Practice English Speaking&Listening with: Celebrating the Old Master Collections of the National Gallery of Art: Venetian Painting, 1350-1800

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ERIC DENKER: Good afternoon,

and welcome to the East Building

auditorium for this Sunday's 2

o'clock lecture,

Venetian painting from 1400

to 1800

in the collection

of the National Gallery of Art.

I'm Eric Denker with the staff

of the education division.

And this is the second in seven


on the permanent collections

of the West Building.

Last summer, we had David Gariff

do a series of lectures

on the collections

here in the East Building.

And so to balance our coverage

of the collections,

we wanted to address some

of the aspects

of the collections

in the original building

of the National Gallery.

Our subject today has to do

with Venice.

And Venice, by 1500, when

this bird's eye view was made,

was the single most powerful,

most affluent, and most

cosmopolitan of all the states

of Europe.

That wealth and power was based

on being one

of the major maritime powers

in the history of Europe.

It involved trade

through the Middle East

and beyond.

It involved the portal to Europe

for many of the goods that came

from Asia

and from the eastern part

of Europe.

The image that you see here,

a woodcut, one

of the great technological

achievements of the period,

is by Jacopo de' Barbari.

And it was commissioned by Anton


When I say it was one

of the great technological

achievements, that is because it

is made up of six sheets.

It is 4 and 1/2 feet high and 9

feet wide.

And special presses had to be

made to accommodate blocks that

were to be this size.

Paper, unusually large,

had to be produced.

And it was done at a time when

it was clear that the image

of Venice and Venice

alone, not its holdings

on the mainland,

would carry a great deal

of the status and importance

of the state at this moment.

You can see by looking

toward the top of the bird's eye


that there is Mercury presiding

over Venice.

And it says "VENETIE MD."

Sometimes, when I'm lecturing

in the schools,

I have to ask the students not

to think of it as Venice,

Maryland, the MD being for 1500.

And it is Mercury.

And the inscription around

Mercury says that it is Mercury

who presides over the greatest

emporium in the world--

Mercury, the god of commerce.

And so there is a particularly

secular point of view here.

And he is on axis, if you make

a line straight down,

with Neptune.

And it is Neptune who is so

important for a maritime empire.

There are no references

to religion on this map.

There are relatively

few mentions of other details.

Instead, it is meant to be

an up-to-date view, which could,

in fact, still be used

in many ways today.

Venice is made up of 110 islands

in a lagoon.

They are connected by some 450


As you look at this image,

you can see quite clearly

the reverse S shape of the Grand

Canal, which stretches for about

2 and 1/4 miles.

And in the center there

of that Grand Canal

snaking through,

you can see the Rialto Bridge,

the only bridge that crossed

the Grand Canal

until the 19th century.

The city is divided up into six

sestieri, six, rather than


There are three on either side

of the Grand Canal.

Over to the left side

of that S-shape curve,

those are the sestieri

of Dorsoduro and of Santa Croce

and of San Polo.

Just above where Neptune sits,

you'll see the Piazza San Marco,

the political and religious

center of the city,

with the Doge's Palace,

the Basilica, the Campanile,

the bell tower, and the Piazza


And so we have San Marco as one

of the sestieri and Cannaregio.

And then far off to your right,

you will see the arsenal

in the sestieri of Castello.

The city's population

at the time that this was done--

approximately 110,000 people.

It is remarkable not only

for the layout of the city

but also for the details

that it shows us of ships

sitting in mudflats as the tide

is out.

To the lower right, you will see

a regatta.

And it's the first recorded use

of the term "regatta."

So there are a lot of things

to recommend us with this bird's

eye point of view.

What it doesn't represent

is the fluorescence of culture

in the 15th and 16th century

that is really our object today.

In Venice, we have

a conservative artistic

community, often looking back

toward its Byzantine origins.

And so mosaics are very


in the 11th, 12th, 13th,

and 14th century.

We know that paintings on panels

really begin in the 14th century

to some degree,

with Paolo Veneziano

and other 14th-century artists.

But our collection really begins

in the 15th century.

And so the earliest

of the artists

that I want to mention here--

there's a detail of the Grand

Canal coming down there

to the customs house,

the Dogana, there at the bottom.

The earliest of these paintings,

which came into the collection

in 1991, is a work by Jacopo


And Jacopo Bellini is the head

of a family of artists.

This was perhaps even more

common in Venice

than it was in the rest of Italy

during the 15th and 16th


Jacopo, born around 1400,

was the son of a tin smith.

He developed as an artist

working in egg tempera,

doing altar pieces.

We know that he becomes aware

of the advances taking place

in perspective

and in the use of materials that

are being explored in Tuscany

and particularly in Florence.

This is a relatively late work

in his career.

It's generally dated to 1459.

And it's an image of St. Anthony

Abbot and San Bernardino, Abbot

in the typical costume

of the time on the left

and then San Bernardino

over to the right,

holding the globe with the name

of god.

As they both face inward,

it is assumed, I think

with good evidence,

that this is the left-hand side

of a triptych

so that there would have been

a central panel probably

with the tomb, with a scene

either of resurrection

or something

related to the tomb.

And then there would have been

two saints facing it

on the right.

And we know that Jacopo was

commissioned to work

on the Chapel

of the Gattamelata,

the so-called honey

cat, the great condottieri,

the great hired mercenary

in Padova, and that this was

probably meant

for the funerary chapel

in Padova.

In this, being in Padova,

he is probably influenced

by both Donatello, who had

worked there,

and also by the younger

Mantegna, who would soon become

a family member.

The work shows two figures.

They are rather

columnar and stiff.

The draperies give them

a nice sense of three


But there isn't a great sense

of movement, nor is there

a great emotional impact.

This would come a little bit

later on, and it would come

with his son, Giovanni,

and his second son,

the other son, Gentile Bellini.

And part of the imagery

that we'll talk about

will derive from the advent

of something else in Venice,

and that is the arrival

for a year in 1475

of Antonello de Messina.

