Dictionary of Art and Artists



History of

Architecture and Sculpture



















SCULPTURE - Part 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11
ARCHITECTURE - Part 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6

What happened after the High Renaissance? Eighty years ago the answer would have been simply that after the High Renaissance came the Late Renaissance, which was dominated by shallow imitators of the great masters of the previous generation and lasted until the Baroque style emerged at the end of the century. Today we take a far more positive view of the artists who reached maturity after 1520, and generally discard the term "Late Renaissance" as misleading. Yet we have still to agree on a name for the 75 years separating the High Renaissance from the Baroque. Any one label implies that the period has one style, but there is no single style in the years 1525 to 1600. Why, then, should this span be regarded as a period at all, except in the negative sense of an interval between two high points, as the Renaissance viewed the Middle Ages? This difficulty can be resolved by thinking of the period as a time of crisis that gave rise to several competing tendencies rather than one dominant ideal.

Although they had taken place during the High Renaissance, the great voyages of discoveryColumbus' landing in the New World in 1492, followed by Amerigo Vespucci's exploration of South America seven years later and Magellan's circumnavigation of the globe between 1519 and 1522had far-reaching consequences that were to reverberate until the end of the sixteenth century. The most immediate consequence was the rise of the great European colonial powers, which vied with each other for commercial supremacy around the world. The Spanish (as well as the Portuguese) quickly established themselves in the Americas: Mexico was conquered by Hernan Cortes in 1519-21, Peru by Francisco Pizarro during the following decade. By 1585, however, Sir Walter Raleigh had established the first English settlement in North America, and the French soon followed with outposts of their own. An unexpected effect was the explosion of knowledge as explorers brought back a host of natural and artistic wonders never before seen in Europe. Dazzled by these revelations, avid collectors formed Kunst- und Wunderkammern (literally, art and wonder rooms) to display exotic treasures from every corner of the earth. As Europeans struggled to assimilate this profusion of new discoveries into old categories of thought, the science inherited from ancient Greece and Rome by the Early Renaissance was largely discarded as inadequate by 1650 in favor of a new body of learning.

At almost the same time, the Protestant Reformation was launched by Martin Luther, a former Augustinian friar who had become professor of theology at the University of Wittenberg. At face value, the 95 theses he nailed to the Wittenberg castle church door on All Saints' Day in October 1517 were little more than a broadside against the sale of indulgences promising redemption of sins. More fundamentally they constituted a wholesale attack against Catholic dogma, for he claimed that the Bible and natural reason were the sole bases of religious authority. Freed from traditional doctrine, the Protestant movement rapidly developed splinter groups. Within a few years the Swiss pastor Huldreich Zwingli sought to reduce religion to its essentials by preaching an even more radical fundamentalism, denouncing the arts as distractions and denying the validity of even the Eucharist as a rite, which led to a split with Luther that was never healed. Even within Zwingli's camp there were rifts: the Anabaptists accepted only adult baptism. What divided the reformers were the twin issues of grace and free will in attaining faith and salvation. These issues had been spelled out with the aid of the humanists, who initially counted Luther and Zwingli among their number but who eventually turned against the Reformation because of its extremism. By the time of Zwingli's death at the hands of the Catholic forces at the Battle of Kappel in 1531, the essential corpus of Protestant theology had been defined. It was codified around mid-century by John Calvin of Geneva, who tried to mediate between Luther and Zwingli while adopting the puritanical beliefs of the Anabaptists.

The Catholic church soon inaugurated a reform movement of its own, generally known today as the Counter Reformation. It was spearheaded following the Council of Trent in 1545-47 by the Society of Jesus, the Jesuit order representing the church militant, which had been founded by the Spaniard St. Ignatius of Loyola in 1534. The internal reforms were carried out mainly by Pope Paul IV, who cleansed the church upon ascending the throne of St. Peter in 1555, and by St. Carlo Bor-romeo, who initiated the model reform as bishop of Milan five years later. The Reformation and Counter Reformation quickly became bound up in the political upheavals and social unrest sweeping Europe. Rulers allied themselves with either movement depending on dynastic and economic self-interest. Thus Henry VIII of England established the Church of England in 1534 in order to make divorce easier so that he could produce a male heir. Later, Philip II of Spain made the Catholic cause part of the Hapsburg ambitions, cloaking his true motives (the Spanish crown went bankrupt in 1598, despite the enormous influx of gold from its South American colonies) in the mantle of a crusade for the true faith.


