Friday, July 21, 2017

Walter Friedlaender on Late Mannerism

Alessandro Allori
Descent from the Cross
ca. 1550
oil on panel
Prado, Madrid

Alessandro Allori
Body of Christ anointed by two Angels
ca. 1593
oil on copper
Museum of Fine Arts, Budapest

Alessandro Allori
Abduction of Prosperpine
1570
oil on panel
Getty Museum, Los Angeles

"Thus it was that the older style (which I have called "anti-classical," for lack of a better word, but which is usually termed "manneristic" by a process of reverse derivation from its offshoot) became "mannered."  In other words, the noble, pure, idealistic, and abstract style, lasting approximately from 1520 to 1550 [illustrated in the just-previous post] was transformed in the succeeding phase (about 1550 to 1580) into a manner; it became "di maniera" by repetition, cleverness, and playful exaggeration on the one hand, by weak concessions on the other.  The "healthy" will of certain discerning people was directed only against this then-present danger.  They felt that an extraordinary decline in quality had taken place since the High Renaissance, which was already accepted as "classic"; and in their eyes the only cure for art lay in a return to the tested principles of that period . . ."

"Basically the reformers had no very difficult task.  They were tearing down a building that was already crumbling.  As is almost always the case in such periods, there were very many and very industrious artists who puttered along at Mannerism displaying slight stylistic variations; among them were talented men, capable and witty as well as entertaining decorators and designers of ornament, but there was not one outstanding personality in the whole lot.  . . .  To this group belong all the artists "de petite manière" who worked in the Studiolo of Francesco I: Macchietti, Naldini, Poppi, Stradano, and so on.  . . .  It also includes the painters of large scale frescoes: Vasari and Salviati (who reveals a somewhat stronger character); Alessandro Allori who flooded all Tuscany with his insipid pictures; and correspondingly in Rome, the even less enjoyable and more pretentious apparition of Federigo Zuccaro, Barocci's cousin.  Santi di Tito (so wittily lampooned by Tintoretto), although more reactionary and more conservative, also belongs in this series to some extent."


Federico Zuccaro
Calumny
ca. 1569-72
oil on canvas
Royal Collection, Great Britain

Giovanni Battista Naldini
Bathsheba
ca. 1570
oil on panel transferred to canvas
Hermitage, Saint Petersburg


Johannes Stradanus
Vanity, Modesty and Death
1569
oil on panel
Louvre, Paris

Santi di Tito
Madonna and Child with St John the Baptist
ca. 1570-75
oil on panel
Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

Orazio Samacchini
Holy Family with St Catherine of Alexandria,
St Margaret of Antioch and St Francis of Assisi
ca. 1570-75
oil on panel
Art Gallery of South Australia, Adelaide

Giorgio Vasari
Six Tuscan Poets
1544
oil on panel
Minneapolis Institute of Art

Giorgio Vasari
Garden of Gethsemane
ca. 1570
oil on panel
National Museum of Western Art, Tokyo

Federico Barocci
Madonna del Popolo
1579
oil on panel
Galleria degli Uffizi, Florence

Federico Barocci
Aeneas fleeing Troy with Anchises
1598
oil on canvas
Galleria Borghese, Rome

Francesco Salviati
Madonna and Child with Angel
ca. 1538-40
oil on panel
Royal Collection, Great Britain

Francesco Salviati
Holy Family with Bird-catcher
ca. 1543
oil on panel
Prado, Madrid

"In opposition to these handy-men of the maniera arose artists, who, although not all of the same age, were all born in the last third of the century, in different places.  Very different as to temperament and character, and sharply contrasting in their artistic activities though they were, they shared certain traits in common – the desire for simplicity and objectivity instead of complexity, for truth to nature (or that part of nature that could be objectively tested) instead of the "imaginative," and for solid and dedicated work instead of painting by rote with only a glib and facile "effect" in mind.  To name only the most important, the group included the Carracci of Bologna, Cigoli in Florence, and (a number of years younger) Caravaggio, the Lombard, in Rome, and Cerano in Milan."