Antonello da Messina,

as his name suggests,

comes from Sicily.

And we know that he studies

in the court at Naples

and that he is an early exemplar

in the use of oil paints

and the stylistic developments

that can be associated

with the more slowly drying,

easily blended oil rather

than egg tempera.

His influence will be

in both style and in format.

He appears to have brought

the idea

of the bust-length portrait

with a man's face seen in 3/4

view with him to the court,

something that Giovanni Bellini

would pick up on in his work.

The work that you see here

has been argued about, as many

of the 15th century

works in the collection,

in terms of attribution.

And it is thought to be

by Antonello by most.

Many scholars also believe

that he had a hand in perhaps

doing the design

but that his son

or a close follower

completed the painting.

In either event,

it's a good example of the kind

of work that he produced--

that 3/4 view, the head,

in this case, turned slightly,

the hair characteristic

of the time, and the kind

of costume

that we expect from the 1470s,

as well.

The hair may seem slightly

artificial in comparison

to some of the other works.

And yet this sculpture

is in the Correr Museum

in Venice.

And I think it shows that this

was, in fact, a popular way

of wearing one's hair

at this moment.

I think, perhaps, it is even

the same person, although we

can't identify them.

What the Mantegnas will lead to

is a whole series of portraits

that we have in the collection

by Bellini

and the circle of Bellini.

Here are two good examples.

And as you look at these,

the one with the blue sky

in the background

over to your left

is one that comes

from the Samuel Kress


whereas the one on the right

comes from Andrew Mellon's


And these are the two

major figures in terms

of patronage for our 15th-

and 16th-century Italian


The figures are similarly bust


They look off into the distance.

They are seen in 3/4 view.

And this is perhaps where they

differ just a little bit

from the Antonello,

because Antonello has a greater

psychological penetration.

A recent exhibition mainly

of portraits in Milan

suggests the variety

of different human expression

that communicates inner emotion.

And in order to do that,

the figures necessarily have

to look out to the viewer,

whereas in most of the works

by Bellini,

they look off into the distance.

And so there

is this crucial difference

between them.

Even in those who are

identifiable, here in the 1475

Giovanni Bellini that is

of a great general

and ambassador, Giovanni Emo,


and this is done right

about the time that Antonello is

in Venice, as well, around 1475.

It's associated with the statue

that's by Antonio Rizzo that

is now, today, in Vicenza.

But originally, it was in Venice

in the church and monastery

of Santa Maria dei Servi

in Venice.

And so the two look closely


And he has been identified

with the ambassador's hat,

in this case,

and that magnificent brocade

that you see down below, as


Here, too, the attribution

has sometimes been argued

for Giovanni's brother, Gentile.

And unfortunately, we have

no work here by his brother

Gentile for comparison's sake.

I had the opportunity some years

ago, when we had

an extensive exhibition

of Venetian High Renaissance


to take a group

of Italian visitors from Padova.

And there was

a direct descendant who looked

precisely like this

on that tour.

Although Giovanni Bellini was

one of the major portraitists

working in Venice

in the latter part

of the 15th century, certainly,

he is best known for his images

of the Madonna and child.

And in this way, he forms a kind

of counterpart

to Raphael in Rome.

There are almost limitless

numbers in terms of Giovanni

and Giovanni's circle.

This Madonna and Child

in a Landscape

dates to about 1480, 1485.

As you look at it,

it is a delicate half length,

the model being somebody that we

feel that we could identify

on the street--

not overly idealized,

but a beautiful model


She wears two colors that are

traditional colors

for the Madonna, the blue

and the red-- the blue

for her role

as the queen of the heavens,

the red which symbolizes

the later crucifixion, the blood

of Christ.

And she is here with the Christ

child, who is on her robe

and placed on a parapet,

a beautifully marbled parapet.

And the child looks expectantly

up at her.

And in his hand,

he appears to have what

is a small apple.

And that apple is a symbol

of redemption, of the fall,

the original apple

from the fall, and then the idea

of redemption through Christ.

It is one of the sweeter,

I think, more touching images

of the Madonna

and child in the collection.

From relatively late

in his career,

we have Giovanni's image here

of St. Jerome in a landscape.

But clearly, if you wanted

an image of Saint Jerome,

you could have made him much

larger in scale in comparison

to the landscape.

And we know that Giovanni

Bellini is one

of the early artists

to really become enamored

of the depiction of nature,

of a society who is so

urban longing for the beauty

of the Veneto itself

and of nature.

The magnificent painting that's

in the Frick Collection in New

York, one of the great Venetian

paintings in America of St.

Francis in Ecstasy,

shows that affection

for landscape.

This smaller scale work will

suit our needs here, as well,

to understand that affection,

because St. Jerome, clearly

identified, having

a Bible in front of him,

reminding us

that his great accomplishment is

the translation of the Bible

from the Hebrew

and from the Greek

into the Vulgate,

into the Latin,

he sits on a little stone seed.

And you have him sitting

above a lion.

And that's another

of his attributes.

And he's outdoors by a well.

But in fact, he's not

out of doors entirely.

The architecture of the cave

at the top.

Tells us that he's

in an interior.

We are looking out

from the cave.

And what do we see

but careful detail of nature,

from the stones

to the grassy knoll to the trees

and shrubs

beyond to the water, perhaps

the lagoon,

to an island fortress

out in the lagoon

and some classical ruins,

as well.

And there is a panoply

of animals here, as well,

from the lizard

down below to the rabbits that

are there in the center

to the raven which sits up

in the branch all the way

at the top of the cave.

And many of these

have some symbolic value to us,

as well.

And I call your attention

particularly to those two

rabbits in the center who are


One of the aspects of St. Jerome

in his own writings--

his seclusion in the desert,

his leaving civilization behind

because of the seduction

of classical literature,

because of the interest

in classics--

he writes about how Christ

appears to him in a dream

and says, you're not

a Christian.