Mannerism in Florence and Rome

Among the various trends in art in the wake of the High Renaissance, Mannerism is the most significant, as well as the most problematic. In scope, the original meaning of the term was narrow and derogatory, designating a group of mid-sixteenth-century painters in Rome and Florence whose sell-consciously "artificial" style (maniera) was derived from certain aspects of Raphael and Michelangelo. This phase, sometimes called High Mannerism, has since been recognized as part of a wider movement that began around 1520. Keyed to a sophisticated, even rarefied taste, Mannerism appealed initially to a small circle around aristocratic patrons like Cosimo I, the grand duke of Tuscany, but soon became international. The plague of 1522 and, above all, the Sack of Rome in 1527 by the forces of Charles V of Spain had the effect of disrupting the development of Mannerism and displacing it abroad, where its next phase took place. In 1530, Rosso Fiorentino was called to France by Francis I to decorate the palace at Fontainebleau, and was soon followed by Benvenuto Cellini and other leading Mannerists. From there it spread gradually to the rest of Europe.

Mannerism was the assertion of a purely aesthetic ideal. Grace, in all its multifaceted meanings, now became an end in itself. Through formulaic abstraction, the Mannerists translated form and expression into a style of the utmost refinement that emphasized variety, decorative elaboration, and virtuoso display at the expense of content, clarity, balance, and unity. In a larger sense, this taste for affected elegance and bizarre conceits signifies a major change in Italian culture. The High Renaissance quest for originality as a projection of the individual's personality had a liberating influence that gave Mannerist artists license to explore their imaginations freely. This investigation of new modes was ultimately healthy, but the style itself came to be regarded as decadent, and no wonder: given such latitude, Mannerism produced extreme personalities, who today seem the most "modern" of all sixteenth-century artists. Even the charitable Giorgio Vasari was sometimes hard pressed to excuse the excesses of his fellow Mannerists.

The seemingly cold and barren formalism of their work placed "inner vision," however private or fantastic, above the twin standard of nature and the ancients. Some scholars have even broadened the definition of Mannerism to include the later style of Michelangelo, who could himself acknowledge no authority higher than his genius. However, Vasari, who knew Michelangelo well and whose admiration for him was boundless, realized that his fellow Mannerists were birds of a different feather, no matter how much inspiration they derived from him. Ironically, Mannerism is often considered a reaction against the ideals created by the High Renaissance as well. Save for a brief initial period, however, Mannerism did not consciously reject the tradition from which it stemmed. Although the subjectivity inherent in this aesthetic was necessarily unclassical, it was not deliberately anticlassical, except in its more extreme manifestations. Even more conspicuous than Mannerism's anticlassicism is its insistent antinaturalism. Michelangelo and Leonardo both studied anatomy scientifically (see fig. 638), and regularly performed dissections, continuing a discipline which must date back to the beginning of the Renaissance but which became almost unthinkable for most Mannerists, to whom it was antithetical in spirit and unnecessary in practice.

The relation of Mannerism to religious trends was equally paradoxical. Notwithstanding the intense religious feeling that informs works by the first generation, it has rightly been observed that Mannerism illustrates the spiritual bankruptcy of the age. The extreme worldliness of High Mannerism in particular was fundamentally antithetical to both the Reformation, with its stern morality, and the Counter Reformation, which demanded a strict adherence to doctrine. After midcentury there was, strangely enough, a Counter Mannerist trend, which utilized the vocabulary of Mannerism for Counter Reformation ends. At the same time, the subjective latitude of Mannerism became valued for its visionary power as part of a larger shift in religious sensibility.


The first indications of disquiet in the High Renaissance appear shortly before 1520 in Florence. Art had been left in the hands of a younger generation that could refine but not further develop the styles of the great innovators who had spent their early careers there before leaving the city. Having absorbed the lessons of the leading masters at one remove, the first generation of Mannerists was free to apply High Renaissance formulas to a new aesthetic divorced from its previous content. By 1521, Rosso Fiorentino (1495-1540), the most eccentric member of this group, expressed the new attitude with full conviction in the Descent from the Cross (fig. 675).

