Friday, June 6, 2014


Aspects of Italian paintings in the second half of the sixteenth century
"St. Sebastian receiving the crown and the palm of martyrdom" by the school of Girolamo Siciolante da Sermoneta (1521/80)
"Miracle of St. Peter's shadow" by the Sicilian Tommaso Laureti (about 1530/1602). He was a pupil of Sebastiano del Piombo and designed, with Giambologna, the Fountain of Neptune in Bologna
"Sacrifice of Isaac" and "Holy Trinity with the Dead Christ" about 1590 by Ludovico Carracci (1555/1619)
"Ludovico Carracci, together with his cousins Annibale and Agostino was in the last two decades of the sixteenth century the bearer of the key elements to overcome the late Mannerist formalism prevailing in Roman culture at the time, and of which one of the leaders was Girolamo Muziano. Ludovico differs, however, deeply both from the pietism of Agostino and from the complex reform of the classic style made by Annibale, which will prevail in the next century as the basis for a new poetics. Ludovico was closely linked to a conceptual visual art as a means of devotion especially for the people" (Maria Antonietta De Angelis)
"Procession of St. Gregory" and "Miracle of the Snow" 1573/75 by Jacopo Zucchi (about 1542/96) both formerly on the Altar of the Cradle in the Basilica of St. Maria Maggiore
"With the two panels by Jacopo Zucchi, a pupil in Florence of Giorgio Vasari, the prevailing Mannerism is colored with unusual descriptive vivacity. (...) It is interesting to note that the strong upward perspective Zucchi has given to the two panels indicates that they were designed to be viewed from the bottom up" (Maria Antonietta De Angelis)
"Annunciation" 1606 by Giuseppe Cesari aka Cavalier d'Arpino (1568/1640)
"Sometimes, though quite rarely, Cesari reaches with his limited means a convincing expression of an otherworldly majesty full of religious pathos. This is especially true for the Annunciation, noble but not without a certain affectation, whose free and measured gestures are happily tempered by the grace of the four angelic cherubs in the air" (Hermann Voss)
"Rest on the Flight into Egypt" aka Madonna of the Cherries 1570/73
"The theme of the Madonna of the Cherries is clearly derived from the Correggio's Madonna of the Bowl in 1530 for the same gesture of the Virgin, but otherwise the invention of Barocci is entirely independent. The sweetness of the landscape in the background, the lively presence of the donkey, the smiling face of the child playing with cherries (symbol of the Passion) offered by St. Joseph represent his typical way of telling stories which mixes the sacred and the simplicity of everyday life" (Maria Antonietta De Angelis)
"Annunciation" 1582/84, "St. Francis Receiving the Stigmata" about 1595 and "Blessed Michelina" 1606 four extraordinary masterpieces by Federico Fiori aka Barocci (1535/1612)
His hometown of Urbino was often painted by him as in the Annunciation, where we see the Doge's Palace or in between the folds of the cloak of the Blessed Michelina where it is possible to see Valbona, his neighborhood Urbino
"The four major works by Barocci are four different sides of his stylistic personality always marked by a sensitive study of the characters through an extreme calibration of shades of color, whose quality is unmistakable thin. Equally unique is its technical preparation of the canvas, also extremely fine. The latter, however, has often been detrimental to the preservation of his paintings, all of which have always presented problems of conservation and restoration for the lifting of the layer of paint" (Maria Antonietta De Angelis)
"Shimmering tones and pearly sheen, matte iridescence and feverish sparkle that stand out from a dull pallor: these are the amazing and new effects of Barocci's painting style" (Hermann Voss)
"Mystic Marriage of St. Catherine" by Innocenzo da Imola (about 1484/1550)
"St. Bernard crushing the devil" 1563/64 by Marcello Venusti (about 1512/79) and "Pietà" second half of 1500 of his school
"Mystical press and Christ in Glory" about 1571 by Marco Pino aka Marco da Siena (about 1525/87)
"Holy hermit" about 1590, "St. Jerome" about 1585/92, "St. Francis of Assisi" and "Resurrection of Lazarus" 1555 by Girolamo Muziano (1532/92)