– from an essay by Walter Friedlaender originally published in 1929, translated in 1957 and published by Columbia University Press in Mannerism and Anti-Mannerism in Italian Painting

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Walter Friedlaender on Early Mannerism

Rosso Fiorentino
Pietà
ca. 1537-40
oil on panel transferred to canvas
Louvre, Paris
 
Rosso Fiorentino
Assumption of the Virgin
1517
fresco
Basilica della Santissima Annunziata, Florence

"The relation of this new artistic viewpoint to the problem of space is especially interesting and important.  An upholder of the normative, who feels in a classic way, will take for granted an unambiguous, constructed space in which equally unambiguous fixed figures move and act.  It is not familiar visual space dissolved in light and air, for the most part optically judged, that the adherents of the normative strive for, but a space which expresses or should express a higher reality purified of everything accidental.  However, the figures of the rhythmic anticlassical painter [i.e. the early Mannerists – Rosso, Pontormo, and Parmigianino active from about 1520 to 1550] function otherwise, for in themselves they express neither an established rule of nature, nor any unambiguous rationally understood space.  In a word, for them the problem of three-dimensional space vanishes, or can do so.  The volumes of the bodies more or less displace the space, that is, they themselves create the space.  This already implies that an art of purely flat surfaces is as little involved here as one which is perspective and spatial.  A certain effect of depth is often achieved through adding up layers of volumes of this sort, along with an evasion of perspective.  In the struggle between picture surface and presentation of depth in space, which is of such vital importance throughout the whole history of art, this is a particularly interesting solution.  A peculiarly unstable situation is created: the stress on the surfaces, on the picture planes, set behind each other in relief layers, does not permit any very plastic or three-dimensional volumes of the bodies to come through in full force, while at the same time it hinders the three-dimensional bodies from giving any very flat impression."

Rosso Fiorentino
Allegory of Salvation
ca. 1521
oil on panel
Los Angeles County Museum of Art

Rosso Fiorentino
Descent from the Cross
1521
oil on panel
Volterra Cathedral

Jacopo Pontormo
Capponi Deposition
ca. 1528
oil on panel
Church of Santa Felicità, Florence

Jacopo Pontormo
Joseph in Egypt 
1515-18
oil on panel
National Gallery, London

"Yet even in cases where a strong effect of depth is desired or is inevitable, the space is not constructed in the Renaissance sense as a necessity for the bodies, but often is only an incongruous accompaniment for the bunches of figures, which one must read together "by jumps" in order to reach the depth.  In such cases the space is not adapted to the figures as in high classic art, but is an unreal space, just as the figures are "anormal," that is, unreal.  This is accompanied by another important difference from quattrocento art.  In the fifteenth century the landscape responds to real facts and to effects of depth (partly obtained through perspective means); the bodies, on the other hand, often remain unreal and relatively flat.  In the High Renaissance we see this contradiction resolved in favor of a common harmony of figures and space.  In anticlassic Mannerism the figures remain plastic and have volume even if they are unreal in the normative sense, while space, if it is present at all apart from the volumes, is not pushed to the point where it produces an effect of reality.  . . .  The whole bent of anticlassical art is basically subjective, since it would construct and individually reconstruct from the inside out, from the subject outward, while classic art, socially oriented, seeks to crystallize the object for eternity by working out from the regular, from what is valid for everyone."

– from an essay by Walter Friedlaender originally published in 1925, translated in 1957 and published by Columbia University Press in Mannerism and Anti-Mannerism in Italian Painting

Jacopo Pontormo
Visitation
1528-29
oil on panel
Church of San Michele e San Francesco, Carmignano

Jacopo Pontormo
Noli Me Tangere
1530s
oil on panel
private collection

Jacopo Pontormo
Portrait of a youth in a pink coat
ca. 1525
oil on canvas
Palazzo Mansi, Lucca

Parmigianino
Holy Family with Angel
ca. 1524
oil on panel
Prado, Madrid

Parmigianino
Mystic Marriage of St Catherine
ca. 1525-26
drawing
Real Academia de Bellas Artes de San Fernando, Madrid

Parmigianino
Mystic Marriage of St Catherine
ca. 1527
oil on panel
Louvre, Paris

Parmigianino
Mystic Marriage of St Catherine
ca. 1527-31
oil on panel
National Gallery, London

Parmigianino
Portrait of a man (possibly Condottiere Malatesta Baglioni)
1537
oil on panel
Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Tarot in Hand-colored Woodcuts from Bologna, 17th century

Francesco Berti
Pack of Tarot cards
TAROCHI FINI DI FRANCESCO BERTI IN BOLOGNA

late 17th century
hand-colored woodcuts
British Museum

The complete pack of 78 cards printed and hand-colored in Bolgona at the end of the 17th century was transferred from the British Library to the British Museum in 1864 (how or when it came to the British Library is not divulged and probably not known). For preservation purposes these individual cards were mounted so as to display both fronts and backs, then bound at the British Museum into the small leather-covered volume seen here. This object carries an interesting suggestion of a message – the 17th-century school of Bolognese oil painting and fresco was surely among the most refined and influential in the world, yet also in Bologna and simultaneously these harsh, stiff, seductive little images from the Middle Ages remained in active production. In their thousands they put bread on the table for Francesco Berti and his family, even though relatively few examples have survived to the present. The openings below display on the left the back of the previous card, and on the right the face of the succeeding card.