Nothing has prepared us tor the shocking impact of this latticework of spidery forms spread out against the dark sky. The figures are agitated yet rigid, as if congealed by a sudden, icy blast. Even the draperies have brittle, sharp-edged planes. The acid colors and the light, brilliant but unreal, reinforce the nightmarish effect of the scene. Here is clearly a full-scale revolt against the classical balance of High Renaissance art: a profoundly disquieting, willful, visionary style that indicates a deep inner anxiety. Vasari's statement that Rosso committed suicide is probably untrue, yet seems plausible enough as we look at this picture.


Pontormo (1494-1556/7), a friend of Rosso's, had an equally strange personality. Introspective, willful, and shy, he worked only when and for whom he pleased and would shut himself up in his quarters for weeks on end, remaining inaccessible even to his closest friends. Pontormo's Deposition (fig. 676) well reflects these facets of his character. The painting contrasts sharply with Rosso's Descent from the Cross, but is no less disturbing. Unlike Rosso's attenuated forms, Pontormo's have a nearly classical beauty and sculptural solidity-inspired by Michelangelo, who in turned admired his art. Yet the figures are confined to a stage so claustrophobic as to cause acute discomfort in the viewer. The very implausibility of the image renders it convincing in spiritual terms. Indeed, this visionary quality is essential to its meaning, which is communicated by formal means alone. We have entered a world of innermost contemplation in which every pictorial element responds to a purely subjective impulse. Everything is subordinate to the play of graceful linear rhythms created by the tightly interlocking forms. These patterns unify the surface and impart a poignancy unlike any we have seen. Although they act in concert, the mourners are lost in a grief too personal to share with each otheror us. In this hushed atmosphere, anguish is transmuted into a lyrical expression of exquisite sensitivity. The entire scene is as haunted as Pontormo's selfportrait just to the right ol the swooning Madonna. The artist, moodily gazing into space, seems to shrink from the outer world, as if scarred by the trauma of some half-remembered experience, and into one of his own invention.

675. Rosso Fiorentino.
Descent from the Cross.

Oil on panel
3.4 x 2 m.
Pinacoteca Communale, Volterra

676. Pontormo.
Oil on panel,
312 x 193
Sta. Felicita, Florence


The first phase of Mannerism was soon replaced by one less overtly anticlassical, less laden with subjective emotion, but equally far removed from the confident, stable world of the High Renaissance. The Self-Portrait (fig. 677) by Parmigianino (1503-1540) suggests no psychological turmoil. The artist's appearance is bland and well groomed. The features, painted with Raphael's smooth perfection, are veiled by a delicate Leonardesque sfumato. The distortions, too, are objective, not arbitrary, for the picture records what Parmigianino saw as he gazed at his reflection in a convex mirror. Why was he so fascinated by this view "through the looking glass"? Earlier painters who used the mirror as an aid to observation had "filtered out" the distortions (as in figs. 546 and 558), except when the mirror image was contrasted with a direct view of the same scene (see fig. 547). But Parmigianino substitutes his painting for the mirror itself, even employing a specially prepared convex panel. Perhaps he wanted to demonstrate that there is no single "correct" reality, that distortion is as natural as the normal appearance of things. The painting bespeaks an interest in magic as well: the convex mirror was valued in the Renaissance for its visionary effects, which seemed to reveal the future, as well as hidden aspects of the past and present.

677. Parmigianino. Self-Portrait. 1524.
Oil on panel, diameter 24.7 cm.
Kunsthistorisches Museum. Vienna

This may help to explain why Parmigianino's scientific detachment soon changed into its very opposite. Vasari tells us that Parmigianino, as he neared the end of his brief career (he died at 37), was obsessed with alchemy and became "a bearded, long-haired, neglected, and almost savage or wild man." Certainly his strange imagination is evident in his most famous work, The Madonna with the Long Neck (fig. 678), painted after he had returned to his native Parma following several years in Rome.

He had been deeply impressed with the rhythmic grace of Raphael's art (compare fig.
667), but he has transformed the older master's figures into a remarkable new breed. Their limbs, elongated and ivory-smooth, move with effortless languor, embodying an ideal of beauty as remote from nature as any Byzantine figure. Their setting is equally arbitrary, with a gigantic (and apparently purposeless) row of columns looming behind the tiny figure of a prophet. Parmigianino seems determined to prevent us from measuring anything in this picture by the standards of ordinary experience. Here we have approached that "artificial" style for which the term Mannerism was originally coined. The Madonna with the Long Neck is a vision of unearthly perfection, its cold elegance no less arresting than the violence in Rosso's Descent.

The Madonna with the Long Neck.