The large Resurrection of Lazarus, perhaps his most celebrated work, was placed on the grave of Muziano at the beginning of the right aisle of the Basilica of St. Maria Maggiore. Later the painting was transferred to the Quirinale Palace and arrived in the Vatican Gallery in about 1790
"It embodies a complex list of inventions, so often translated in print - as it happened with this picture - and reworked by minor artists, which, combined with the high production rate of his workshop, was a prelude to the large business workshops of the end of the sixteenth and beginning of the seventeenth centuries. (...) In the Resurrection his artistic message is enclosed in full. It is conceived as a vast theater where so many people become noisy crowd yet ordered in the harmonic 'concinnitas' (harmonic and elegant style) of each individual attitude" (Maria Antonietta De Angelis)
"St. Francis Receiving the Stigmata" by a follower of Girolamo Muziano
Marble bas-relief "Cosimo I founding the University of Pisa" about 1550 by Pierino da Vinci (about 1530/53) son of Bartolomeo, stepbrother of Leonardo da Vinci
According to Giorgio Vasari, the only source of information on this otherwise unknown artist, he died only 23 for malaria
Masterpieces of the early seventeenth century
"The Incredulity of St. Thomas", "Penitent Magdalene" 1622, "St. Margaret of Cortona" and "St. John the Baptist" by Giovanni Francesco Barbieri aka Guercino (1591/1666)
"The Penitent Magdalene is a true masterpiece full of twilight, which surrounds the sadness of the Holy Penitent, immersed in the contemplation of the nails and crown of thorns, instruments of the Passion of Jesus. The painting is almost contemporary with the famous paintings, executed in collaboration with Agostino Tassi, Dawn and Night in the Casino Ludovisi, sharing with the latter the night sky backgrounds that open between layers of clouds" (Maria Antonietta De Angelis)
"Last Communion of St. Jerome" 1614 masterpiece by Domenico Zampieri aka Domenichino (1581/1641)
"Domenichino was a colorist more refined than what it would be expected just judging from his frescoes: this work and Diana the Huntress in the Galleria Borghese made during his best period demonstrate the breadth of its range. The St. Jerome, arranged with greater care and with bolder accents of his model, the masterpiece by Agostino Carracci, has never failed to convince for the sincerity and depth of its religious feeling" (Rudolf Wittkower)
"Deposition" about 1602/04 by Michelangelo Merisi aka Caravaggio (1571/1610) for Girolamo Vittrice and destined to the Vittrice Chapel in the Chiesa Nuova (where Caravaggio frequented the Oratorian association), in honor of his uncle Pietro Vittrice, maybe represented as Nicodemus looking toward the viewer
The other characters are from left: St. John the Evangelist, the Virgin Mary, Mary Magdalene and Mary Cleophas
It was taken from the Chiesa Nuova by the French in 1797 and returned in 1817 when it entered the Vatican Picture Gallery
The Vittrice Chapel was also dedicated to the Pietà (Holy Mercy) and Caravaggio maybe cited his namesake Michelangelo Buonarroti in the body of Jesus that appears to be a fascinating transposition in color of the marble masterpiece by Michelangelo
"The stone is the real silent star of the picture. Not the stone intended to cover and seal the tomb, but the marble bed for the funerary rites (lapis untionis). The marble slab presents us with his corner and immediately comes to mind Psalm 118: The stone rejected by the manufacturer has become the cornerstone. At this time Christ is the stone rejected by history. His disciples denied him. His wonderful utopia is finished on the cross and now it will fade away forever in the tomb. These thoughts at this moment, go through the bystanders' minds and Caravaggio depicts them with merciless truth" (Antonio Paolucci)
"He knew how to capture the eloquent moment of absolute stillness that it is always produced in collective events between one motion and another, such as the immobilization of the pendulum at the extreme point of his bow" (Peter Robb)
