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1123. VENUS, ADONIS, AND MYRRHA.
Unknown? (Venetian : 16th century). A picture of the golden age—they are no mortal lovers that we see: he with passionate gaze, she half yielding and half coy. They are Venus and her favourite Adonis. In the background to the right and left of the principal figures may be seen several small groups. On the right is a woman fleeing from a man who pursues her, sword in hand ; these represent Myrrha and her father Cinyras. Farther on the woman is on her knees; here Myrrha is praying to the gods to transform her
... Since my life the living will profane
Nor let her wholly die, nor wholly live. A third group shows the answer to her prayer: she is transferred into the myrrh tree, whose “precious drops her name retain," while the wood-nymphs receive her new-born babe, Adonis. In the background on the left is represented the death of Adonis ; Venus is lamenting over his body and changing his blood into the anemone (Times, July 26, 1882). For the story of Myrrha, see Dryden's translations from Ovid's Metamorphoses. 750. THE DOGE GIOVANNI MOCENIGO.
Carpaccio (Venetian : 1450–1522). This picture is by no means a worthy representation of Vittore Carpaccio, who was the best of all Bellini's pupils, and who of late years has been singled out by Mr. Ruskin as the best of all Venetian painters. It is only at Venice that he can be seen. Mr. Ruskin's estimate of his powers, and description of his leading pictures, will be found in his Guide to the Academy at Venice, p. 16 and passim ; St. Mark's Rest (Supplements), and Fors Clavigera, 1872, xx. ; 1873, Xivi.; 1876, pp. 329, 340, 357, 381; 1877, p. 26; 1878, p. 182. An earlier reference is in the Oxford Lectures on Art, $ 73. Some of Carpaccio's Venetian pictures are now being reproduced in chromolithograph by the Arundel Society.
This picture was commissioned by Giovanni Mocenigo (who reigned over Venice 1477-1485), to be presented by him, according to the custom with reigning doges, to the Ducal
When in the Hamilton collection, this picture was ascribed to Giorgione, and some critics still accept the ascription : see Times, July 26, 1882. Others strongly dispute it : see Richter, p. 87.
Palace. The scene selected represents the doge kneeling before the Virgin and begging her protection on the occasion of the plague of 1478. The gold vase on the altar before the throne contains medicaments, for which, according to the inscription below, a blessing is invoked: “ Celestial Virgin, preserve the City and Republic of Venice and the Venetian State, and extend your protection to me if I deserve it." Behind the doge is his patron saint St. John, on the opposite side is St. Christopher. The setting thus chosen for the doge's picture is characteristic. “The first step towards the ennobling of any face is the ridding it of its vanity ; to which aim there cannot be anything more contrary than that principle of portraiture which prevails with us in these days, whose end seems to be the expression of vanity throughout, in face and in all circumstances of accompaniment; tending constantly to insolence of attitude, and levity and haughtiness of expression, and worked out farther in mean accompaniments of worldly splendour and possession. ... To which practices are to be opposed . . . the mighty and simple modesty of ... Venice, where we find the ... doges not set forth with thrones and curtains of state, but kneeling, always crownless, and returning thanks to God for his help ; or as priests, interceding for the nation in its affliction " (Modern Painters, vol. ii. pt. iii. sec. i. ch. xiv. § 19).
699. AGOSTINO AND NICCOLO DELLA TORRE. Lorenzo Lotto (Treviso : 1476-1555). See under 1105
and 1047, pp. 136, 163. Agostino was Professor of Medicine in the University of Padua ; he holds a copy of “Galen," the most celebrated of the ancient medical writers, in his hand. It was for Niccolo, however, according to the inscription, that the picture was painted ; and Signor Morelli (its former owner) thinks that Agostino's portrait must have been inserted at a later time, for “it is placed very awkwardly in the background” (p. 37 n.)
742. PORTRAIT OF A LAWYER. Moroni (Bergamese : 1525-1578). See under 1023, P. 132.
An excellent example of the painter's third or naturalistic manner. There is an ease of attitude and an absence of constraint which makes the portrait transparently natural.
1213. PORTRAIT OF A PROFESSOR.
Gentile Bellini (Venetian : 1427–1507). Gentile's high reputation is shown by the fact that, when in 1479 the Sultan Mehemet applied to the Venetians to send him a good painter, he was deputed by them to go to Constantinople. His visit there was marked by a well-known incident. He showed the Sultan a picture of Herodias's daughter with the head of John the Baptist. The Sultan objected to the bleeding head as untrue to nature, and to prove his point ordered a slave to be beheaded in Bellini's presence. The painter fled from the scene of such experiments, but the influence of his visit is to be seen in the oriental costumes which he was fond of introducing into his pictures (as in the studies in the British Museum and the library of Windsor Castle). Easel pictures by Gentile are very scarce ; his principal works are at Venice, and are the most valuable record extant of the city as it was in his time.