. 1535. Oil on panel, 2.2 x 1.3 m.
Galleria degli Uffizi, Florence

679. Parmigianino.
The Entombment.
. 1535.
Etching printed in brown ink,
31.3 x 23.8 cm.
Los Angeles County Museum of Art.


We must say a word about etching as a new medium. By the early sixteenth century, the techniques of woodcut and engraving were employed mainly to reproduce other works. The creative printmakers of the day, however, preferred etching, often combined with drypoint (see fig. 565). Although etching was introduced in the North, the first artists to explore its possibilities seriously were the Italian Mannerists. Parmigianino's The Entombment (fig. 679) looks very much like his ink drawings in retaining a sketchlike immediacy that conveys the agitation of the scene and captures his nervous temperament.

An etching is made by coating a copperplate with resin to make an acid-resistant "ground," through which the design is scratched with a needle, laying bare the metal surface underneath. The plate is then bathed in an acid that etches (or "bites") the lines into the copper. The depth of these grooves varies with the strength and duration of the bath, and the biting is usually by stages. After a brief immersion in the acid bath the etcher will apply a protective coating to the plate in those areas where the lines should be faint. The plate is then immersed until it is time to protect the less delicate lines, and so on. To scratch a design into the resinous ground is, of course, an easier task than to scratch it into the copperplate itself. Hence, an etched line is smoother and more flexible than a drypoint line. An etched plate is also more durable; it yields a far greater number of prints than a drypoint plate. Its chief virtue is its wide tonal range, including velvety dark shades not possible in engraving or woodcut.



The second generation of Mannerists, with whom High Mannerism is identified, congealed the style they inherited from Rosso, Pontormo, and Parmigianino into a cool perfection that filtered out the last vestige of their intensely personal sensibility. As a consequence, they produced few masterpieces. In their best works, however, formal beauty becomes the aesthetic counterpart to recondite thought.

Nowhere is this better seen than in the Allegory of Venus (fig. 680) painted by Agnolo Bronzino (1503-1572), Pontormo's favorite pupil, as a gift to Francis I of France from Cosimo I de' Medici. The central motif of Cupid embracing Venus was suggested by a lost Triumph of Love by Michelangelo that Pontormo, among others, is known to have copied. However, as with so much else in Mannerism, it has been corrupted in content and treatment. Father Time tears back the curtain from Fraud in the upper left-hand corner to uncover Venus and Cupid in an incestuous embrace, to the delight of Folly, who is armed with roses, and the dismay of Jealousy, who tears her hair, as Pleasure, half-woman and half-snake, proffers a honeycomb. The moral is that folly blinds us to the jealousy and fraud of sensual love which time reveals. The literal unmasking of this deceit revels in the very lasciviousness it purports to condemn. The painting is thus a perversion of the elevated humanism that informs Botticelli's Birth of Venus (fig. 623). With its extreme stylization, Bronzino's subtle elegance proclaims an equally refined erotic ideal that reduces passion to a genteel exchange of serpentine gestures between figures as polished as marble.

680. Agnolo Bronzino. Allegory of Venus, 1546.
Oil on panel, 146.1 x 116.2 cm.
The National Gallery, London.


Bronzino's figures are indebted to Michelangelo in their sculptural quality (compare the Venus to Night in fig. 654). Those in Perseus and Andromeda (fig. 681) by Giorgio Vasari (1511-1574), the chronicler of the Italian Renaissance who worked in the same chill vein, owe more to Raphael, although he esteemed Michelangelo above all others. The painting, one of the artist's last works, is a play on the Galatea (see fig. 667).

It forms part of the rich decorative scheme Vasari devised for the study of Francesco I de' Medici of Florence. The program, by the humanist Vineenzo Borghini, is devoted to the four elements. Vasari has chosen to represent water with the story of coral, which according to legend was formed by the blood of the monster slain by Perseus in rescuing the fair Andromeda. The subject provided an excuse to show voluptuous nudes, but in his hands the story has become an enchanting fantasy. In keeping with this lighthearted treatment, the Nereids, annealed versions of Raphael's mythological creatures, frolic with bits of coral they have discovered in the sea. Vasari's painting became a model in its own right: it spawned a host of imitations by minor artists in the waning years of Mannerism.