"Madonna and Child with Sts. Jerome and Thomas" aka Olivieri Altarpiece 1634, "St. Matthew and the Angel" 1635/40 and "Crucifixion of St. Peter" 1604/05 from St. Paul at the Three Fountains for Cardinal Pietro Aldobrandini, all works by Guido Reni (1575/1642)
"The fact that even Guido Reni, although he went through Ludovico's school in Bologna, would have been dragged into the powerful orbit of Caravaggio for a period could almost be expected, but even though the picture shows an extraordinary understanding of his dramatic realism and light, the basis of Reni's art was classical and his way of painting very far from that of Caravaggio. The frame is made in the form of traditional, classic pyramid and firmly balanced by opposing attitudes and gestures" (Rudolf Wittkower)
"Martyrdom of St. Erasmus" 1628/29 by Nicolas Poussin (1594/1665), his first successful Roman work, for the altar in the right transept of St. Peter's Basilica
"The artist had the idea to stand out the index finger of the priest, stretched in the direction of the idol, in the blue sky as a means of contributing to the unfolding of the narrative. The Roman knight too, which dominates the left side of the picture is pointing his finger, which we see in front and foreshortened, but towards the martyr. Neither the priest nor the soldier are looking in the direction of what they pointing at, but to their interlocutor: the eye does not follow the index (...). The diagonals they are generating cross over both in the pictorial space and in the psychic space of the scene which they organize through the accurate and well-known properties of the gesture" (André Chastel)
"Trial and Martyrdom of Sts. Processus and Martinian" 1629 by Jean Valentin aka Valentin de Boulogne (about 1591/1632) for another altar in the right transept of St. Peter's Basilica
"Vision of St. Romuald" 1631 and "Mass of St. Gregory" with the Corporal miracle 1625 by Andrea Sacchi (1599/1661) copy of the altarpiece for the Basilica of St. Peter
"In the Vision of St. Romuald, instead of using the rhetorical language of the Baroque style, Andrea Sacchi creates a real drama in terms of intense introspection in the faces and attitudes; and the soft golden Venetian tone that permeates this symphony in white is in perfect harmony with the thoughtful and deeply serious mentality of the listening monks" (Rudolf Wittkower)
"The Mass of St. Gregory reveals a great master mature at last. With its rich and warm colors used in a light key and it execution splendid and free, this can be considered as the first masterpiece of the new style called Baroque Classicism. A minimum of figures, six in all, calls for a detailed analysis and strengthens the effect of the silent drama. The organization of the canvas with its triangle of three prominent figures is essentially classical. But there isn't a central axis and the cross of spatial diagonal pushes the design towards progressive compositional trends. In addition the close grouping of massive figures and the insistent pressure exerted by the ones showing us their back in the painting belong to the baroque repertoire" (Rudolf Wittkower)
"Denial of St. Peter" about 1615/19 maybe by Carlo Saraceni (1579/1620) or, according to Roberto Longhi, by the so-called Pensionante del Saraceni (Saraceni's lodger)
"This painting was the subject of a reflection of Roberto Longhi in 1939: he introduced a nebulous artist, whom he named 'Pensionante del Saraceni' (Saraceni's Lodger). (...) In the light of present scholarly research a new angle of view is perhaps appropriate. The overabundance of replicas of the Denial of St. Peter cannot be explained except by a well-known high-level genesis, and certainly not by an unknown artist. One is now inclined to believe that this work was painted by Saraceni himself, as stated authoritatively by A. Zuccari: considering the style and technique used, also other paintings may in part by ascribed to him. It is comforting the observation of Longhi in 1917 on the processing capacity of the style of the Venetian artist, not necessarily univocal, and further confirmation in the sentence 'with Saraceni style is a choice'" (Maria Giulia Aurigemma)
"Head of a Young Man" about 1635 maybe by Gian Lorenzo Bernini (1598/1680)

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