Dictionary of Art and Artists



 

 


History of

Architecture and Sculpture

 
 

 

 
 

 
 

CONTENTS:

 
 

PART ONE
THE ANCIENT WORLD
PREHISTORIC ART
EGYPTIAN ART

ANCIENT NEAR EASTERN ART
AEGEAN ART
GREEK ART
ETRUSCAN ART
ROMAN ART
EARLY CHRISTIAN AND BYZANTINE ART

PART TWO
THE MIDDLE AGES
EARLY MEDIEVAL ART
ROMANESQUE ART
GOTHIC ART

PART THREE
THE RENAISSANCE THROUGH THE ROCOCO
LATE GOTHIC
THE EARLY RENAISSANCE IN ITALY
THE HIGH RENAISSANCE IN ITALY
MANNERISM AND OTHER TRENDS
THE RENAISSANCE IN THE NORTH
THE BAROQUE IN ITALY AND SPAIN
THE BAROQUE IN FLANDERS AND HOLLAND
THE BAROQUE
THE ROCOCO

PART FOUR
THE MODERN WORLD
NEOCLASSICISM AND ROMANTICISM
REALISM AND IMPRESSIONISM
POST-IMPRESSIONISM, SYMBOLISM, AND ART NOUVEAU

PART FIVE
TWENTIETH-CENTURY
TWENTIETH-CENTURY SCULPTURE
TWENTIETH-CENTURY ARCHITECTURE


INDEX
FIGURES
 

 

 

 
 

CHAPTER THREE
 

THE HIGH RENAISSANCE IN ITALY
 

Leonardo da Vinci
Donato Bramante
Michelangelo
Raphael, Giorgione, Titian
Andrea Sansovino
Giovanni della Robbia
Baldassarre Peruzzi
 
 

 

 

Raphael
 

If Michelangelo exemplifies the solitary genius, Raphael belongs just as surely to the opposite type: the artist as a person of the world. The contrast between the two was as clear to their contemporaries as it is to us. Although each had his partisans, both enjoyed equal fame. Today our sympathies are less evenly divided:

In the room the women come and go
Talking of Michelangelo.
             (T. S. Eliot)

So do a lot of us, including the authors of historical novels and fictionalized biographies, while Raphael (1483-1520) is usually discussed only by historians of art. The younger master's career is too much a success story, his work too filled with seemingly effortless grace, to match the tragic heroism of Michelangelo. As an innovator, Raphael seems to contribute less than Leonardo, Bramante, and Michelangelo, the three artists whose achievements were basic to his. Yet he is the central painter of the High Renaissance, for our conception of the entire style rests more on his work than on any other artist's.

The genius of Raphael was a unique power of synthesis that enabled him to merge the qualities of Leonardo and Michelangelo, creating an art at once lyric and dramatic, pictorially rich and sculpturally solid. This power is already present in the first works he made in Florence (1504-8), after he completed his apprenticeship with Perugino. The meditative calm of the Madonna del Granduca (fig. 664) still reflects the style of his teacher (compare fig. 626), but the forms are ampler and enveloped in Leonardesque sfumato. The Virgin, grave and tender, makes us think of the Mona Lisa without engendering any of her mystery.

664. Raphael. Madonna del Granduca. 1505.
Oil on panel,
83.5 x 54.7
cm.
Palazzo Pitti, Florence


THE SCHOOL OF ATHENS.
Michelangelo's influence on Raphael asserted itself somewhat later. Its full force can be felt only in Raphael's Roman works. At the time Michelangelo began to paint the Sistine Ceiling, Julius II summoned the younger artist from Florence and commissioned him to decorate a series of rooms in the Vatican Palace. The first room, the Stanza della Segnatura, may have housed the pope's library, and Raphael's cycle of frescoes on its walls and ceiling refers to the four domains of learning: theology, philosophy, law, and the arts. To the right in our view (fig. 665) is the Disputa, or Disputation over the Sacrament, in which Christ sits enthroned between the Virgin and St. John the Baptist, with God the Father behind Him, saints and prophets to either side, and the Holy Spirit below. In the lunette over the door to the left are represented The Three Legal Virtues; beneath are The Granting of Civil Law (left) and The Granting of Canon Law (right). The opposite doorway depicts Parnassus, the sacred mountain of Apollo and the Muses.

Of these frescoes, The School of Athens (fig. 666), facing the Disputa, has long been acknowledged as Raphael's masterpiece and the perfect embodiment of the classical spirit of the High Renaissance. Its subject is "the Athenian school of thought," a group of famous Greek philosophers gathered around Plato and Aristotle, each in a characteristic pose or activity. Raphael must have already seen the Sistine Ceiling, then nearing completion. He evidently owes to Michelangelo the expressive energy, the physical power, and the dramatic grouping of his figures. Yet Raphael has not simply borrowed Michelangelo's repertory of gestures and poses. He has absorbed it into his own style and thereby given it different meaning.

