The Altarpiece in Renaissance Venice.
The evolution of the altarpiece in Venice is complex. What complicates matters is that there are lots of different ways of looking at its development in the city. How can one tell the story of the painted altarpiece in Venice? The possibilities are limitless. You could approach the problem chronologically: where does the altarpiece originate in the city’s art world; what is the first real altarpiece in Venice. You could refine this chronological idea by tracking the Venetian altarpiece decade by decade from the age of Lorenzetti to Veronese. There are also many different kinds of altarpieces with varying themes ranging from brutal martyrdoms to quiet holy families gathered together in hushed contemplation. You could compare the different kinds of altarpieces made by different Venetian “firms.” What makes a Bellini product distinctive? How do we distinguish an altarpiece made in the Bellini atelier from one made by a provincial painter like Lotto? In much the same vein you could compare altarpieces commissioned by different religious organisations like the Franciscans and the Dominicans in order to detect any patterns or trends. Finally, you might perform an analysis of colour and light in the Venetian altarpiece in order to show how different painters with different powers handled these qualities. The approach settled on for this session integrates elements of all these methodologies, but with the focus on the role of structure and space in the Venetian altarpiece.
From Polyptych to Sacra Conversazione.
|Paolo Veneziano, Polyptych, c. 1350, Gallerie dell'Accademia, Venice, tempera on panel, 167 x 285 cm.|
|Titian, Polyptych of the Resurrection, 1520-22, Santi Nazaro e Celso, Brescia, Oil on canvas, 278 x 122 cm.|
|Palma il Vecchio, Polyptych of St Barbara, 1524-25, Santa Maria Formosa, Venice, Oil on panel.|
|Giovanni Bellini, Polyptych of San Vincenzo Ferreri, 1464-68, Basilica dei Santi Giovanni e Paolo, Venice, tempera on panel|
Titian and the Ascent of the Venetian Altarpiece
|View of Interior of Chiesa dei Frari, Venice.Add caption|
|Titian, Assumption of the Virgin, 1518, Chiesa dei Frari, Venice, oil on panel, 690 x 360 cms.|
|Titian, Madonna of the Pesaro Family (Pesaro Madonna), 1519-26, Chiesa dei Frari, oil on canvas, 478 x 266.5 cm.|
|Guiseppe Borsarto, Commemoration of Canova in the Meeting Hall of the Scuola Grande della Carità.|
Venice, Veronese and the Theatre of Religion
|Paolo Veronese, Feast in the House of Levi (prev. Last Supper), 1573, Gallerie dell'Accademia, Venice, Oil on canvas, 555 x 1280 cm.|
|Titian, The Presentation of the Virgin, 1534-38, Accademia, Venice, oil on canvas, 345 x 775 cm.|
|Serlio, Scena Tragica.|
|Tintoretto, The Washing of the Feet, 1547, Prado, Madrid, oil on canvas, 210 x 533 cm.|
Beholding Tintoretto’s Crucifixion.
|View of the Sala dell'Albergo, 1564-67, Scuola Grande di San Rocco, Venice, with Tintoretto’s Great Crucifixion.Add caption|
|Christ (Great Crucifixion)|
|Tintoretto, The Ascent to Calvary, Sala dell'Albergo, Scuola Grande di San Rocco, 1565-67, oil on canvas.|
|Tintoretto, The Ascent to Calvary, Sala dell'Albergo, Scuola Grande di San Rocco, 1565-67, oil on canvas.|
|Titian, Crucifixion, 1558, Museo Civico, Ancona, Oil on canvas, 371 x 197 cm.|
- ) Paolo Veneziano, Polyptych, c. 1350, Gallerie dell'Accademia, Venice, tempera on panel, 167 x 285 cm.
- 2) Giovanni Bellini, Polyptych of San Vincenzo Ferreri, 1464-68, Basilica dei Santi Giovanni e Paolo, Venice, tempera on panel.
- 3) Palma il Vecchio, Polyptych of St Barbara, 1524-25, Santa Maria Formosa, Venice, Oil on panel.