681. Giorgio Vasari.  Perseus and Andromeda. 1570-72.
Oil on slate, 115.6 x 86.4 cm.
Palazzo Vecchio, Florence


The Mannerists also produced splendid portraits in the same highly cultivated style, like Bronzinos painting of Eleanora of Toledo (fig. 682), the wife of
Cosimo I de' Medici. The sitter here appears as the member of an exalted social caste, not as an individual personality. Frozen into immobility behind the barrier of her lavishly ornate costume, Eleanora seems more akin to Parmigianino's Madonna (compare the hands) than to ordinary flesh and blood.


We have not encountered a woman artist since ancient Greece (see fig. 144), although this does not mean that there were none in the meantime. Pliny, for example, mentions in his Natural History (Book 35) the names and describes the work of women artists in Greece and Rome, and there are records of women manuscript illuminators during the Middle Ages. We must remember, however, that the vast majority of all artists remained anonymous until the "Late Gothic" period, so that all but a few works specifically by women have proved impossible to identify. Women began to emerge as distinct artistic personalities about 1550. The first of these to be widely recognized in her own lifetime was Sofonisba Anguissola (c. 1535-1625).

The oldest of six artistic daughters from a prominent family in Cremona, she showed a precocious talent and at an early age exchanged drawings with Michelangelo. After establishing her reputation as a portraitist while still a young woman, she was called to Madrid, where she spent
20 years as a court painter until marriage brought her back to Italy. She became such a celebrity that her self-portraits, often showing her playing a spinet, were in considerable demand. Anguissola was highly regarded throughout her lifetimeVan Dyck drew her likeness shortly before her death and her success was an important inspiration to other women artists. While her commissioned portraits follow the formal conventions of the day, she was at her best in more intimate paintings of her family, like the charming portrait she made of her sister Minerva shortly before leaving for Spain (fig. 683).

682. Agnolo Bronzino.
Eleanora of Toledo and Her Son Giovanni de' Medici,
. 1550. Oil on panel, 115 x 96 cm.
Galleria degli Uffizi, Florence

683. Sofonisba Anguissola.
Portrait of the Artist's Sister Minerva.
. 1559.
Oil on canvas, 85 x 66 cm.
Milwaukee Art Museum, Layton Art Collection.

Mannerism in Venice


Not until midcentury did Mannerism appear in Venice, where it became allied to the visionary tendencies already manifest in Titian's late work (see fig.
674). Its leading exponent, Jacopo Tintoretto (1518-1594), was an artist of prodigious energy and inventiveness, who combined qualities of both its anticlassical and elegant phases in his work. He reportedly wanted "to paint like Titian and to design like Michelangelo," but his relationship to these two masters, though real enough, was as peculiar as Parmigianino's was to Raphael. Christ Before Pilate (fig. 684), one of his many huge canvases for the Scuola di San Rocco, the home of the Confraternity of St. Roch, contrasts tellingly with Titian's Christ Crowned with Thorns (see fig. 674). The bold brushwork, the glowing colors, and the sudden lights and shadows show what Tintoretto owed to the older artist, and indeed the entire composition recalls the Madonna with Members of the Pesaro Family (see fig. 671). Yet the total effect is unmistakably Mannerist. The feverish emotionalism of the flickering, unreal light, and the ghostly Christ, pencil-slim and motionless among the agitated Michelangelesque figures, remind us of Rosso's Descent.

684. Jacopo Tintoretto.
Christ Before Pilate.
x 4.1 m.
Scuola di San Rocco, Venice

Tintoretto's last major work, The Last Supper (fig. 685), is also his most spectacular. This canvas denies in every possible way the classic values of Leonardo's version (see fig. 635), painted almost exactly a century before. Christ, to be sure, still occupies the center of the composition, but now the table is placed at a sharp angle to the picture plane in exaggerated perspective. His small figure in the middle distance is distinguishable mainly by the brilliant halo. Tintoretto has gone to great lengths to give the event an everyday setting, cluttering the scene with attendants, containers of food and drink, and domestic animals. There are also celestial attendants that converge upon Christ just as He offers His body and blood, in the form of bread and wine, to the disciples. The smoke from the lamp miraculously turns into clouds of angels, blurring the distinction between the natural and the supernatural and turning the scene into a magnificently orchestrated vision. Tintoretto's main concern has been to make visible the miracle of the Eucharistthe transubstantiation of earthly into divine food the institution central to Catholic doctrine, which was reasserted during the Counter Reformation. He barely hints at the drama of Judas' betrayal, so important to Leonardo. Judas is seen isolated on the near side of the table, but his role is so insignificant that he could almost be mistaken for an attendant.