Body and spirit, action and emotion, are now balanced harmoniously, and every member of this great assembly plays his role with magnificent, purposeful clarity. The total conception of The School of Athens suggests the spirit of Leonardo's Last Supper (fig. 635) rather than the Sistine Ceiling. This holds true of the way Raphael makes each philosopher reveal "the intention of his soul," distinguishes the relations among individuals and groups, and links them in formal rhythm. Also Leonardesque is the centralized, symmetrical design, and the interdependence of the figures and their architectural setting. But Raphael's edifice shares far more of the compositional burden than the hall of The Last Supper. With its lofty dome, barrel vault, and colossal statuary, it is classical in spirit without being at all Greek in appearance. Inspired by Bramante, it seems like an advance view of the new St. Peter's. Its geometric precision and spatial grandeur bring to a climax the tradition begun by Masaccio (see fig. 590) and transmitted to Raphael by his teacher Perugino.



665. Stanza della Segnatura, with frescoes by Raphael. Vatican Palace, Rome




666. Raphael. The School of Athens. 1510-11. Fresco. Stanza della Segnatura, Vatican Palace, Rome

 

GALATEA. Raphael never again set so splendid an architectural stage. To create pictorial space, he relied increasingly on the movement of human figures, rather than perspective vistas. In the Galatea of 1513 (fig. 667), the subject is again classical: the beautiful nymph Galatea, vainly pursued by the giant Polyphemus, belongs to Greek mythology. Here the cheerful and sensuous aspect of antiquity is celebrated, in contrast to the austere idealism of The School of Athens. Its composition recalls The Birth of Venus (fig. 623), a picture Raphael knew from his Florentine days. Yet their very resemblance emphasizes their profound dissimilarity. Raphael's full-bodied, dynamic figures take their expansive spiral movement from the vigorous contrapposto of Galatea. In Botticelli's picture, the movement is not generated by the figures but imposed on them from without, so that it never detaches itself from the surface of the canvas.


PORTRAITS.
Early in his career Raphael had already shown a special talent for portraiture. It is another tribute to his genius for synthesis that he combined the realism of fifteenth-century portraits (such as fig. 625) with the human ideal of the High Renaissance, which in the Mona Lisa nearly overpowers the sitter's individuality. Raphael did not flatter or conventionalize his subjects. Surely Pope Leo X (fig. 668) looks here no handsomer than he did in reality. His sullen, heavy-jowled features have been recorded in concrete, almost Flemish detail. Nevertheless, the pontiff has a commanding presence, his aura of power and dignity emanating more from his inner being than from his exalted office. Raphael, we feel, has not falsified the sitter's personality but ennobled and focused it, as if he had been fortunate enough to observe Leo X in his finest hour. The two cardinals, who lack this balanced strength although they arc studied with equal care, enhance by contrast the sovereign quality of the main figure. Even the pictorial treatment shows a similar gradation: Leo X has been set off from his companions, his reality heightened by intensified light, color, and texture.


667. Raphael.
Galatea.
1513.
Fresco, 3 x 2.2m.
Villa Famesina, Rome


668. Raphael. Pope Leo X with Giulio de'
Media
and Luigi de' Rossi, . 1518.
Oil on panel,
154 x 119 cm.
Galleria degli Uffizi, Florence



Giorgione

The distinction between Early and High Renaissance art, so marked in Florence and Rome, is far less sharp in Venice. Giorgione (1478-1510), the first Venetian painter to belong to the new era, left the orbit of Giovanni Bellini only during the final years of his short career.

THE TEMPEST. Among his few mature works, The Tempest (fig. 669) is both the most individual and the most enigmatic. There have been many attempts to explain this peculiar image. The most persuasive one is that the painting represents Adam and Eve after the Fall. Their fate as decreed by God, whose awesome voice is represented by the lightning bolt, is that man shall till the ground from which he was taken, and that woman shall bring forth children in sorrow. Adam, dressed in contemporary Venetian costume, is seen resting from his labors, while Eve, whose draped nudity signifies shame and carnal knowledge, suckles Cain, her first-born son. In the distance is a bridge over the river surrounding the city of the earthly Paradise, from which they have been expelled. Barely visible near the rock at river's edge is a snake, signifying the Temptation.

The broken columns complete the tragic vision: they stand for death, the ultimate punishment of Original Sin.

The Tempest was probably commissioned by the wealthy merchant Gabriele Vendramin, one of Venice's greatest patrons of the arts, who owned the picture when it was first recorded in 1530. It certainly reflects the predilection for learned humanist allegories in Venetian painting, whose subjects are often obscured, as here, by static poses and alien settings. The iconography does not tell us the whole story of The Tempest, however. It is the landscape, rather than Giorgione's figures, that interprets the scene for us. Belonging themselves to nature, Adam and Eve are passive victims of the thunderstorm seemingly about to engulf them. The contrast to Bellini's St. Francis in Ecstasy (fig. 631) is striking. Bellini's landscape is meant to be seen through the eyes of the saint, as a piece of God's creation. Despite its biblical subject, the mood in The Tempest is subtly, pervasively pagan. The scene is like an enchanted idyll, a dream of pastoral beauty soon to be swept away. Only poets had hitherto captured this air of nostalgic reverie. Now, it entered the repertory of the painter. The Tempest initiates what was to become an important new tradition.
 