- 4) Titian, Polyptych of the Resurrection, 1520-22, Santi Nazaro e Celso, Brescia, Oil on canvas, 278 x 122 cm.
- 5) After Titian, St Roch, 1516, British Museum, woodcut, 563 mm x 404 mm.
- 6) Antonello da Messina, San Cassiano Altarpiece, 1475-76, Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna, Left side: Saint Nicholas and Saint Maddalena, 56 x 35 cm; Center: Madonna, 115 x 65 cm; Right side: Saint Ursula and Saint Dominique, 56,8 x 35,6 cm.
- 7) Giovanni Bellini, The Pesaro Altarpiece (and details), 1471-74, Musei Civici, Pesaro, Oil on wood.
- 8) Giovanni Bellini, San Giobbe Altarpiece (orig, San Giobbe), c. 1487, Gallerie dell'Accademia, Oil on panel, 471 x 258 cm.
- 9) Cima da Conegliano, Incredulity of St Thomas with Bishop Magno, c. 1505, Gallerie dell'Accademia, Venice Tempera and oil on panel, 215 x 151 cm.
- 10) Marco Basaiti, The Agony in the Garden, 1510-16, Gallerie dell'Accademia, Venice oil on panel, 371 x 224 cm.
- 11) Giorgione, Castelfranco Altarpiece, Madonna and Child Enthroned between St Francis and St Liberalis, c. 1505, Duomo, Castelfranco Veneto, oil on canvas, Oil on panel, 200 x 152 cm.
- 12) Sebastiano dal Piombo, San Giovanni Crisostomo Altarpiece, 1510-11, San Cristoforo, Oil on canvas, 200 x 156 cm.
- 13) View of Interior of Chiesa dei Frari, Venice.
- 14) Titian, Assumption of the Virgin, 1518, Chiesa dei Frari, Venice, oil on panel, 690 x 360 cms.
- 15) Guiseppe Borsarto, Commemoration of Canova in the Meeting Hall of the Scuola Grande della Carita.
- 16) Titian, Madonna of the Pesaro Family (Pesaro Madonna), 1519-26, Chiesa dei Frari, oil on canvas, 478 x 266.5 cm.
- 17) Paris Bordone, Rest on the Flight into Egypt with St Catherine and Angels, 1527-3, Private Collection, Oil on canvas, 155 x 235 cm.
- 18) Paolo Veronese, Feast in the House of Levi (and details), 1573, Gallerie dell'Accademia, Venice, Oil on canvas, 555 x 1280 cm.
- 19) Paolo Veronese, The Family of Darius before Alexander, 1565-70, London, National Gallery, Oil on canvas, 236 x 475 cm.
- 20) Tintoretto, The Stealing of the Body of St Mark, 1562-66, Accademia, Venice, oil on canvas, 398 x 315 cm.
- 21) View of the Accademia (formerly Scuola Carità) with Titian’s Presentation and Vivarini’s Coronation in place.
- 22) Titian, The Presentation of the Virgin and details, 1534-38, Accademia, Venice, oil on canvas, 345 x 775 cm.
- 23) Serlio, Scena Tragica.
- 24) Tintoretto, The Presentation of the Virgin, 1553-56, Madonna dell ‘Orto, Venice, Oil on canvas, 429 x 480 cm.
- 25) Paris Bordone, Bathsheba at the Bath, Cologne, 1549, Wallraf-Richartz-Museum, Cologne, Oil on canvas, 234 x 217 cm.
- 26) Tintoretto, The Washing of the Feet, 1547, Prado, Madrid, oil on canvas, 210 x 533 cm.
- 27) View of the Sala dell'Albergo, 1564-67, Scuola Grande di San Rocco, Venice, with Tintoretto’s Great Crucifixion.
- 28) Tintoretto, The Great Crucifixion (and details), 1565, Sala dell'Albergo, Scuola Grande di San Rocco oil on canvas, 536 x 1224 cms.
- 29) View of the Sala dell'Albergo with other paintings by Tintoretto.
- 30) Tintoretto, The Ascent to Calvary, Sala dell'Albergo, Scuola Grande di San Rocco, 1565-67, oil on canvas.