685. Jacopo Tintoretto.
The Last Supper.
Oil on canvas, 3.7 x 5.7 m.
S. Giorgio Maggiore, Venice


The last, and today most famous, Mannerist painter was also trained in the Venetian School. Domenikos Theotocopoulos (1541-1614), called  El Greco, came from Crete, which was then under Venetian rule. His earliest training must have been from a Cretan artist still working in the Byzantine tradition. Soon after 1560 El Greco arrived in Venice and quickly absorbed the lessons of Titian, Tintoretto, and other masters. A decade later, in Rome, he came to know the art of Raphael, Michelangelo, and the Central Italian Mannerists. In 1576/77 he went to Spain, settling in Toledo for the rest of his life. There he became established in the leading intellectual circles of the city, then a major center of learning as well as the seat of Catholic reform in Spain. Although it provides the content of his work, Counter Reformation theology does not account for the exalted emotionalism that informs his painting. The spiritual tenor of El Greco's mature work was primarily a response to mysticism, which was especially intense in Spain. Contemporary Spanish painting, however, was too provincial to affect him. His style had already been formed before he arrived in Toledo. Nor did he forget his Byzantine background. Until the very end of his career, he signed his pictures in Greek.

The largest and most resplendent of El Greco's major commissions, and the only one for a public chapel, is The Burial of Count Orgaz (figs. 686 and 687) in the church of Sto. Tome. The program, which was given at the time of the commission, emphasizes the traditional role of good works in salvation and of the saints as intercessors with Heaven. This huge canvas honors a medieval benefactor so pious that St. Stephen and St. Augustine miraculously appeared at his funeral and themselves lowered the body into its grave. The burial took place in 1323, but El Greco presents it as a contemporary event, portraying among the attendants many of the local nobility and clergy. The dazzling display of color and texture in the armor and vestments could hardly have been surpassed by Titian himself. Directly above, the count's soul (a small, cloudlike figure like the angels in Tintoretto's Last Supper) is carried to Heaven by an angel. The celestial assembly filling the upper half of the picture is painted very differently from the lower half: every formclouds, limbs, draperiestakes part in the sweeping, flamelike movement toward the distant figure of Christ. Here, even more than in Tintoretto's art, the entire range of Mannerism fuses into a single ecstatic vision.

686. Chapel with
The Burial of Count Orgaz.

Sto. Tome, Toledo, Spain

687. El Greco.
The Burial of Count Orgaz.
Oil on canvas, 4.9 x 3.6
m. Sto. Tome, Toledo, Spain

The full import of the work, however, becomes clear only when we see it in its original setting. Like an enormous window, it fills one entire wall of its chapel. The bottom of the canvas is
6 feet above the floor, and as the chapel is only about 18 feet deep, we must look sharply upward to see the upper half of the picture. El Greco's violent foreshortening is calculated to achieve an illusion of boundless space above, while the lower foreground figures appear as on a stage. (Their feet are cut off by the molding just below the picture.) The large stone plaque set into the wall also belongs to the ensemble, representing the front of the sarcophagus into which the two saints lower the body of the count; it thus explains the action within the picture. The beholder, then, perceives three levels of reality: the grave itself, supposedly set into the wall at eye level and closed by an actual stone slab; the contemporary reenactment of the miraculous burial; and the vision of celestial glory witnessed by some of the participants. El Greco's task here was analogous to Masaccio's in his Trinity mural (see fig. 590). But whereas the Renaissance master creates the illusion of reality through his command of rational pictorial space which appears continuous with ours. El Greco summons an apparition that remains essentially separate from its architectural surroundings. The contrast measures the dynamic evolution of Western art since the Early Renaissance.

 El Greco has created a spiritual counterpart to his imagination, in contrast to Counter Reformation images, which were given a solid physical presence. Every passage is alive with his peculiar religiosity, which is felt as a nervous exaltation occurring as the dreamlike vision is conjured up. This kind of mysticism is very similar in character to the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius of Loyola, the Spanish priest who founded the Jesuits in 1534 and spearheaded the Counter Reformation following the first meeting of the Council of Trent in 1545. St. Ignatius sought to make visions so real that they would seem to appear before the very eyes of the faithful. Such mysticism could be achieved only through strenuous devotion. That effort is mirrored in the intensity of El Greco's work, which fully retains a feeling of spiritual struggle.

