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583, p. 53), while Piero used to represent curls in a thin and threadlike shape. The ornament on the left sleeve of the lady also reminds one of the decoration on the standard ” (Richter, p. 17).
This and the other profile head ascribed to Piero (585) “are probably the earliest specimens we have in the National Gallery of pure portraits, i.e. pictures devoted simply to record the likeness of an individual, first introduced as donors into votive pictures, and next as actors in scenes from sacred history and legend. Portraits have at length made good their claim to a separate existence in pictorial art” (Monkhouse, p. 41). 665. THE BAPTISM OF CHRIST. Piero della Francesca (Borgo S. Sepolcro : 1416-1492).
See under 908, p. 120. A picture of great interest from a technical point of view, as showing an advancing skill, especially in perspective. The feet of Christ are finely “foreshortened”; the tops of the mountains are correctly reflected on the surface of the river in the foreground; in the middle distance there is a foreshortened view of a street leading to a fortified town, and the anatomy of the figure stripping himself for baptism is very carefully rendered. In these technical respects Piero resembles Paolo Uccello, while there is also a striking affinity of style between the landscapes of the two painters. “The peculiar construction of these landscapes, with steep mountains of an uncommon type, is the more remarkable because they are the starting-point of all the later achievements in realistic landscape painting” (Richter, p. 16). The subject is the baptism in Jordan. Christ, under the shade of a pomegranate tree, is being “baptized by John in Jordan; and straightway coming up out of the water, he saw the heavens opened, and the Spirit, like a dove, descending upon him” (Mark i. 9, 10). The spiritual feeling of the scene is enhanced by the sweet presence of the attendant angels. It is an old belief that angels watch over men's birth, and so too they are represented as presiding over the new birth which is typified by the rite of baptism. 585. PORTRAIT OF ISOTTA DA RIMINI. Piero della Francesca ( Borgo S. Sepolcro : 1416-1492).
See under 908, p. 120. The portrait of a remarkable woman-remarkable alike in herself and as the good spirit in the strangely contradictory
life of her husband. She was the fourth and last wife of Sigis mondo Malatesta (nephew of the Malatesta of III. 583, p. 53), Lord of Rimini (1417-1468). Though a man of unbridled passions, he remained from his youth to the day of his death her devoted lover. For her he became a poet, and in her honour he built in after years the famous church of St. Francis at Rimini. She herself was widely celebrated for her culture, firmness, and beauty (the high forehead so conspicuous here was then the fashion), and when her husband was away she governed Rimini wisely and well, nor was she ever so much as suspected of any complicity in her husband's crimes. The leading poets of the court wrote verses in her praise, and the Pope declared her to be a woman worthy to be loved.
910. THE TRIUMPH OF CHASTITY.
Luca Signorelli (1441-1523). See under 1128, p. 117. “This fresco painting transferred to canvas,” says Richter, p. 49, “and signed with the forged inscription, LUCAS CORITIUS, is a weak and much damaged production by Genga,” his assistant at Orvieto. In the foreground Cupid on his knees is bound by maidens; in the distance there are two other groups, in one of which the god of love is being captured, in the other he is led away in triumph with his arms pinioned behind him. 1218, 1219. JOSEPH AND HIS BRETHREN.
Francesco Ubertini, called Il Bacchiacca
(Florentine : 1494-1557). Francesco, the son of Ubertino, a goldsmith, and nicknamed Il Bacchiacca, was a friend and disciple of Andrea del Sarto ; but having also been a pupil of Perugino, he is included in the Umbrian School. These panels probably decorated the room in the house at Florence, from which Pontormo's picture of Joseph also comes (see I. 1131, P. 32, and of. Vasari, ii. 396; iv. 492).
Several incidents occur in each of the two pictures, but the main figures constantly recur, and we recognise them by their dress and look. (1218). On the left, in this picture, are Joseph's brethren travelling in search of corn towards the land of Egypt, quaint figures in fantastic dresses, with little Benjamin, a child in a blue frock, and Reuben weeping, and another brother trying in vain to console him. “And the famine was sore in the land. ... And the men took ... Benjamin ; and rose up, and went down to Egypt” (Genesis xliii. I, 15). On the right in the same picture is Joseph welcoming his brothers in the portico of the palace, Pharaoh's armed guard outside looking rather grimly and inhospitably on the intruders. The landscape is green and picturesque. It is noticeable that blue (the colour of hope) is here made sacred to Joseph and Benjamin, the children of promise, who are in every instance dressed alike.