You're a Ciceronian.



in classical literature.

So he absents himself

from the great cities.

And he is one of the first

of the great monastic fathers.

But he also describes

vivid dreams, sexually charged

dreams, that he has

and how he has to render

his flesh with a stone

to keep this kind of thought


And so I'm suggesting here

that those two rabbits represent

lust, especially given that they

are nuzzling each other

around what are clearly fig


which are references

to original sin.

And I don't think it's

an accident that these are just

in the center of the painting.

At approximately the same time,

he does the image that you see

here, the upper of these two


His brother-in-law, Mantegna,

who we'll talk

about a little bit more

in a moment,

had taken a commission,

although he was working largely

in Mantova.

His brother-in-law, Mantegna,

had married into the Bellini

family in 1453, marrying


He had done

both religious works--

altar pieces, prints-- but also

had done a number of scenes that

were based on ancient history.

He does give him a commission,

drawings, and preparations

to do a set of four

of these long, thin paintings,

paintings that are about 2

and 1/2 feet tall

and about 12 feet wide.

And the commission comes

from Francesco Corner, probably

for the Palazzo Corner Mocenigo.

But he dies after completing

only one of the four,

the one that you see here

on the screen, the lower one.

And these are scenes, episodes,

from the life of Publius

Cornelius Scipio, and the family

was trying to establish a kind

of descent from this noble Roman


And so Bellini takes up

the project and completes

the project.

And so we have in the National

Gallery's collection

this painting.

And you'll see that it is done

in grisaille.

So it is meant to imitate stone

carving against a rich stone


It is done monochromatically,

using just black and white

against the richness

of that red.

It appears that this was

the first time that Bellini had

moved away

from portraiture or religious


that this is really

his first secular subject.

And perhaps he

and his brother-in-law

had made a kind of agreement

that he wouldn't indulge

in the same kinds of subjects

that Mantegna specialized in,

as well.

Mantegna is responsible,

we believe,

for this gem in the collection,

this image of Judith

and Holofernes.

That dates to about 1495

to 1500.

And this is a painting that

comes to us from the Weidner


It is typical of the work

that Mantegna was doing

in this period.

If you look at Judith,

she is very sculptural and three


There is a very sharp edge

and contour to everything here.

What's the story?

What episode in the story

does this depict?

In fact, it has to do

with Judith, who is a widow,

and an Israelite

while they're being besieged

by the Assyrian general,


And as a kind of ruse,

she pretends to leave

the Israelites behind, Bethulia.

And she begins to spend time

in the tent of the Assyrian


And he comes home one night

completely drunk, and she severs

his head and puts it in a bag.

And this will be shown and put

the Assyrians to flight.

Here she is with her servant

with the bag which had been

intended to bring her food back

and forth,

which was

different than the food

that the Assyrians would eat.

And so it is, in its own way,

an early example of recycling.

You can see

the small, quasi-grotesque,

almost humorous image

of the foot of Holofernes there

sticking up

on the bed in the background,

balancing the head.

Mantegna is a great colorist.

Notice the variations in tone

on the tent,

on the blue of the garment

with gold highlights,

on the orange that

is of the servant,

and, down below, the details

of the hard edges of the stone

platform that they inhabit.

All of these

are characteristic of Mantegna

and the people who are very

close to Mantegna.

We've talked about Giovanni


And it is undoubtedly Giovanni

Bellini who trains

the vast majority

of the important artists

for the first half

of the 16th century in Venice.

And among the artists that come

out of his orbit, certainly,

Carpaccio is one of the most


And we see him here

in a painting that came

from Andrew Mellon, 1515, panel

of The Flight into Egypt.

The careful attention

to the detail of costume,

the sense of the narrative,

the landscape of the Veneto

in the background, all of these

are characteristic of Carpaccio

at his best.

And we are looking forward

to having a larger display

installation of Carpaccio

in future years.

And here, I think,

you can see right away

his talent for evoking

the detail of the costume

and all of the various colors

without going too deeply

into the emotional state

of the figures.

Along with Carpaccio,

another artist that comes out

of the orbit of Bellini

is Cima da Conegliano, Cima

from the Veneto town

of Conegliano.

Born in 1459,

he comes to Venice.

We don't actually have

documentation that he was

in the studio.

But his work carefully parallels

that of Bellini--

again, hard-edged contours,

figures that are carefully


images of compositional harmony,

of plasticity,

of clear spatial arrangements,

of warm color, and, I think most


inhabiting the landscape

of the Veneto,

of the area around Conegliano.

Today, the great home

of Prosecco, but in those days,

the beautiful rolling hillsides

leading up toward the Dolomites

and the foothills of the Alp--

very endearing to people

living in Venice itself.

Again, it reflects the influence

of Bellini's work in the '70s

and '80s here with the Madonna

and child

who are seen with St. Jerome

on one side

and St. John the Baptist

holding his reed cross

on the other.

You may find

the long-bearded man on the left

in other paintings.

He seems to have posed

for a number of these artists,

including not only Cima

but including Bellini

and perhaps the young Titian, as


Cima certainly must have known

Giovanni Bellini's approach

to St. Jerome--

St. Jerome, one

of the great heroes

of the humanist society

of Venice

and of Italy in general

in the 15th and early 16th

century, a man who was

both devoted to religion

but knowledgeable

in the classics, in literature.

Here, St. Jerome in a Landscape

from about 1500,

this from the collection

of Samuel Kress.

And here, we see the figure

of St. Jerome.

And here, he has the stone

in his hands

as he renders his flesh

in this way in front

of that crucifixion.

But there, the blue

of the Dolomites

seem quite clearly

in the distance.

One of the magical names

in the history of art

and certainly of Italian

and Venetian painting

is Giorgione, whose early death

left us with only a few works,

only one signed, and rather

difficult, sometimes, to date.