From El Greco's Venetian training came his mastery of portraiture. We generally know little of his relationship to his sitters, but in his memorable portrait of Fray Felix Hortensio Paravicino (fig. 688), the sitter, an important scholar and poet, was also a friend who praised El Greco's genius in several sonnets. This portrait is an artistic descendant of Titian's Man with the Glove and the self-portrait in Pontormo's Deposition (see figs. 672 and 676). Yet the mood is one of neither reverie nor withdrawal. Paravicino's frail, expressive hands and the pallid face, with its sensitive mouth and burning eyes, convey a spiritual ardor of compelling intensity. Such, we like to think, were the saints of the Counter Reformationmystics and intellectuals at the same time.

688. El Greco.
Fray Felix Hortensio Paravicino.
Oil on canvas. 112.5 x 85.5 cm.
Courtesy, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.


Although it spread to Venice and other cities, Mannerism failed to establish dominance outside Florence and Rome. Elsewhere it competed with other tendencies. In towns along the northern edge of the Lombard plain, such as Brescia and Verona, a number of artists worked in a style based on Giorgione and Titian, but with a stronger interest in everyday reality.


One of the earliest and most attractive of these North Italian realists was Girolamo Savoldo (c.
1480-1550) from Brescia, whose St. Matthew and the Angel (fig. 689) must be contemporary with Parmigianino's Madonna with the Long Neck. The broad, fluid manner of painting reflects the dominant influence of Titian, yet the great Venetian master would never have placed the evangelist in so thoroughly domestic an environment. The humble scene in the background shows the saint's milieu to be lowly indeed and makes the presence of the angel doubly miraculous.
This tendency to visualize sacred events among ramshackle buildings and simple people had been characteristic of "Late Gothic" painting, and Savoldo must have acquired it from that source. The nocturnal lighting, too, recalls such Northern pictures as the Nativity by Geertgen tot Sint Jans (see fig.
But whereas the main source of illumination in Geertgen's panel is the Divine radiance of the Child, here Savoldo uses an ordinary oil lamp for his similarly magic and intimate effect.

689. Girolamo Savoldo. St. Matthew and the Angel, . 1535.
Oil on canvas, 93.3 x 124.5 cm.
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.


A different form of realism is found in the paintings of Jacopo da Ponte (c.
1510-1592), called Jacopo Bassano after the town 30 miles northwest of Venice where he passed virtually his entire career. He inevitably fell under the influence of Titian, but equally important to the formation of his style were prints by Germans such as Albrecht Durer, who had twice visited Venice, and by the Mannerists, notably Parmigianino. In The Adoration of the Shepherds (fig. 690), Bassano's most characteristic subject, the landscape will remind us of the setting in Titian's Bacchanal (fig. 670), but the figures show the impact of Parmigianino: their interlocking rhythms, the gentle grace of the Madonna, the gesture of the Infant Christ, the seemingly arbitrary column, all can be found in The Madonna with the Long Neck (fig. 678). The pose of the shepherd doffing his hat, too, has its specific source in Parmigianino's etching The Entombment (see fig. 679). The high-pitched color is decidedly Mannerist as well (compare fig. 676).

690. Jacopo Bassano.
The Adoration of the Shepherds.
Oil on canvas, 139.5 x 219 cm.
The Royal Collection.

The role of Northern art seems less immediately apparent, until we realize that the tender relationship between the Virgin and Child has an intimacy that can have come only from German prints (compare fig. 565), not Italian painting. The humble setting indicates that he must also have known a similar composition by Martin Schongauer. And the mountains in the distance find their nearest counterpart in the watercolor Italian Mountains (see fig. 712) that Durer sketched on his way back from Venice, rather than any work by Titian. Unlike Durer's, Jacopo's landscape is a "portrait," showing Mount Grappa near Bassano. The Adoration of the Shepherds is more than a synthesis of diverse sources, however. "What is novel in all this is the pastoral quality of the scene. The artist includes peasants of the sort he must have encountered around his native town. Hugo van der Goes had been among the few to show-such coarse, simple people, in The Portinari Altarpiece (see fig. 551). Yet for Bassano they were an essential feature of his work. His realism, then, is not one of specific details but of general type, which offsets the self-conscious artificiality of his style.