- 31) Titian, Crucifixion, 1558, Museo Civico, Ancona, Oil on canvas, 371 x 197 cm.
 The Dominican altarpiece- which parallels the development of the altarpiece in Venice- is analysed by Patricia Meilman, Titian and the Altarpiece in Renaissance Venice. (CUP, 2000),
 Terisio Pignatti, “Altarpieces” in The Genius of Venice 1500-1600, (1984, 29-31, 29).
 S. J. Freedberg, Painting in Italy 1500-1600, (Pelican History of Art, Yale 1971, rep. 1993), 127.
 Dolce cited in Titian: Price of Painters, exh cat. Washington and Venice, 1990-91, no. 11
 David Rosand, Painting in Sixteenth-Century Venice: Titian, Veronese, Tintoretto, (CUP, 1997), 45-51.
 Thomas Puttfarken, Titian and Tragic Painting: Aristotle’s Poetics and the Rise of the Modern Artist, (Yale University Press, 2005), 99. See also Tom Nicholls who notes the comic, “low” elements in Tintoretto’s Washing of the Feet, an emphasis to be picked by the less elevated poligrafi (writers) in Venice, Tintoretto: Tradition and Identity, (London, 1980), 126. The most celebrated use of Serlio's scena tragica is, of course, in Poussin's Plague at Ashdod of 1630-31.
 A placeholder will be left here for my observations on this debate after I have visited the Veronese exhibition in London in June. A review of the show will also appear in the Melbourne Art Journal.
 Rosand, Painting in Sixteenth-Century Venice, 110. On Giorgione’s style and Giorgionismo, see Freedberg, Painting in Italy, 124f. Giorgionismo is a difficult style to isolate, but it might be defined as an optical kind of painting relying on sensuous effects which parallel literary genres such as poetry; a style which achieves pictorial unity but not at the expense of a complete subordination of painting to form and structure.
 Rosand notes that real witnesses (men from the Scuola) to theological history are at the rear of the painting.
 Rosand (149) says that entry can be made from either side, but “the major and more urgent penetration” is from the left since there is an opening.
 Most attempts to link tragedy with Venetian art concentrate on Titian rather than Tintoretto. Apart from Puttfarken who links tragedy with debates in Venice on Aristotle’s Poetics, see the discussion of “Christian Tragedy” in Una Roman D’Elia’s The Poetics of Titian’s Religious Paintings (CUP, 2005). Freedberg points out that in the mid 1560s Titian goes in search of a sensuousness fed by his humanist leanings. For him to summon up the powers of painting that will help him express the moods in his art, melancholic, “tragic”, he has to resort to the poetics of paganism which can never be entirely reconciled with Christian doctrine. Tragedy as Freedberg defines it seems to be more bound up with debates about Titian’s psychology and late style, which is something that Puttfarken went out of his way to avoid and which he would have pursued had he not died in 2005. One issue that Puttfarken didn't address is: who is the most “tragic” of the two painters? Tragedy in the context of Aristotle is also relevant to Tintoretto since he made a distinction between different genres when he painted the Massacre of the Innocents and the Nativity as separate subjects, the former an example of “Christian tragedy” and the latter comedy. According to D’Elia (59) the writer Teofilo Folengo said the tragedy of the Massacre of the Innocents followed the comedy of the Nativity.
 Venice, Accademia Guide, 1985, no. 198.
 The British Museum website states “Lisa Pon found a document recording the commissioning of this print in 1516 by the Scuola di San Rocco in Venice ('Print Quarterly', XIX 2002, pp.275-7). It was to be given to pilgrims on their way to the Holy Land, to put 'all'Altar in la loro Galera, over Nave' as a protection on their journey. This explains the devotional text, and the arms of the Scuola in the bottom corners. In return the pilgrims were expected to donate alms generously (the collecting box is at the foot of the design). Titian was a member of the confraternity. For a discussion of the print and its context see Matthias Wivel (Print Quarterly XXIX, 2012, pp.131-41) who notes that the print was made to raise funds for the building of the new Scuola de San Rocco that commenced in 1517.”