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Sunday, 21 July 2013


Intermission, part 3


The narrative began with Act 1, scene 1 on April 10, 2013.
To access all scenes, scroll to blog archive at the bottom of the page.

For an explanation, and to see the complete set of images in this particular 'lineage' of artists, go back to part 1 of this intermission.


Colantonio's painting, The Delivery of the Franciscan Rule, the centre panel of an altarpiece dated about 1445, demonstrates the artist's mastery of oil painting – a technique developed in the north and fairly new to Italy, and one that would eventually replace (to a large extent) the traditional egg tempera technique that had been standard practice in Italy.

Antonello da Messina was Colantonio's pupil. He may also have been influenced by another northern master, Petrus Christus (a follower of Van Eyck), with whom knowledge was perhaps exchanged – the Flemish technique for Messina, and Italian linear perspective for Christus. Messina's life is documented in Vasari's Lives of the Artists. In any event, oil painting and linear perspective come together in Messina's work.

In 1475, Messina spent a year in Venice (so central to our earlier fictive story – it should be noted that, in contrast to that fictional narrative, these details about the inter-relatedness of the artists are as historically factual as possible) where he was influenced by the paintings of Piero Della Francesca and Giovanni Bellini, to whom we next turn our attention with his masterful painting St. Francis in Ecstasy, c. 1480 (oil and tempera on panel). Bellini became a master of the northern technique of oil painting, probably introduced to Venice by Messina.

Giorgione (Giorgio Barbarelli da Castelfranco; c. 1477/8–1510), along with Titian, was a pupil of Bellini. Vasari recorded scant and sketchy information about Giorgione, but other sources confirm his relationship with Titian, and that the early death (by plague) in 1510 of this great painter was one of art history's great losses. He was universally liked and respected. Giorgione apparently met and was impressed by Leonardo Da Vinci when that artist visited Venice in 1500. It's interesting that, although Florence is considered the birthplace of Renaissance art, with Rome assuming a leading role during the period referred to as the High Renaissance (roughly 1495 through 1525) Venice seems to have been a favourite destination for so many important artists from other parts of Italy as well as for influential artists from all over Europe. The resulting exchange of ideas and techniques (and this in addition to the regional flowering of painting that featured Bellini, Titian, Giorgione, Tintoretto and others) makes Venice an unquestionably vital European Renaissance centre, extending its influence well beyond the lagoon city itself.

Next in our line of succession are Titian and Velázquez.  In the interest of brevity, let us grant that, as mentioned above, Titian was a pupil of Bellini, a friend of Giorgione, and probably the one-time teacher of Tintoretto, who then began winning commissions in his own right, notably scooping the contract to decorate the Scuola Grande di San Rocco in Venice. In a sense this brings us full circle, as San Rocco is where our partly fictitious story opened in Act 1, Scene 1.

Velázquez did indeed visit Venice on two occasions and was inspired by Tintoretto's work at San Rocco and did in fact make sketches there. (Follow the link to Carl Justi's book, and from there go to the chapter on Venetian painting.)


At this point (and at other junctures we shall see along the way), the threads of legacy extend in many directions, as do the lines of descent in any growing family. Michelangelo influenced a generation of artists from all over Europe, including Titian and Tintoretto, who as we noted, influenced Velázquez. Peter Paul Rubens was both a great artist and a diplomat who lived in the Spanish Netherlands (present day Belgium) and visited Spain as well as Italy (Venice, Florence and Rome among other places) and other countries in Europe. He was a friend of Velázquez, and had made plans to travel to Italy with the Spaniard, but was called away on a diplomatic mission instead. In Rome Rubens was impressed by the work of Caravaggio (Michelangelo Merisi or Amerighi da Caravaggio, 29 September 1571 – 18 July 1610), whose dramatic use of chiaroscuro (clear and obscure, or light and dark) along with his depiction of heroic characters as ordinary working class people, attracted the attention of new generations of artists. 

Velázquez, Rubens, and Caravaggio (who was at least a generation older) were sources of a kind of cross-pollination, drawing inspiration from many of the same sources (most notably from Michelangelo). The Venetian influence (of Titian and Tintoretto) seems to have confirmed, in the work of both Rubens and Velázquez, a tendency to looser brushwork as compared to the polish of Caravaggio.

Peter Paul Rubens, The Consequences of War, 1637

Velazquez, Diego, Las Hilanderas (The Spinners), c. 1657



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Historically accurate anecdotes are especially welcome.