We are enormously

proud of having this Giorgione

in the collection-- again,

from the Kress family, a work

dating to about 1505 to 1510,

the last few years

of Giorgione's life.

It is an adoration

of the shepherds, and it shows

us a number of elements that are


First of all,

instead of it being an adoration

of the kings, which was much

more popular

in the 15th century,

it is an adoration

of the shepherds.

And the shepherds take front

and center in pride of place.

The holy family has been

displaced over to the right.

They are in front of the cave,

and the cave is more

traditionally associated

with Byzantine nativities.

But here, Venice, often thinking

back of its Byzantine origins,

has them outside of a cave

with Joseph, Mary kneeling down,

the Christ child on a bit

of the edges of her cloak.

You can see that she is still

wearing the blue and red

that these would have been

conventions that were widely


But we're brought front

and center to those two


to those two shepherds,

and other shepherds that can be

seen in the distance.

And now, we have

another influence that

is essential to understand

Venetian painting

in the 16th century.

Leonardo has visited Venice.

He must have interacted

with the small artistic

community as Durer visited

and interacted

with that community.

It is through Leonardo that we

get this sense of atmosphere,

of tangible atmosphere.

And you'll notice

that the Madonna and St. Joseph

are not hard edged,

but the edges of their garments

fade slightly

into the atmosphere of the cave.

And we look back

into the shadows of the cave

and see the ox and the ass,

the first witnesses of the birth

of Christ according to the New

Testament narrative.

And they disappear back

into the mist,

as do the cherubim,

those winged heads that are

angels back there at the top

of the cave.

And so one half

of the composition is given over

to the narrative but not

the other half.

The other half is given over

to an affection for nature,

of water coming down,

of fields in the distance,

of the blue of the Dolomites.

And so this is carefully


It is very much

a pastoral scene.

I think there's something else

that's interesting here.

As, over the last few months,

we've talked about Tintoretto

and the need

to look at Tintoretto

from particular angles, the fact

that he implies

certain viewpoints,

I think if you came

to this painting from one side,

from over to the left,

that the figures would seem more

towards the center,

that the landscape wouldn't

perhaps appear as important.

And we don't know

its original location.

But I would suggest that it

would be crucial to understand.

Beyond that, I want to mention

something else.

As you look at the torn garments

of the shepherds

and it's the Christ child there

on the ground next to one

of the shepherds' hats,

you'll notice, just

above the child,

there is a fence,

a wattle fence.

Well, the wattle fence

was generally used to keep

the animals penned up.

It could sometimes be used

around the Madonna.

But in this case,

it has a particular function.

It has nothing to do

with the animals.

Instead, it clearly separates

Joseph from the Madonna,

suggesting that he has nothing

to do with the birth

of this child.

And I think

that's crucial for us

to understand, as well.

And there is that loving

appearance of the landscape

over on the left.

And you can see, all the way

to the upper left, an angel

coming down to announce

to the shepherds

that they should go and seek

the Christ child.

And so there is a bit

of archaic narration--

two scenes, rather than simply

one, within the same landscape,

within the same moment.

Giorgione's influence on younger

artists can't be overstated.

I use this example

from the Accademia Galleries

in Venice of col tempo of La

[? Vecchia, ?] the older woman,

to mention Giorgione's not only

understanding of atmosphere

but his move away

from idealization to a greater


This older woman, her teeth

ground down, her skin stretched,

she holds a banner, col tempo,

with time,

reminding us

of the biblical quotation,

"As I am now, you will be.

As you are now, I once was,"

that time is a great factor.

Well, I think this will have

an impact when we go to look

at some of the other paintings

that date from about

this same moment.

And so here, a painting that

at one time was, in fact,

attributed to Giorgione,

I think

for this particular reason.

It is called Portrait

of a Venetian Gentleman,

although I have often thought

he's not really a gentleman.

His hand slams down on the book.

He suggests that he is not

happy, and he certainly doesn't

seem to be enjoying posing

for a portrait.

It's a painting that recently

has been

re-attributed to Giovanni

Cariani, who was

an important pupil of Bellini,

who was influenced by Giorgione

and Titian, who comes to Venice

and does this painting,

probably around 1510.

As you look at the Cariani here,

it's had a number

of major changes.

It has pentimenti, where

the artist repented and made


And so clearly, from looking

at the entire painting

there on the left,

you can see that the wall has

been built up, that the wall was

originally lower.

What you can't see that X-rays

revealed to us

is that originally, the figure

held a sword hilt in his hand

before there was a book.

And that must have seemed

particularly aggressive.

And so that was taken out.

The book was placed there so

that his hand rested.

And initially, there was

something else in his hand.

And that's why I have reproduced

the detail on the right,

because you can see,

if you look carefully,

that originally, that hand held

a dagger.

And the dagger was painted out.

And instead, this bit of cloth,

which I think is a purse,

and it's deliberately

below that window, which

is a view of the Ducale Palace

in Venice

on an angle that would suggest

that it's being done

from the customs house,

indicating that this is

a merchant that has business

with the Ducale Palace

and with the government.

Cariani was represented

in the collection

by other paintings

before this one was attributed.

The VVO probably suggests

that the painting was done

from life.

Giorgione's influence

and the early Titian's influence

can be seen in other works,

including this work by Sebastian

del Piombo.

And this is a portrait

of a woman as a wise virgin.

It dates from about

the same time, about 1510,

and comes to us from the Kress


We know that Sebastian del

Piombo was trained by Bellini.

And yet he is clearly influenced

by the young Giorgione

in the way the figure emerges

out of the shadow,

surrounded by atmosphere

and, to a certain extent,


I think this is one

of the unsung paintings

in the collection.

Sebastiano, before he leaves

Rome in 1511, shows the ability

to convey a sense of the fabric,

of the skin tones,

of the animation of this figure,

both statuesque and central.