Francesco Berti
Pack of Tarot cards printed in Bologna
L'AMOUREUX

late 17th century
hand-colored woodcuts
British Museum

Francesco Berti
Pack of Tarot cards printed in Bologna
 LA JUSTICE

late 17th century
hand-colored woodcuts
British Museum

Francesco Berti
Pack of Tarot cards printed in Bologna
LA IMPERATRICE

late 17th century
hand-colored woodcuts
British Museum

Francesco Berti
Pack of Tarot cards printed in Bologna
LE EMPEREUR 

late 17th century
hand-colored woodcuts
British Museum

Francesco Berti
Pack of Tarot cards printed in Bologna
REINE DE COUPES

late 17th century
hand-colored woodcuts
British Museum

Francesco Berti
Pack of Tarot cards printed in Bologna
ROY DE COUPES
late 17th century
hand-colored woodcuts
British Museum

Francesco Berti
Pack of Tarot cards printed in Bologna
CHEVALIER DE COUPES

late 17th century
hand-colored woodcuts
British Museum

Francesco Berti
Pack of Tarot cards printed in Bologna
LE DIABLE

 late 17th century
hand-colored woodcuts
British Museum

Francesco Berti
Pack of Tarot cards printed in Bologna
LA LUNE

late 17th century
hand-colored woodcuts
British Museum

Francesco Berti
Pack of Tarot cards printed in Bologna
LA TEMPERANCE

late 17th century
hand-colored woodcuts
British Museum

Francesco Berti
Pack of Tarot cards printed in Bologna
LE PENDU

late 17th century
hand-colored woodcuts
British Museum

Francesco Berti
Pack of Tarot cards printed in Bologna
ROUE DE FORTUNE

late 17th century
hand-colored woodcuts
British Museum

Francesco Berti
Pack of Tarot cards printed in Bologna
CARTE FINE

late 17th century
hand-colored woodcuts
British Museum

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

German Renaissance Ornament engraved by Barthel Beham

Barthel Beham
Ornamental Panel with putto stepping over banderoles
ca. 1520-40
engraving
British Museum

Barthel Beham
Ornamental Panel with helmeted winged genii flanking urn
ca. 1520-40
engraving
British Museum

Barthel Beham
Ornamental panel with putti flanking half-length faun
ca. 1520-40
engraving
British Museum

Barthel Beham
Ornamental panel with half-length
 female figures supporting centerpiece

ca. 1520-40
engraving
British Museum

Barthel Beham
Ornamental Frieze with Abduction of Helen
ca. 1520-40
engraving
British Museum 

"Barthel Beham (1502-1540)  Painter, engraver and designer of woodcuts.  He may have been trained in the studio of his elder brother Sebald.  Together with Sebald and Georg Pencz, he was banished in January 1525 from Nuremberg for advocating radical religious views.  Although they were permitted to return the following September, Barthel, after further difficulties with the city fathers, finally left Nuremberg, moving to Munich in 1526.  From this point in his career he concentrated more on paintings and produced fewer engravings.  At first he worked for Wolfgang Muelich and then for the dukes of Bavaria, who were among the most fervent Catholic princes of the Empire.  . . .  According to the contemporary biographer Johann Neurdörfer, the duke held Barthel's work in high esteem and paid his expenses for a journey to Italy for the sake of 'experience and art'  where he died in 1540.  Although less productive than his brother Sebald, Barthel was a more innovative engraver, and many of his designs were copied or adapted by Sebald, who probably inherited his stock of plates after his death.  Barthel's interest in small, unconventional figure compositions and Italianate designs of secular subject-matter such as small ornamental prints with putti, introduced any number of novel aspects to the repertoire of German printmakers."

– curator's notes from the British Museum

Barthel Beham
Ornamental Frieze with half-length female figure holding grotesque roosters by the tails
ca. 1520-40
engraving
British Museum

Barthel Beham
Ornamental Frieze with eagle flanked by putti in tendril loops
ca. 1520-40
engraving
British Museum

Barthel Beham
Ornamental Frieze with seahorse and four putti
ca. 1520-40
engraving
British Museum

Barthel Beham
Child with leaf ornament
ca. 1526
engraving
British Museum

Barthel Beham
Ornamental Roundel with boy playing with dog
1525
engraving
British Museum

Barthel Beham
Battle of Titus Gracchus
ca. 1528
engraving
British Museum

Barthel Beham
Battle of eighteen nude men
1528
engraving
British Museum

Barthel Beham
Armorial Bookplate with parrot on lily for
Nuremberg humanist, Hieronymus Baumgärtner

1530
engraving
British Museum

Barthel Beham
Coat of arms with cockerel
1530s
engraving
British Museum