Madonna and Child with Saints Catherine and Thomas (sacra conversazione)

Lorenzo Lotto1527/1533

Kunsthistorisches Museum Wien

Kunsthistorisches Museum Wien
Vienna, Austria

In the Venetian painting of the early 16th century, a new type of sacra conversazione became established alongside the older type (Cat. No. 5), in which the figures were depicted in an architectural setting. The new type was often in landscape format and set outdoors under an open sky. There are several examples of this in Lotto’s work, which was inspired in particular by Palma Vecchio, with whom Lotto was on friendly terms, according to the artists’ biographer Vasari. Palma Vecchio had abandoned the conventional hierarchic arrangement offigures and developed more intimate compositions seen from a closer distance. Lotto, who was considered the most individualist of the Venetian artists of his generation, continued these tendencies. In their gestures, glances and posture, his figures were much closer together than those of the painters before him. The backdrop of the picture is a gently illuminated landscape in the distance. Mary and the Child, Catherine, Thomas and an angel are seated in the shadow of a tree. Lotto decisively changes the time-honoured type: the picture is marked not by the tranquillity of the High Renaissance but by the sensitive expressiveness of early Mannerism. A continuous and nervous stream of movement sweeps across the picture, from the arms of the angel crowning the Madonna to the hand of the Child reaching for the book to the head of Catherine as she looks towards the devout Apostle, who with his intimate eye contact with Mary leads the viewer back to the Virgin. The cool and scarcely Venetian coloration – found throughout Lotto’s work – is rooted in the painting of Bergamo, where he spent most of his life, but also in the art of Dürer. © Cäcilia Bischoff, Masterpieces of the Picture Gallery. A Brief Guide to the Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna 2010


  • Title: Madonna and Child with Saints Catherine and Thomas (sacra conversazione)
  • Creator: Lorenzo Lotto
  • Creator Lifespan: ca. 1480 - 1556/57
  • Creator Nationality: italian
  • Creator Gender: male
  • Creator Death Place: Loreto
  • Creator Birth Place: Venice
  • Date Created: 1527/1533
  • Style: Italian Mannerism
  • Provenance: mentionend 1660 to be in the Emperors Collection
  • Physical Dimensions: w1520 x h1170 cm (without frame)
  • Inventory Number: GG 101
  • Artist Biography: Active in Treviso, Bergamo, and Ancona, Lorenzo Lotto spent much of his life in the provinces, where the portraits and religious paintings he specialized in often commanded higher prices than he would have received in his native Venice. According to biographer Giorgio Vasari, Lotto trained in Giovanni Bellini's studio along with Giorgione and Titian. Lotto, however, always remained somewhat apart from the dominant Venetian artistic traditions and explored a variety of painters' styles. He assimilated the work of northern Italian artists like Titian and northern European artists like Albrecht Dürer and Hans Holbein, as well as Raphael, with whom he worked in Rome on the Vatican apartments in 1508. Lotto's highly individual Mannerist style conveys devotion, humanity, interest in states of mind, and, more than his contemporaries, what was considered at the time to be an old-fashioned interest in capturing real-life appearance. Not surprisingly, he was a gifted portraitist: his three-quarter-length portraits were innovative, bold in design, and moody in atmosphere. Lotto made the unusual choice of painting in a horizontal format, which allowed him to develop ornamental patterns. In 1550 he lost his voice and part of his eyesight. He settled in a monastery at Loreto and became a lay brother in 1554. © J. Paul Getty Trust
  • Type: paintings
  • External Link: http://www.khm.at/en/collections/picture-gallery
  • Medium: Oil on Canvas

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