Every once in a while, one is offered the chance to be a part of history, to have what has passed be present, to be among the works of masters at their craft, and to, though separated by time, share a common passion.
The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York is currently exhibiting North Italian Paintings from the Accademia Carrara in Bergamo, Italy. The exhibition is fully entitled: “Bellini, Titian, and Lotto: North Italian Paintings from the Accademia Carrara, Bergamo.”
- The Accademia Carrara
The Accademia Carrara in Bergamo owes its origin to Count Giacomo Carrara. Carrara was a prominent patron of the arts in 18th century Bergamo. He left his collection to the gallery of the School of Painting in Bergamo upon his death in 1796. The gallery has now, with the addition of artwork from collectors Guglielmo Lochis and Giovanni Morelli, expanded to a collection of 1800 paintings spanning from the 15th to the 19th centuries and includes artists such as: Bellini, Titian, Lotto, Botticelli, Mantegna, Tiepolo, and Raphael.
- The Met Receives 15 Masterpieces
The Accademia Cararra is being restored and has therefore lent fifteen of its masterpieces to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. These fifteen works were completed by master artists of the 15th and 16th centuries such as Bellini, Titian, and Lotto.
Giovanni Bellini (Italian, Venice, active by 1459–died 1516 Venice). Pieta with the Virgin and Saint John. ca. 1455–60. Tempera on wood. 17 3/16 x 12 3/4 in. (43.7 x 32.4 cm). Accademia Carrara, Bergamo, Guglielmo Lochis Collection, 1866.
There is only one painting by Bellini in the exhibition. It is entitled Pieta with the Virgin and Saint John. It is a tempera painting that depicts Christ after the crucifixion. On Christ’s right is the Virgin Mary cradling her son’s wounded hand and arm. On Christ’s left is Saint John whom holds Christ’s arm and places his other hand to his head in a gesture of despair.
All three figures are depicted with a certain degree of melancholy and despair: Saint John’s mouth appears to be tangled into a gasp of pain and his brow displays a furrow of concern; the Virgin’s mouth is pulled into a frown that, for a moment, captures her pain upon the sight of her dead son; and their eyes are colored pink as if pained from crying. The brilliant red of the Virgin’s robe and the blue of Saint John’s robe contrast with the neutral coloring of Christ’s dead flesh. The heads of the three figures are outlined in gold to represent their divinity.
Caroline Jackson, a school teacher of French and German who was visiting the Metropolitan Museum of Art from Australia, thoroughly enjoyed the show. An avid lover of art, when she travels she makes a point to visit museums and exhibitions and, among others, has been to the Louvre and the National Gallery in London.
She had this to say about the Bellini: “The Bellini. I particularly wanted to see… because the Accademia Carrara is world-famous. I think I’m very lucky that I’m here able to have a close look… the color, the vibrancy of the paintings are really worthwhile coming and seeing.”
This painting is believed to have been completed around the year 1460, but there has also been skepticism about the legitimacy of this painting as an authentic Bellini. It was not until about 1950 that the painting was recognized as an authentic Bellini.
Bellini was born around the year 1430. He would go on to paint religious paintings until he died in 1516 at almost 90 years of age. He is considered the father of Venetian painting and taught great artists such as Titian and Durer, both of whom the Metropolitan Museum of Art is currently exhibiting. Ten years before Bellini’s death, Durer said of him, “He is very old and is still the best in painting.”
(Robertson, Giles. Giovanni Bellini. Oxford at the Clarendon Press. 1968. Print)
(“Giovanni Bellini.” Artble: The Home of Passionate Art Lovers. Web. 06 June 2012. <http://www.artble.com/artists/giovanni_bellini>. )
Titian (Tiziano Vecellio) (Italian, Pve di Cadore ca. 1485/90?-1576 Venice). Orpheus and Eurydice. ca. 1508-12. Oil on Wood. 15 9/16 x 20 7/8 in. (39.6 x 53 cm). Accademia Carrara, Bergamo, Guglielmo Lochis Collection, 1866
Titian, one of Bellini’s students, has one relatively small and humble painting exhibited entitled Orpheus and Eurydice. It depicts the moment in Ovid’s story in which Orpheus turns to see his lover, Eurydice, after leaving the underworld. He has made a promise to Hades to not look upon her face until they both are back on earth. Unable to control himself, he breaks his promise and looks at her only to lose her forever to Hades and the underworld.