669.Giorgione. The Tempest, 1505.
Oil on canvas, 79.5 x 73 cm.
Galleria del'Accademia, Venice




Titian

Giorgione died before he could explore in full the sensuous, lyrical world he had created in The Tempest. This task was taken up by Titian (1488/901576), an artist of comparable gifts who was decisively influenced by Giorgione and who dominated Venetian painting for the next half-century.

BACCHANAL. Titian's Bacchanal of about 1518 (fig. 670) is frankly pagan, inspired by an ancient author's description of such a revel. The landscape, rich in contrasts of cool and warm tones, has all the poetry of Giorgione, but the figures are of another breed. Active and muscular, they move with a joyous freedom that recalls Raphael's Galatea (fig. 667). By this time, many of Raphael's compositions had been engraved, and from these reproductions Titian became familiar with the Roman High Renaissance. A number of the celebrants in his Bacchanal also reflect the influence of classical art. Titian's approach to antiquity, however, is very different from Raphael's. He visualizes the realm of classical myths as part of the natural world, inhabited not by animated statues but by beings of flesh and blood. The figures of the Bacchanal are idealized just enough beyond everyday reality to persuade us that they belong to a long-lost golden age. They invite us to share their blissful state in a way that makes Raphael's Galatea seem cold and remote by comparison.



670. Titian. Bacchanal, . 1518. Oil on canvas, 1.7 x 1.9 m.
Museo del Prado, Madrid

THE PESARO MADONNA. This quality of festive animation reappears in many of Titian's religious paintings, such as the Madonna with Members of the Pesaro Family (fig. 671). Although we recognize the composition as a variant of the sacra conversazione (compare fig. 599), Titian has thoroughly transformed it by replacing the familiar frontal view with an oblique one. The Virgin is now enthroned in a great barrel-vaulted hall open on either side, a High Renaissance counterpart of the architectural setting in Bellini's Madonna and Saints in S. Zaccaria (fig. 632). Because the view is diagonal, open sky and clouds now fill most of the background. Except for the kneeling donors, every figure is in motionturning, leaning, gesturingwhile the officer with the flag seems almost to lead a charge up the steps. Yet the design remains harmoniously self-contained despite the strong element of drama. Brilliant sunlight makes every color and texture sparkle, in keeping with the joyous spirit of the altar. The only hint of tragedy is the Cross of the Passion held by two angel-putti, hidden by clouds from the participants in the sacra conversazione but not from us, adding a note of poignancy to the scene.



671. Titian. Madonna with Members of the Pesaro Family. 1526.
Oil on canvas,
4.9 x 2.7
m. Sta. Maria del Gloriosa dei Frari, Venice

PORTRAITS. After Raphael's death, Titian became the most sought-after portraitist of the age. His prodigious gifts, evident in the donors' portraits in the Pesaro Madonna, are even more striking in the Man with the Glove (fig. 672). The dreamy intimacy of this portrait, with its soft outline and deep shadows, still reflects the style of Giorgione. Lost in thought, the young man seems quite unaware of us. This slight melancholy in his features conjures up the poetic appeal of The Tempest. The breadth and power of form, however, go tar beyond Giorgione's. In Titian's hands, the possibilities of oil techniquerich, creamy highlights, deep dark tones that are transparent and delicately modulatednow are fully realized, and the separate brushstrokes, hardly visible before, become increasingly free. We can see the rapid pace of his development by turning from the Man with the Glove to the papal group portrait Pope Paul III and His Grandsons (fig. 673), painted a quarter-century later, whose formal composition is derived from Raphael's Pope Leo X (fig. 668). The quick, slashing strokes here endow the entire canvas with the spontaneity of a first sketch (some parts of it are, in fact, unfinished). In the freer technique Titian's uncanny grasp of human character also comes out. The tiny figure of the pope, shriveled with age, dominates his tall attendants with awesome authority. Comparing these two portraits by Titian, we see that a change of pictorial technique is not a surface phenomenon. It reflects a change of the artist's aim.


672. Titian. Man with the Glove. . 1520. Oil on canvas, 100.3 x 89 cm. Musee du Louvre, Paris
673. Titian. Pope Paul III and His Grandsons. 1546. Oil on canvas, 2.1 x 1.7 m. Museo di Capodimonte, Naples



LATE WORKS.
This correspondence of form and technique, which we have already seen in the Dana'e, is even clearer in Christ Crowned with Thorns (fig. 674), a masterpiece of Titian's old age. The shapes emerging from the semidarkness now consist wholly of light and color. Despite the heavy impasto, the shimmering surfaces have lost every trace of material solidity and seem translucent, as if aglow from within. In consequence, the violent physical action has been miraculously suspended. What lingers in our minds is not the drama but the strange mood of serenity engendered by deep religious feeling. The painting participates in a widespread visionary tendency that was shared by other late-sixteenth-century Venetian artists. We shall meet it again in the work of Tintoretto and El Greco.


674. Titian. Christ Crowned with Thorns, 1570.
Oil on canvas, 2.8 x 1.8 m.
Alte Pinakothek, Munich

 
 

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