And we are blessed to have

this painting, also

by Sebastiano del Piombo,

of the period after he goes

to Rome of Cardinal Bandinello

Sauli, His Secretary, and Two


a painting that is dated

to 1516,

a painting that shows

the interaction

of these various figures

and shows Sebastiano,

I think, at his best,

both as a portraitist

and as a painter

of decorative objects,

as well, from the bell

to the geography book, the maps,

to that marvelous carpet

on the table,

to the detail of the Catalano,

of the piece of paper

to the lower right-hand corner,

to the illusionistic fly that

walks as if on the surface

of the painting.

Countless visitors have reported

to us that there is a fly

walking on our painting.

And there, you can see it.

It is trompe-l'oeil.

It is meant to fool the eye.

It's a kind

of intellectual game.

And it takes all of us

in the first time we see it.

We look closely, thinking

that it's just

a fly on the surface

of the painting

or perhaps on his leg.

It's a little bit

of that inventiveness

and that imagination

for which we prize Renaissance

painting so much.

I thought this would make

a nice comparison.

This is the second Cariani

that I wanted to show you,

the Concert from a little bit

later, from 1518, 1520.

As you look,

the characterization

of the three figures--

very individualized,

not meant to be idealized

in any way.

The figure in the center

of the lute player,

perhaps with his pupil

over to our right and his tutor

over here to the left,

suggesting the importance of art

as part of the education.

There is, I think,

an incisive talent

in the ability

to render that hat, the fur,

the instrument, the little box

that held extra strings

for the lute,

or even the rag where the lutist

would have to dry his fingers

every so

often in a marvelous conceit.

So all of these

are aspects of Cariani, who

is not really sufficiently well

known today.

From the same decade, one of, I

think, the most significant

of the painter's paintings


in the permanent collection,

this image comes to us

from the Weidner family.

It is of The Feast of the Gods.

As so many images derived

from this period,

it comes from Ovid's work but

not, in this case,

from Ovid's Metamorphoses,

which is a kind of treasure

trove of stories

for Italian painters

who want to demonstrate

their erudition and patrons who

want to give that same idea.

In this case, it's from Ovid's


And this was commissioned very

late in life, well, probably,

into his 80s,

from Giovanni Bellini.

And it was commissioned

for the court in Ferrara

by Alfonso d'Este

for his Camerino d'Alabastro,

his alabaster room.

It held his great treasures--

wonderful rocks,

marvelous examples of sculpture,

great paintings from around

the peninsula.

And so he begins to work

on this large painting, which

is some 5 and 1/2 feet tall

and a little over 6 feet wide.

He begins.

And the Fasti, the feasts,

are explanations of Roman


In this case,

it is the explanation


of this great celebration

toward the end of the year

or toward the end of February.

And the story has to do

with Thebes and the celebration

in Thebes.

And partway

through the commission,

he is asked to make it

into a feast to the gods.

And so by necessity,

he has to put in attributes.

So reading from left to right,

we see a satyr next to Silenus

and his donkey

with the young Bacchus

pouring wine there in blue.

Beyond, seated on the ground

with the helmet

and the caduceus, Mercury.

Next to him,

Jupiter with his eagle.

Beyond that, Neptune

with his trident on the ground,

Apollo with the viola de braccio

held all the way

over beneath the legs

of Priapus,

the Roman god of procreation,

and then the nymph, Lotis, all

the way over there on the right.

The story goes

that after a long night

of partying, that early

in the morning,

Priapus develops a lust

for the woodland nymph who's

fallen asleep all the way

over there

in the corner on the right

and that he is shown beginning

to lift her drapery.

He's shown in an advanced state

of excitement.

I am a federal employee,

after all.

And just at that moment,

the donkey brays and wakes

everyone up.

He's furious.

She runs off.

And Priapus demands

the sacrifice of the donkey,

explaining why, on the feast day

of Priapus,

a donkey is sacrificed.

Shakespeare makes allusions

to this in Julius Caesar.

And so it explains one

of these feasts.

But you're not seeing it today

as it was originally intended,

because we know that two years

later, Titian comes

to the employ of Alfonso d'Este

as well.

And he will do a series

of images

based on mythological stories.

And later on, he will change

this painting.

And so here

is a digital reconstruction

of what it probably looked

like when it was first done.

And in a way, we get that sense

of the sun just coming up

through this group of trees.

In another way, it seems rather

busy to us

once we're used

to that background.

I am at, I think, some need

to also give thanks here

to David Brown, whose new book

this will be in on Giovanni

Bellini: The Last Works.

And David Brown

is our longtime curator

of Renaissance painting.

And David has done really

substantial research

to establish the origins

and the development

of this painting.

And so here, you see

those figures.

And you can see their attributes

a little more clearly.

And you can see how all

of those figures on the left

are now silhouetted

against that great hill.

And that hill is the product

of Titian's revision.

So Titian begins to work

for Alfonso d'Este does a series

of paintings that include

this painting.

This is The Bacchanal

of the Andrians, Bacchus

arriving on the island

of the Andrians.

And you can see

its rich, coloristic effects

and expression

with formal elegance.

This is Titian responding

to Bellini,

now assuming the role of Bellini

as the most important master

in Venice.

And in Venice, often, there

is this rivalry.

Even after an artist is gone,

there is, it seems, a rivalry

with the remaining works

of that master

and trying to outdo and surpass

that master.

And so the painting that you see

here on the left

was meant to go with The Feast

of the Gods.

Today, this is a painting that

is in the Prado

along with a third work that

comes from the camerino


And you can see how

the landscape now meets

between the two.

And Titian uses a kind

of Giorgionesque landscape,

much more atmospheric, much more


to set off those figures as


to the way they looked in front

of that screen of trees.

And not only does he connect

the landscape,

but I would suggest


in that voluptuous

nude on the lower right

side of the Andrians,

he is showing Bellini what

a voluptuous nude should look

like as opposed to the figure

of Lotus that simply leaned

against the tree

on the lower

right of the Bellini,

that this sense of rivalry


The other painting

from this sequence,

actually also in the Prado,

is this painting, The Worship

of Venus,

this 6-foot square painting,

which is based on a description

that Titian would have known

by the ancient philosopher,

Philostratus, of putti who were

gathering apples in front

of Venus.

