Giotto di Bondone (Florence, 1266/76–1337), Adoration of the Magi (c1320), Metropolitan Museum. "The masterly depiction of the stable, the carefully articulated space, and the columnar solidity of the figures testify to Giotto’s reputation as the founder of European painting." (metart) "He made [art] natural and gave it gentleness" (Ghiberti, ca. 1450). Notice the wrapping of the child.
Andrea Mantegna (1430/31–1506 Mantua), Adoration of the Shepherds (c 1455), Metropolitan Museum. More than a century later than the previous painting, but then, such progress! And what a mysterious composition with the golden and yellow cherubs.
Giovanni di Paolo di Grazia (Siena 1398–1482), Adoration of the Magi (1460), Metropolitan Museum. More of less from the same time, but much less interesting. I wonder whether painting in Siena was stagnant...but then, he was really a manuscript illuminator.
Sandro Botticelli (Alessandro di Mariano di Vanni Filipepi, Florence 1445–1510), The Nativity (c 1473-5), Columbia Museum. There are three later images by Botticelli in this pictorial (7, 8, 15). The donkey is particularly lovely. Interestingly the scene has few personages, unlike some later ones.
Cosmè Tura (Cosimo di Domenico di Bonaventura, Ferrara ca1433–1495), Flight into Egypt (ca 1475), Metropolitan Museum. Like today, it was quite common 2000 years ago to have to run for your life. The poor little donkey looks very tired. Joseph looks at it full of compassion. Mary and the baby aren't very comfortable like this.
Sandro Botticelli, The Adoration of the Magi (1478-82), National Gallery Washington. Whereas image 5, Botticelli's adoration of the shepherds, was a fresco, this one is in tempera and oil. Botticelli dabbled in oil, but he was such an amazing master of tempera painting that oil never became his favourite. There is a structural similarity to image 4, but here the derelict stable is of stone rather than wood.
Sandro Botticelli (Alessandro di Mariano di Vanni Filipepi, Florence 1445–1510), Adorazione dei Magi (c 1475-6), Uffizi. Back to tempera, and now a structure partly in stone and partly in wood. The Magi here are mainly from the Medici family. The painting is supposed to be an homage to them, Botticelli new them well. However, I detect a certain arrogance in their demeanour. They seem more interested in themselves than in the holy child. Botticelli supposedly is the figure on the utmost right.
Hugo van der Goes (Ghent/Brussels 1440-1482), The adoration of the Shepherds also known as the Portinari altarpiece (1476-79), Uffizi. A very big oil painting that came to Florence in 1483 and srtrongly influenced Domenico Ghirlandaio and Leonardo da Vinci. The image is drenched in devotion and the landscapes in the background breath serenity. The child is a bit strangely portrayed. Van der Goes suffered from severe depressions and Van Gogh, who read about this, identified emotionally with the 15th century painter.
Domenico Ghirlandaio (Domenico Bigordi detto il Ghirlandaio, Florence 1448/49-1494), Adoration of the Shepherds (1483-1485), Santa Trinità, Florence. A very rich image, much inspired by Van der Goes' painting in the previous slide. This work is tempera, extremely well executed. The depth in the painting depicting the hords coming to see the baby from afar makes the image very dynamic. The donkey and the ox are lovely, but the sarcophagus as a manger and crib confuse me.
Domenico Ghirlandaio (Domenico Bigordi detto il Ghirlandaio, Florence, 1449 -1494), Adorazione dei Magi degli Innocenti (1485-1488), Spedale degli Innocenti (Firenze). Another example of Ghirlandaio's competence in tempera painting. He and Botticelli knew each other well, and there is great similarity in their style. The Spedale (ospedale, hospital) was designed by Brunelleschi, the creator of the amazing Duomo. The little tuft on the ox's head is so sweet. Joseph looks tenderly at the baby. In the background on the left we see the slaying of the innocents. Notice the wrappings of the children, similar to image 1.
Giovanni Bellini (c. 1430 – 1516), Sacra conversazione, Madonna and the Child between Saints Catherine and Mary Magdalene (1490), Gallerie dell’Accademia di Venezia. The Bellini family, and in particular Giovanni, embody the transition from tempera to oil in the Italian renaissance. But much more than this material transformation, Giovanni, during his long life achieved perfection in subtle and ephemeral realism (with only a very thin halo around the heads to set them apart from common reality) that laid the foundation for all subsequent European painting. This sacred conversation exudes a serenity that is the hallmark of Bellini's most extraordinary works.
Geertgen tot Sint Jans (Haarlem 1455/65 - 1485/95), The Nativity at Night (c1490??), National Gallery London. Interesting image, about the same time as the previous one, but here we see a dominance of ritualistic symbolism - the radiance of the baby, the unnatural difference in size of the personages, the strangely flat faces. Still it is a lovely image full of emotion, with joyous ox and donkey.
Giovanni Bellini (c. 1430 – 1516), Circumcision (1500), National Gallery London. A very popular theme, this is probably the original from which many copies were made in Bellini's workshop. The suggestion of reality won't get any better. See the close-ups in the next two pictures, but before that pay attention to the garments.
Giovanni Bellini (c. 1430 – 1516), Circumcision (detail, 1500), National Gallery London. Perfect foreshortening. What texture: mouth, moustache, beard. The eyes of the baby. The advantages of working with oil become evident, semi-transparent layers that create a 3-d illusion.
Giovanni Bellini (c. 1430 – 1516), Circumcision (detail, 1500), National Gallery London. The hair, the mouth, the angle of the face and eyes. The delicate skin tones; you can touch her.
Sandro Botticelli, The Mystical Nativity (1500), National Gallery London. Influenced by the religious fundamentalist Savonarola who ruled Florence from 1494 to 1498. A lively fantasy representing the three worlds. The donkey has a strange high position.