A portrait of Girolamo Malatini, Professor of Mathematics in Venice (notice his brass compasses), who is said to have taught Gentile and his brother Giovanni the rules of perspective. “The portrait fully justifies the fame that Gentile had acquired as a painter of portraits, and shows him the forerunner of Titian” (Layard, i. 306). 1202. MADONNA AND CHILD.
Bonifacio, the elder (Venetian : about 1490–1540). Signor Morelli (pp. 184-194) disentangles from the confusions of art. historians and critics three different painters of this name. Of the earliest of them he says : “His bright conception and the light gracefulness of his figures never belie his narrower home, Verona, yet as a technician he is an out-and-out Venetian.” The description applies very accurately to the present picture, which used formerly to be ascribed to Palma Vecchio, to whose studio in Venice Bonifazio must have come from Verona to study.
On the right is St. Catherine holding a fragment of her wheel, while the youthful St. John the Baptist, standing on another fragment, stoops to kiss the infant Christ's foot-an action symbolical of the kingship of the Saviour (“Thou hast put all things under him"). On the left is St. James—with his staff, borne always by him as the first of the apostles who departed to fulfil the Gospel mission, and dressed as a pilgrim – Campostella, where his body was reputed to be, being in the middle ages a favourite place of pilgrimage. Behind St. James is St. Jerome. Notice the significance of the incident in the middle distance -- a shepherd asleep, while a wolf is
devouring a sheep (“But the Good Shepherd giveth his life for the sheep"). 268. THE ADORATION OF THE MAGI.
Paolo Veronese (Veronese : 1528–1588).
See under 26, p. 136. A striking example of the old symbolical conception, according to which the adoration of the Magi—the tribute of the wise men from the East to the dawning star of Christianity
—was represented as taking place in the ruins of an antique temple, signifying that Christianity was founded upon the ruins of Paganism. 1130. CHRIST WASHING HIS DISCIPLES' FEET.
Tintoretto (Venetian : 1518-1584). See under 16, p. 133.
Some remarks made by Mr. Ruskin on another version by Tintoret of the same subject are not inappropriate to this dark and probably faded picture.I “One circumstance is noticeable as in a considerable degree detracting from the interest of most of Tintoret's representations of our Saviour with His disciples. He never loses sight of the fact that all were poor, and the latter ignorant; and while he never paints a senator or a saint, once thoroughly canonised, except as a gentleman, he is very careful to paint the Apostles in their living intercourse with the Saviour, in such a manner that the spectator may see in an instant, as the Pharisee did of old, that they were unlearned and ignorant men; and, whenever we find them in a room, it is always such a one as would be inhabited by the lower classes. . . . We are quickly reminded that the guests' chamber or upper room ready prepared was not likely to have been in a palace, by the humble furniture upon the floor" (Stones of Venice, Venetian Index, under “Moisé, Church of St.") In front is St. Peter, placing his foot in a brazen basin and bending forward with a deprecating action—in contrast to which is the look of cheerful, and almost amused alacrity on the part of him who came not to be ministered unto, but to minister. Behind are other disciples pressing forward with reverent curiosity. Another, in the right-hand corner of the foreground, has raised his foot on a bench and is drying it with a cloth. To the left a female attendant holds a taper,
i It came from the Hamilton sale (1882), and was bought for the small price of £157 : 10S.
whilst in the background are other figures, one of whom reclines before a fire.
726. CHRIST'S AGONY IN THE GARDEN.
Giovanni Bellini (Venetian : 1426-1516)
See under 280, p. 153. An early work of the master, painted probably about 1455 (half a century earlier than the Doge's portrait, 189, p. 155), but interesting as showing the advance made by him in landscape. "We see for the first time an attempt to render a particular effect of light, the first twilight picture with clouds rosy with the lingering gleams of sunset, and light shining from the sky on hill and town——the first in which a head is seen in shadow against a brilliant sky” (Monkhouse : The Italian PreRaphaelites, p. 73).
812. THE DEATH OF ST. PETER MARTYR.
Giovanni Bellini (Venetian : 1426-1516).
See under 280, p. 153. For the story see Octagon, 41, p. 192. The picture, one of the painter's latest works, is interesting, first, for its skill in landscape. It is a true piece of local scenery that Bellini paints, "all Italian in masses of intricate wood and foliage, in plain, mountain, and buildings, and glowing, not under direct sunshine, but with the soft suffusion of southern light” (Layard, i. 312). Notice, secondly, Bellini's compliance, so far as the subject admitted, with one of the conditions of the greatest art, “serenity in state or action.” “You are to be interested in the living creatures; not in what is happening to them. ... It is not possible, of course, always literally to observe this condition, that there shall be quiet action or none; but Bellini's treatment of violence in action you may see exemplified in a notable way in his · St. Peter Martyr.' The soldier is indeed striking the sword down into his breast; but in the face of the Saint is only resignation and faintness of death, not pain— that of the executioner is impassive; and, while a painter of the later schools would have covered breast and sword with blood, Bellini allows no stain of it; but pleases himself with most elaborate and exquisite painting of a soft crimson feather in the executioner's helmet” (Relation between Michael Angelo and Tintoret, p. 16).