I think, in fact,

without spending too much time

here, because it's not

in our collection,

it is Titian's celebration

of children, of them pushing

and pinching and playing

and seeming to look out,

mock embarrassed at us watching

all of that activity.

And it is really stunning

to see in person in Madrid.

But here, we have some

of Titian's great portraits.

And so we have this work of Doge

Andrea Gritti from 1546

to perhaps 1550, a painting

with a noble provenance,

a noble history, at one time

owned by King Charles I

in England from 1626

until his death.

It is an image of strength,

Doge Andrea Gritti,

that powerful countenance

staring out, the ducal robe

with the great hollow decorative

balls on it, that strong hand

sweeping up his drapery as he

strides forward.

Now, this

is a posthumous portrait.

But it is meant to convey all

the power

and majesty that the Doge had

at the time.

We know that Titian had only

recently returned from Rome.

In Rome, he had seen the work

of Michelangelo

and met with Michelangelo.

And I would suggest

that that very strong visage

and that hand gathering up

the material

are responses to him seeing

the Moses and that strong hand

intertwined in Moses' beard

and that great glare of Moses'

face, that sense of terribilita.

Vasari tells us that Titian

and Michelangelo met.

They admired one another

and their works.

But Vasari also tells us

that after Titian leaves,

Michelangelo says,

Titian is a great painter.

It's too bad he never learned

to draw,

the comparison here being

the idea of Florentine artists

who specialized in disegno

in drawing,

as opposed to the color

and mass that is used,

light and shadow, to depict form

in Venetian painting.

Well, we are very pleased that

we have not only the painting

of Doge Andrea Gritti but this

image from slightly earlier

of Ranuccio Farnese, who is

the 12-year-old nephew of Pope

Paul III--

sorry, grandson of Pope Paul


who already, at the age of 12,

had been made an officer,

the [ITALIAN] of the Knights

of Malta over their property

in Venice.

Titian here struggled to give

a 12-year-old the stature

of a serious adult, as befits

his role.

By 14, he was the archbishop

of Naples.

He was the bishop later

of Bologna, of Milan,

of Ravenna.

He died by the age of 35.

But clearly, Titian wants

to capture a boy in the role

of a man.

He gives him this cloak,

but it's oversized.

He restrains himself to the use

of black and white

and a little bit of rose color.

And that rose color comes

from painting the vestment white

and then by a series of glazes

until it seems to glow as it

rivals the satin of the cross

of Malta on the robe.

It is, I think, one of the most

important images of childhood

seeking adulthood that we have

in the 16th century.

Titian returned

to mythological subjects.

Here, from the Mellon

Collection, the painting

of Venus in the mirror

with these two cupids holding up

the mirror as she admirers

herself in the mirror

but not just looking at herself.

The mirror is at an angle.

As she looks toward the mirror,

she looks at us.

And so we're caught looking

at her.

Titian's opulent use of flesh,

his magnificent sense

of the materials--

Italians would say [ITALIAN],

what materials these are, what


the fur, the satin, the silk,

and the way in which the figure

emerges out.

And we look back to Titian

as one of the great originators

of the images of Venus

that then come down to us

through the centuries.

Venus and Adonis, one

of a number of versions that he

did based on the story of Venus

and Adonis

from Ovid's Metamorphoses

from Book 10.

Here, Venus pleads with Adonis

not to go off on the hunt.

She knows that he will be


She knows that he'll be gored.

And there's a sense

of the ominous light

off there in the distance,

the dogs already sensing

the kind of disaster to come.

The richness, the fullness

of these figures, the rounding

of these forms,

and Titian's particular ability

to capture the human figure

in motion

all characterize this work.

Just now, we are putting

this painting back up

on the ground floor

on the ceiling,

because it was painted

for the Scuola San Giovanni


It is of St. John on Patmos.

It is meant to be viewed

from below looking up,

[ITALIAN] from below looking up.

As we look past the figures

toward the sky above,

it is interesting to note

this painting,

because it was almost

undoubtedly the inspiration

for the San Rocco in Glory

that we've discussed so much

in terms of the Tintoretto

exhibition more recently.

And so onto Tintoretto.

And this painting

was in the first room

of the Tintoretto exhibition.

It's an early painting

from about 1544,

The Conversion of Saul.

And I wanted to show you

this painting just after we

looked at Titian's work.

The story of the conversion

of Saul--

why do you pursue me, Saul?--

from Acts 9, lines 3 to 7,

is a story that parallels

the idea of the victory

of the church

over their adversaries.

It was a popular story

at the time.

Michelangelo had done drawings

of it.

But here, it's combined

with another scene.

So when you look to the right,

you'll see there is a bridge,

and there's a horseman

on that bridge.

So while there is inspiration

from central Italian art,

Tintoretto, perhaps recently out

of Titian's studio,

would have been

aware of a painting now gone,

destroyed in the fire

in the Doge's Palace in 1577,

a painting for the Battle

of Spoleto.

And this

is the preparatory drawing that

represents what it looked like.

And we can see the figures

on the bridge.

And this is Titian.

And so we can see

that that common theme, the idea

of taking the drawing

of Michelangelo

and the painting of Titian,

comes together in a number

of those early works,

as I've discussed at some length

in the four lectures

that we did on Tintoretto

in Context, a place where we

would have discussed

this painting, as


from the permanent collection--

Doge Alvise Mocenigo

and the Dogaresa, Loredana,

shown here.

And we're pleased that we were

able to have

the separate portrait

of his brother, Giovanni,

the figure

that you see here

on the extreme left.