Giovanni Bellini (c. 1430 – 1516), Sacra Conversazione (1505), San Zaccaria church, Venice. My favourite painting. Proust loved Vermeer's view of Delft, which is also wonderful. The hypersurreal realism, the serenity, the trompe l'oeil with landscapes, the colours! The San Zaccaria is a very pleasant place, only occasionally crowded.
Giovanni Bellini (c. 1430 – 1516), Sacra Conversazione (1505), San Zaccaria church, Venice. Detail from the previous image. Pace St. Catherine of Alexandria and St. Lucy of Syracuse, who had both been tortured and killed for their religious beliefs
Giovanni Bellini (c. 1430 – 1516), Detail, Sacra Conversazione (1505), San Zaccaria church, Venice. Only the musician looks in our general direction (or the entrance), all others look downward in contemplation. The instrument is known as "lira da braccio" halfway between the medieval fiddle and the modern violin. The instrument seems correctly represented, with the five playing and two bourdon strings. Perhaps the left hand is a bit odd.
Giovanni Bellini (c. 1430 – 1516), Sacra conversazione or 'Nunc dimittis", Simeon receiving the child for the presentation at the temple (1505-10), Museo Nacional Thyssen-Bornemisza, Madrid. The amazing garment of Simeon; the baby doesn't seem to like it; the devotee on the left looking confused. All blended harmoniously into the vast landscape. Painting had definitely taken a new turn with Giovanni Bellini. Dürer had met him in Venice and held him in the highest regard.
Giorgione (Giorgio Barbarelli da Castelfranco, Venice c. 1477/8–1510). The Adoration of the Shepherds (1505 - 1510), National Gallery Washington. Giorgione was one of Bellini's extraordinary students. He and Tiziano extended Bellini's art further. Giorgione gave more importance to the landscape, as we can see in this scene. Jesus and Maria are no longer central.
Tiziano Vecellio (Venice, c. 1488/1490 – 1576), The Holy Family with a Shepherd (c. 1510), National Gallery London. Tiziano imbibed everything Bellini could give him, and pushed forward from there. His style is more fluent, his colours more delicate...if possible. There is a softness, a gentleness about Tiziano not found in any other painter. If Bellini could not be improved upon Tiziano certainly couldn't either.
Lorenzo Lotto (Venice and other cities in Northern Italy, c. 1480 – 1556/57), Nativity (1523), National Gallery London. Lotto belonged to the Venetian tradition and was influenced by both Bellini and Giorgione. Yet, one has the impression of an involution rather than evolution. There is something ritualistic about his religious works. The symbolic story is more prominent than the inner mood.
Correggio (Antonio Allegri da Correggio, Corregio/Parma 1489 – 1534), The Nativity/Holy Night (1529-30), Gemäldegalerie Alte Meister, Dresden. Correggio's training isn't known, but his work reminds of all the great painters before him, including Bellini, Mantegna, Leonardo, Tiziano and others. But this particular work is quite unique, as it presages the dramatic chiaroscuro of for instance Caravaggio, Rembrandt and de La Tour.
Albrecht Altdorfer (Altdorf/Regensburg, c. 1480 – 1538), Adoration of the Magi (c. 1530-35), Städelmuseum, Frankfurt. Influenced by Correggio and Cranach. Credited to be the first European to make landscape his main subject after a voyage to the Alps, but also represented religious themes.
Tiziano Vecellio (Venice, c. 1488/1490 – 1576), Sacra Conversazione (c. 1560), Private collection. A late painting of Tiziano, showing his incomparable command of the medium. The curtain that separates the indoors and the outdoors is a trick he had used quite often, famously in the Venus of Urbino. The expressions of a delicate and natural refinement. The dynamic range in Tiziano is controlled very well, what we would now call a perfect exposure. Whites and blacks are not dominant like they became with Caravaggio and his followers like Rembrandt.
Tintoretto (Jacopo Comin, also known as Jacopo Robusti and better even as 'il Tintoretto' (the dyer's boy), Venice 1518-1594), Adoration of the Shepherds (1578-81), Scuola Grande di San Rocco, Venice. I used to go mad with Tintoretto...so many, so huge, so fanatic, so religious, so wild...indeed, "il furioso" as people called him. But I started liking him more and more. I admire his unbridled energy, his Italian histrionics, his ease of expression, his free brushwork, his innovative compositions. Look at this two-storied nativity scene and the use of light, what a master!
Tintoretto (Venice 1518-1594), Nativity (late 1550s, reworked 1570), MFA Boston. Tintoretto admired Tiziano (but not vice versa), which is very obvious in this picture. Yet, he added different animals and painted a vast landscape that Watteau might have enjoyed. On one side the Magi are arriving, on the other side the shepherds learn about Jesus' birth.
Caravaggio (Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio, Milano 1571 – 1610), Nativity with Saints Francis (of Assisi) and Lawrence (1609), Stolen by the mafia (1969), never resurfaced. The Italian development of painting light culminated in Caravaggio's tenebrous chiaroscuro. Long he had been forgotten, but in the twentieth century his enormous influence was re-evaluated. Not only the dramatic use of light, but also the psychological realism make him a central figure who inspired Rubens, de Ribera, de La Tour, Rembrandt and many other Caravaggistas.
Caravaggio (Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio, Milano 1571 – 1610), Adorazione dei Pastori (1609), Museo Regionale Messina. Now look at that! The light, the composition, the power of expression.
Caravaggio (Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio, Milano 1571 – 1610), Adorazione dei Pastori (detail, 1609), Museo Regionale Messina. Just look at the way she holds the baby. So tender, so natural.