In the work of Paolo Veronese (1528-1588), North Italian realism takes on the splendor of a pageant. Born and trained in Verona, Veronese became, after Tintoretto, the most important painter in Venice. Both found favor with the public, although they were utterly unlike each other in style. The contrast is strikingly evident if we compare Tintoretto's Last Supper (fig. 685) and Veronese's Christ in the House of Levi (fig. 691), which have similar subjects. Veronese avoids all reference to the supernatural. His symmetrical composition harks back to paintings by Leonardo and Raphael, while the festive mood of the scene reflects examples by Titian of the 1520s (compare fig. 671), so that at first glance the picture looks like a High Renaissance work born 50 years too late. Missing, however, is one essential element: the elevated, ideal conception of humanity underlying the High Renaissance. Veronese paints a sumptuous banquet, a true feast for the eyes, but not "the intention of man's soul."

Significantly, we are not even sure which event from the life of Christ he originally meant to depict, for he gave the canvas its present title only after he had been summoned by the religious tribunal of the Inquisition on the charge of filling his picture with "buffoons, drunkards, Germans, dwarfs, and similar vulgarities" unsuited to its sacred character. The account of this trial shows that the tribunal thought the painting represented the Last Supper, but Veronese's testimony never made clear whether it was the Last Supper or the Supper in the House of Simon. To him this distinction made little difference. In the end, he settled on a convenient third title, the Supper in the House of Levi, which permitted him to leave the offending incidents in place. He argued that they were no more objectionable than the nudity of Christ and the Heavenly Host in Michelangelo's Last Judgment, but the tribunal failed to see the analogy on the grounds that "in the Last Judgment it was not necessary to paint garments, and there is nothing in those figures that is not spiritual."

The Inquisition, of course, considered only the impropriety of Veronese's art. not its lack of concern with spiritual depth. His dogged refusal to admit the justice of the charge, his insistence on his right to introduce directly observed details, however "improper," and his indifference to the subject of the picture spring from an attitude so startlingly "extroverted" that it was not generally accepted until the nineteenth century. The painter's domain, Veronese seems to say, is the entire visible world, and here he acknowledges no authority other than his senses.

691. Paolo Veronese. Christ in the House of Levi. 1573.
Oil on canvas, 5.5 x 12.8 m.
Galleria dell'Accademia, Venice


A third trend that emerged about 1520 in northern Italy has been labeled proto-Baroque, as much because it eludes convenient categories as because it anticipates so many features of the Baroque style, although such a term hardly does justice to its highly individual qualities. This tendency centers largely on Correggio, although later in the century it has a counterpart in architecture (see pages 524-25).


Correggio (1489/94-1534), a phenomenally gifted North Italian painter, spent most of his brief career in Parma, which lies to the west along the Lombard plain. Consequently, he absorbed a wide range of influences: first Leonardo and the Venetians, then Michelangelo and Raphael, but their ideal of classical balance did not attract him. Correggio's work partakes of North Italian realism but applies it with the imaginative freedom of the Mannerists, though we do not find any hint of his fellow townsman Parmigianino in his style. His largest work, the fresco of The Assumption of the Virgin in the dome of Parma Cathedral (fig. 692), is a masterpiece of illusionistic perspective, a vast, luminous space filled with soaring figures. Although they move with such exhilarating ease that the force of gravity seems not to exist for them, these are healthy, energetic beings of flesh and blood, not disembodied spirits, and they frankly delight in their weightless condition.

There was little difference between spiritual and physical ecstasy for Correggio, who thereby established an important precedent for Baroque artists such as Gianlorenzo Bernini. We can see this by comparing The Assumption of the Virgin with his Jupiter and lo (fig. 693), one canvas in a series illustrating the loves of the classical gods. The nymph, swooning in the embrace of a cloudlike Jupiter, is the direct kin of the jubilant angels in the fresco. Leonardesque sfumato, combined with a Venetian sense of color and texture, produces an effect of exquisite voluptuousness that far exceeds Titian's in his Bacchanal (see fig. 670). Correggio had no immediate successors, nor did he have any lasting influence on the art of his century, but toward 1600 his work began to be widely appreciated. For the next century and a half he was admired as the equal of Raphael and Michelangelo, while the Mannerists, so important before, were largely forgotten.

692. Correggio. The Assumption of the Virgin (portion), . 1525. Fresco. Dome, Parma Cathedral
693. Correggio. Jupiter and Io. 1532. Oil on canvas, 163.8 x 70.5 cm. Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna


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