And here, Alvise, the Doge

from 1570 to '77

at a crucial time in Venetian

history, and his wife, Loredana,

pay homage,

devotional attention,

to the Madonna

and child and those angels

that you see on either side,

those music-making angels.

The two figures

to the extreme right

are, in fact, the children

of Giovanni, because this is not

simply a group portrait

but a dynastic portrait.

It suggests to us

that since the Doge Alvise

and Loredana had no children,

his wealth and his interest

in the family firm

would go through Giovanni

to his children's, Marco

and [? Alvisetti ?] over there

on the right.

And there are the two brothers,

Giovanni and Alvise, Alvise

kneeling down with the Doge's


on with that magnificent ermine

cloak and the lynx that forms

the fur which is the lining

of both of those garments.

In fact, if we look very

clearly, we can see that this is

perhaps not the first version

of the painting.

Because in fact, Giovanni's

head, the heads of the two sons,

and the upper part of Loredana

were all cut out

of another canvas.

They were then adhered

to this canvas.

And perhaps the earlier canvas

had been damaged either by fire

or water, and they hoped to save

these images.

And so these are patches, if you

will, of both the boys' heads

and of Loredana.

And I hope that you'll take

a good close look to be

able to see how they've been

applied to the canvas.

In the exhibition,

they were

adjacent to this image.

We don't know the identity

of this figure, but it certainly

is a figure of authority

and grandeur.

It is one of Tintoretto's most

impressive displays

of portraiture, of this figure

engulfed in these robes

with beautiful lynx linings

towering up above us.

Generally, he was more in favor

of a half length.

Here, we get an almost

full-length figure of a type

that wouldn't have been

the normal format

in an official portrait.

So this is probably something

done for somebody

for their private palace, where

people would come, admire it,

understand the social standing

of the sitter

but not simply display it

in the public.

Generally speaking, we would

talk about El Greco

as a Spanish artist.

But in fact, he's born on Crete

while Crete is part

of the Venetian empire.

And he comes to Venice, relearns

his art, 1567 to '70.

And it's undoubtedly true

that he is much influenced

by Tintoretto and, to a lesser

extent, by Veronese.

And you can see that

in this painting of Christ

Cleansing the Temple--

the architecture very much

the kind of Palladian

classical architecture

that was being done in Venice

at the time

and being rendered by Veronese

and the colors

and the way in which the paint

is used very much

similar to Tintoretto.

And it's not completely

out of the question

that he was in Tintoretto's

workshop for a little while

at this moment.

Some years ago, if you'd come

to the gallery, this would have

been identified also

as Tintoretto.

Now, it's thought of as circle

of Tintoretto,

perhaps one of his pupils,

Lambert Sustris, a Dutch artist

working with him,

this scene from the Gospel

of St. John.

And you can see that even this

has a certain element

in the rapidity

of the brushwork, the bravura

quality that was attributed

in the early 20th century

to El Greco.

The last

of the great 16th century

artists that we need to mention

here is Veronese.

We have a nice collection

of Veronese from this Mellon

work from 1481, '82 that shows

the finding of Moses.

Veronese notable for his ability

to render the most

beautiful, ornate fabrics

and costumes

that the Venetian nobility,

in fact, wore.

We can see that here.

And it's in contrast

to this image of St. Jerome.

And here, St. Jerome really does

dominate the composition--

the bible open, a crucifix

on the bible.

You'll notice that it's leaned.

I think this is a very clever


It's leaned on a skull.

And just beyond St. Jerome's

wrist, an hourglass, the idea

that life is ephemeral,

that the afterlife is eternal,

a kind of vanitas.

We see the rugged body

of the saint and that red robe

which is associated

with cardinals,

because it was thought that he

had been a cardinal.

But what does he hold

in the other hand?

One hand holds the book up,

but the other hand holds

a rock-- again, an allusion

to these erotically

charged dreams that he had had.

The most recent Veronese, now

30 years ago,

to come into the collection--

The Last Communion of St. Lucy.

And I think it is the work that

shows best both a very emotional

response, when we're talking

about Counter-Reformation times,

and also

the kind of architecture

that Veronese was

capable of even

on this slightly smaller scale.

And this is done no more

than two or three years

before his death

at the age of 60 in 1588.

With the death of Veronese

and Tintoretto within six years,

we generally date the end

of the golden age of the High

Renaissance in Venice.

There are artists who continue

in the scope of Tintoretto's


certainly, this artist, Palma

Giovane, who worked

with Tintoretto in the Doge's

Palace and then continued

to do Renaissance painting even

into the 17th century,

here with this image

of the Lamentation

over the Dead Christ,

done at around 1620.

But largely, in Venice,

17th-century painting

was dominated by foreigners--

by Johann Loth

and by [? Bankovich ?]

and others.

It wasn't until the very end

of the 17th century

that there is one

last great flowering of Venetian


And as I started

the 15th and 16th century

by Jacopo de' Barbari,

I wanted to start by looking

at the Lodovico Ughi map of 1729

with inserts of important places

in Venice

along the outside that include

works by Carlevarijs

and Canaletto

and others showing

these important places.

The idea of view painting

derives from a dutchman, Caspar

van Wittel, who comes down

to Rome and does views of Rome

and then comes up to Venice

around the latter part

of the 1690s.

By this time,

he's changed his name

to Vanvitelli

and becomes a major influence

on Venetian veduta, view


And the first of these view

painters that we will see

was not the earliest Venetian.

That would be Carlevarijs.

But we have no Carlevarijs

paintings, and so I'm going

to center on Canaletto

and his contemporaries

for the last part

of the lecture.

This is a view of the Piazza San


It shows, from left to right,

the Basilica of San Marco,

consecrated in 1090; the Doge's

Palace there in the center,

in the pink and white marble;

over to the right, the guard

house by Sansovino; and just

along the edge of the painting,

you can see the Campanile,

the bell tower.

And it is that bell tower that's

responsible for the shadow that

crosses the scene that tells us

that it is a specific time

of day.

