the intrinsic meanings of classical fables and heroes. This classical mode of textual-historical (re-)interpretation was called "euhemerism" and it is here applied to all nine canvases by Velázquez, either extand or lost, that are known to have had overtly mythological subjects. Reference is made repeatedly to a book belonging to the erudite painter's private library. The work in question is an extensive anthology of euhemeristic moralizations applied to all the classical fables recounted by Ovid: Philosophia Secreta, by Juan Perez de Moya, first published in Madrid in 1585 (with four other editions subsequently appearing in Velázquez lifetime).