Titian, however, has attempted to tell two parts of a story in one painting. On the opposite side of the painting is depicted Eurydice as she is bitten by the serpent that sends her to the underworld in the first place.
The painting is thought to be executed by a very young Titian or by altogether someone else. The painting is very colorful and shows possibly the beginning of Titian’s way of painting women whom, because of the softness of their flesh, seem to have no bones.
Bellini is considered the father of Venetian painting, but Titian is considered the greatest Venetian painter to have ever lived. His portrait, religious, and mythological paintings set a new stage of painting for artists after him to follow. He is believed to be the apex of art history.
Lorenzo Lotto (Italian, Venice ca. 1480–1556 Loreto). Saint Dominic Reviving Napoleone Orsini. 1513–16. Oil on wood. 20 3/8 x 38 3/8 in. (51.8 x 97.5 cm). Accademia Carrara, Bergamo. Acquired from the Church of San Bartolomeo, Bergamo, 1893.
Lorenzo Lotto was a Venetian painter and stayed in Bergamo for over a decade. He has four paintings included in the exhibition, three of which will be discussed. These three paintings are predella panels. Predella panels are the panels that are at the bottom of an altarpiece and may help narrate the subject of the altarpiece. The three predella panels are entitled, Saint Dominic Reviving Napoleone Orsini, The Entombment, and The Stoning of Saint Stephen and were commissioned by Alessandro Martinengo Colleoni for the Dominican church of Santo Stefano in Bergamo.
The three predella panels, along with the main panel of the altarpiece, were all deconstructed in preparation for a fresco that was to be painted by Bortoloni. After deconstruction, the panels were re-framed separately.
In the panel entitled Saint Dominic Reviving Napoleone Orsini, which is considered the first panel or panel to the far left because of the way the cast shadows from the figures fall to the ground, Saint Dominic is shown healing Napoleone Orsini whom was the nephew of Lord Cardinal Stephen. Napoleone was thrown from his horse and was believed to be dead. Saint Dominic performed customary rituals of the time and upon completion commanded Napoleone to “arise.” Napoleone is then said to have jumped up and requested food.
Saint Dominic is shown in a position that indicates that he is about to kneel toward the lifeless body of Napoleone. The Cardinal, his uncle, is to the left of the body and gestures to his lifeless nephew while looking toward the men behind him. The men behind him are depicted as sad, distraught, and in prayer. In the background, on the right side of the panel, is depicted the scene of the horse trampling Napoleone.
The panel The Entombment depicts when Jesus is being removed from the cross and is to be properly buried. Joseph of Arimathea requests to Pilate for the Body of Jesus, and Pilate grants his request. Nicodemus and Joseph begin the burial process according to Jewish customs.
Lotto depicts the Virgin Mary, her face half-covered and in agony, being pulled away from her son’s body. Mary Magdelene is depicted kneeling at his side and weeping with his hand in hers. The action and drama of the scene compels the viewer to look closer and not only investigate the scene but feel it.
The final panel, entitled The Stoning of St. Stephen,depicts Saint Stephen the way he is usually depicted: beardless, young, and wearing red deacon’s vestments. St. Stephen is shown kneeling on the ground in prayer. He is preparing for his fate of death by way of stoning for attempting to persuade the Romans that Jesus is the Messiah.
One man is shown berating him from behind. Three men are in the act of hurling large stones at him from behind while another kneels to pick up stones himself. Guards stand watch and whisper to one another in the foreground. In the far back, a group of onlookers point and anxiously watch.
These three predella panels are in superb condition with little to no cracking and with color that appears to sparkle showing how Lotto was influenced by Raphael. Even after 500 years, they still have a gloss to them that enhances the overall glow of the painting. Lotto uses paint exquisitely to tell these stories that had moved and influenced generation after generation. From the foreground to the background, all details are painted to tell the stories in their entirety. At times, more than one part of a story is told on one panel.
(Brown, David Alan, Augusto Gentili, and Lorenzo Lotto. Lorenzo Lotto – Rediscovered Master of the Renaissance: [exhibition Dates National Gallery of Art, Washington, 2 November 1997 – 1 March 1998; Accademia Carrara Di Belle Art, Bergamo, 2 April – 28 June 1998; Galeries Nationales Du Grand Palais, Paris, 12 October 1998 – 11 January 1999]. Washington: National Gallery of Art [u.a., 1997. Print.)
If you happen to be in New York this summer, go to the Met and enjoy the beloved museum and exhibitions.
All related events are free with museum admission. The exhibit is on view from May 15 to September 3, 2012.