The long shadows would say it is

late afternoon.

As you look at the painting,

a variety of activity, including

the merchants, who are closing

up their shops; in the distance,

a Dominican preaching in front

of the Doge's

Palace; the dentist all the way

over here to the right,

that large tooth with a smaller

tooth hanging from it, where

there was a dental office.

And dentistry was practiced

during the daytime

but not into the evening.

These are elements that suggests

to us that Canaletto made


and that these are

accurate views.


These are views that were

actually done

for the grand tourists who were

coming to Italy at the time,

for British and French

aristocrats completing

their education by going

to Rome,

by going to Naples, by going

to Florence and going to Venice.

And yet the evidence belies

the truth of the scene,

because in fact, this is the one

preparatory drawing we have.

And I want you to notice

the relationship of the Basilica

and the Doge's Palace

and where those three flagpoles

come in, those flagpoles which

date to about 1500,

because their angle will help

tell us exactly where Canaletto

was when he did the drawing.

And so you can see

those flagpoles

in this photograph

precisely at the same point

they were in the drawing.

And you will notice that you

cannot, in fact, see the lagoon.

You can't see the Bacino.

It's covered by not only

the Campanile

but by the Sansovino guard


And so, in fact, these views

are often composite views.

The artist takes

artistic liberty knowing

that they can be assured

that when the painting arrives

in England or in France,

nobody will have Google

maps to compare it to.

Nobody will have views that will


Instead, it answers

the possibility that they

remember being in the Piazza,

remember seeing the water

beyond, even if it wasn't

consistent from that one spot.

It is paired with this painting.

And these two paintings were

given to us back in 1945

by Barbara Hutton.

Barbara Hutton, the Woolworth

heiress, actually owned

a small building just

to the left of the arches

in this painting,

the former Abbey of San


She owned that and gave it

to Cary Grant

when she married Cary Grant

in 1942.

It's a wedding gift.

They were divorced in 1945,

at which point

we received the paintings.

Perhaps it was

a painful reminder of this gift

that she no longer wanted

to have around the house.

This view continues the panoply

of architecture, including

the Salute that you see here,

the great dome

of the votive church

of Longhena.

You'll notice that there is

a large ship with the British

Union Jack here in the harbor,

a reminder about who the patrons

are for these paintings.

Guardi, perhaps Canaletto's

greatest follower, similarly

took liberties, although we have

the Rialto Bridge here.

In fact, the two banks should be


The one on the left,

where, traditionally, wine was

delivered, the one on the right,

the Riva del Carbon where coal

was delivered,

they are parallel.

Here, they're splayed out so

that, pictorially, they form

orthogonals that lead us

to the Rialto Bridge, which

is made even a little bit

thinner than it actually is.

He used the same strategy

on the Cannaregio Canal

with the Tre Arche, this bridge

which had only recently been

renovated, because the banks

on either side of this canal

should also be parallel.

And they are splayed quite wide

for pictorial purposes.

From the 18th century, we also

have the greatest

of the figural painters--

in many ways, the greatest

follower of Veronese.

And that includes the work

of Giovanni Battista Tiepolo,

seen here in the relatively

early Bacchus and Ariadne,

only recently cleaned,

on display in lobby B. It had

been over painted.


of these architectural elements

had been over painted,

because they fit in

with the original architecture.

And once it was no longer

in place, somebody felt the need

to cover these over.

We Have now exposed them

for the first time

probably in the last 200 years.

And you can see Bacchus

and Ariadne in all

its original luster in lobby B.

We have a fine collection

of works by Giovanni Battista

Tiepolo and his son, Domenico.

Here, the Apollo and Daphne

of 1755, one of, I think,

the foremost mythological

paintings in the collection--

Apollo as he chases Daphne,

the daughter of Peneus,

the river god, shown

with his jug, the origins

of a river, and as he closes in

on her, as she asks to be saved

and he has her

turned into a tree.

The laurel leaves will become

Apollo's mark.

He already has them here,

perhaps something of an anomaly.

NTA [INAUDIBLE] a picture

of this as having taken place

in the nearby Dolomites.

We have a number

of significant examples,

including this modelo,

the largest of the 18th century

models for paintings here

for the ceiling

of the great palace in Madrid

after Tiepolo had gone

for the last eight years

of his life to work

for Spanish patrons.

And here, Wealth and Benefits

of the Spanish Monarchy

under Charles III, done in 1762,

just prior to leaving.

You won't have had the chance

to compare these two paintings,

but they're here

in the collection.

They are both considered to be

by Giovanni Battista Tiepolo,

the Madonna and child

of the goldfinch.

Well, two slightly

different solutions, one

with the child

holding onto a little string

connecting down to control

the goldfinch, the goldfinch

thought to be a symbol

of charity,

because it's eight thorns.

It plucked the thorns out

of the crown of thorns.

It's symbolic of a later episode

of Christ's life.

In the other,

he holds onto his mother's cowl

and holds the bird

in the other hand.

Just two different solutions,

but interesting nonetheless.

And finally, one painting

that he did of a figure,

a painting that underwent

some change as it was painted.

Because while we see it this way

today, the girl with the fan

dressed in carnival costume,

X-rays reveal that, originally,

the fan was open, giving a very

different message.

What I've tried to do

in the brief time that we've had

together is to talk about some

of the highlights

of the Venetian painting


I am closing with this work

by Bernardo Bellotto,

Canaletto's nephew, of The Campo

San Giovanni e Paolo

with the great statue

that you see there

of the General Colleone,

done by Verrocchio.

It is both a reminder to me

to mention to you

the great Verrocchio show

that we will be having coming

this autumn

and also serves to remind me

to mention


over the next several weeks,

you'll have the opportunity

to hear about masterpieces

in the collection

of American art

and of British art


in the holdings of the National


Thanks so much.


The Description of Celebrating the Old Master Collections of the National Gallery of Art: Venetian Painting, 1350-1800