(1219). In the companion panel the further history of Joseph and his brethren is depicted in three scenes or compartments, divided by pillars. On the left are the brothers unloading the donkey of the empty meal-jars, now to be filled through Joseph's kindness. In the centre is Joseph making himself known to his eleven brethren. He is gazing tenderly on little Benjamin, who advances towards him in the foreground. “And Joseph said unto his brethren, I am Joseph : doth my father yet live ?” (Genesis xlv. 3). On the right are seen the brethren departing homeward, and the mule laden with Benjamin and the filled meal-bags is being driven off.
282. THE GLORIFICATION OF THE VIRGIN. Ascribed to Lo Spagna (Perugia: painted 1503-1530).
See under 1032, p. 106. Otherwise ascribed to Bertucci of Faenza, an artist who borrowed both from the Umbrian School and from Lorenzo Costa. The similarity to V. 629, p. 86, by the latter artist, especially in the playing angels at the foot of the throne, is unmistakable (see Richter, p. 52).
“THE Venetian School proposed to itself the representation of the effect
of colour and shade on all things ; chiefly on the human form.
The true test of the good and beautiful ;
First, in my judgment, ever stands that school,
VELAZQUEZ, reported by Boschini, in curious Italian
verse thus translated by Dr. Donaldson. The general characteristics of the Venetian School, as defined by Mr. Ruskin in the passage above quoted, may be traced both to historical circumstances and to physical surroundings. Thus the first broad fact to be noticed about
1 In this room are hung, besides the pictures of Venice, those of many neighbouring towns—Verona, Brescia, Bergamo, Treviso. All these local schools have certain peculiarities of their own, and some of them are well represented here. Nowhere, for instance, out of Brescia itself can the Brescian School be so well studied as in the National Gallery. But above these local peculiarities there are common characteristics in the work of all these schools which they share with that of Venice, It is only these common characteristics that can here be noticed.
the Venetian School of painting is that it is later than the Florentine by some hundred years or more. From the point of view of art, Venice, from her intimate connection as a trading power with the East, was almost a Byzantine colony. St. Mark's is a Byzantine church, her earliest palaces are Byzantine palaces. And so, too, for painting she relied exclusively on a Byzantine supply. It was not till the latter end of the fourteenth century that the influence of Giotto's works in the neighbouring town of Padua began to rouse Venice to do and think for herself in art, instead of letting her Greek subjects do all for her. But by the time Venetian painters had acquired any real mastery over their art, Venice was already in a state of great magnificence; her palaces, with their fronts of white marble, porphyry, and serpentine, were the admiration of every visitor. Painters paint what they see around them, and hence at the outset we find in the Venetian School the rendering of material magnificence and the brilliant colours that distinguish it throughout. Look, for instance, at the pictures by a comparatively early Venetian, like Crivelli (Room VIII.); no other painter of a corresponding age showed such fondness for fruits and stuffs and canopies and jewels and brilliant architecture. And then, in the second place, there is the colour of Venice itself, caused by her position on the lagoons. The Venetians had no gardens; “but what are the purples and scarlets and blues of iris, anemone, or columbine, dispersed among deep meadow-grasses or trained in quiet cloister garden-beds, when compared with that melodrama of flame and gold and rose and orange and azure, which the skies and lagoons of Venice yield almost daily to the eye?” (Symonds, iii. 349, 350). But, thirdly, the sea had a further influence on Venetian painting—it caused at once their love of bodily beauty and the kind of such beauty that they loved. Compare, for instance, a typical Venetian “beauty,” such as Paris Bordone's
i It should, however, be remembered that “before the Venetian School of painting had got much beyond a lisp, Venetian artists were already expressing themselves strikingly and beautifully in stone, in architectural and sculptural works "(see Morelli, p. 5).