Art from Italy: from Rafael to Titian

MASP - Museu de Arte de São Paulo Assis Chateaubriand

The art of Italy received special attention from the founding director of the museum, the Italian Pietro Maria Bardi (1900-1999), with acquisitions of extraordinary works by Rafael, Mantegna, Bellini, Titian and Tintoretto, among others. This exhibition, presented at the MASP from 26.6 to 4.10.2015, included works from the MASP collection from the 13th to the 18th century, from the medieval period to the Renaissance and the Baroque. Alongside the paintings on the same wall were documents and photographs on donations, acquisitions, loans, assignments and exhibitions, part of the historical and photographic archives of the museum. The interest was to consider the work not only in the context of art history, but also in its relationship with MASP, São Paulo and Brazil. The central core of "Art from Italy" are the aesthetic and technical transformations of the Renaissance, a fundamental period in the history of art, spanning a temporal arc ranging from Raphael's classicism to Titian's chromatic experiences, which influenced later generations.
The works exhibited were produced in the area that is now known as Italy, but until the 19th century was a set of small states, run by independent local powers, by the Catholic Church or by foreign powers. In this way, each region developed a very particular painting production with distinct characteristics, such as the precise lines in Florence, the preoccupation with architecture and perspective in Umbria, or the use of color in Venice. Each artist used this local repertoire in their own way, also receiving outside influences, and producing works that reflected specific moments, expressing their own visions.
The exhibition design was a resumption of two projects of Lina Bo Bardi (1914-1992), architect responsible for MASP's building, for the collection of the museum. The first was a reconfiguration of the hanging panels used to exhibit the museum's collection at the Fundação Armando Alvares Penteado (FAAP), between 1957 and 1959 - originally, panels with eighteen meters, but here they have 24 meters. The second rescued the tubular metal structures that exhibited the paintings, also suspended, designed for MASP in 1947, the year of its foundation, in the former headquarters of Rua 7 de Abril - with them are exposed here paintings by Perugino and Titian. The recovery of Lina's projects in the exhibitions of 2015 presented to the public the route of the architect until arriving at the famous glass trestles. Lina designed the easels for the exhibition of the collection on the second floor of the museum on Avenida Paulista, inaugurated in 1968. Unused since 1996, they returned in December of 2015. The long panels used in the exhibition favored the chronological organization of the works. By rejecting the grouping of art schools, which guided the taste and style of a region, we sought to highlight the singularities of each work. In this sense, the idea of ​​chronology employed here does not carry an evolutionary notion or progress, but reinforces the conceptions of the world and the forms of knowledge of each artist. The following is a selection of the group of works exposed in "Art from Italy".

Maestro del Bigallo
Maestro del Bigallo is the name established by historians of Italian art to identify an anonymous 13th century painter. Bigallo, an archaic term for the Italian word ospedale, was the shelter for pilgrims and travelers maintained by the 12 captains who led the Compagnia Maggiore di S. Maria, an organ of the Papal Inquisition created in 1244 in Florence. The name also refers to the rooster painted by Bigallo on the crucifix that became the emblem of the Compagnia.

Only in the 20th century was the painting in the MASP collection attributed to the artist by specialists in Italian art. Bigallo’s work reveals an influence from Byzantine culture, which came to Italy in the 13th century by way of miniature drawings seen on the pages of medieval manuscripts.

The painting features characteristics typical of Byzantine art: rigid line composition, lack of depth, stiff representation of figures, and the use of symbols—like the cloth held by the female figure, which refers to ceremonial garments worn by Byzantine empresses, and the round halo that appears in the upper part of the painting. The graphic aspect of the lines defining the draped vestments is what makes the light and volume of the painting.

This piece was owned by the architect Lina Bo Bardi (1914-1992) and her husband, Pietro Maria Bardi (1900-1999), MASP’s former director, and was donated by him to MASP on the occasion of the museum’s 45th anniversary in 1992, in honor of Lina’s memory.

Maestro di San Martino
Maestro di San Martino alla Palma is the name assigned by historians of Italian art for a painter active in 14th century Florence. The name refers to the church in the city of San Martino alla Palma where much of the artist’s work is found. For a long time the authorship of these works was erroneously attributed to Bernardo Daddi (1280-1348), a painter who was influenced by the Maestro.

The Maestro’s works oppose the monumental paintings of Giotto (circa 1266-1337), whose style dominated Italian art in the 14th century. His painting was charged with Gothic values, characterized by linear compositions and affectionate, intimate relationships between the characters depicted, with the presence of miniatures.

The work in the MASP collection, most likely created for an altar—given the cusp shape at the top (an angular finishing which points upward)—, shows a traditional scene of Christian iconography in which the Virgin Mary and the baby Jesus exchange glances, and reflects the theology and philosophical thought of the early Renaissance, characterized by a revival of Platonism, in which the eyes are an extension of the soul, indicating a spiritual connection between the subjects.

Paolo Serafini da Modena
There is little documentation on the life of Paolo Serafini da Modena. The available information about the artist is inscribed in the only two known works which he signed: the first (Madonna of humility, at the Galleria Estense in Modena) has an inscription which reveals that Serafini was a Dominican friar. In the second, on the walls of the cathedral in the city of Barletta, the artist left clues as to the date of his birth, a year before the wedding of his father, the painter Serafino Serafini (1323-1393).

Historians attribute five other works to the artist, among them "The Adoration of the Magi", part of the MASP collection. The scene portrays the three kings’ visit to the newborn Jesus. The painting was made for a retable, a platform that supports religious images behind an altar.

It has a shallow depth, constructed through the overlap of elements, though without volume or perspective. Former MASP director Pietro Maria Bardi (1900-1999) had attributed the work to Maestro del Bambino Vispo, a painter who lived at the turn of the15th century. This theory was discredited by historians, who ascertained that the painting must have been created earlier, due to the style as well as the garments worn by the last man on the left, quite unusual for the time period indicated by Bardi.

Maestro del 1416
Throughout the 20th century, historian of Italian art were divided over the authorship of the work Madonna with the Child Enthroned and Four Saints (1410-15), part of the MASP collection. When it was acquired by the museum, it was attributed to Florentine painter Rossello di Jacopo Franchi (1376-1456), though at the time some historians affirmed that the painting was created by a different artist.

In the1980s, the theory of Franchi’s authorship was discredited and the work was attributed to Maestro del 1416, an anonymous painter known for a retable from 1416, identical to the one owned by MASP and part of the important collection at the Galleria dell’Accademia in Florence.

The painting at MASP is an example of the Florentine Gothic style, with prominent vertical lines and others that point in different directions, greatly detailed in its painting and carvings. In the scene, four saints—Saint Julian, Saint John the Baptist, Saint Anthony the Abbott and Saint James the Greater—accompany the enlarged figure of the Virgin Mary holding the baby Jesus. She is also represented by lilies, which symbolize purity. Her garments were completely repainted, but those worn by the other characters retain the work’s original colors and treatment.

Andrea Mantegna
Andrea Mantegna, brother-in-law of artist Giovanni Bellini (circa1430/35-1516), was the official court painter in Mantua, Italy. The painting in the MASP collection, Saint Jerome Penitent in the Desert (1448-51), depicts the character’s spiritual retreat in the desert of Chalcis in Syria, a common practice among the devout during the first phase of Christianity, who sought intellectual development and penance in seclusion.

The scene features elements that refer to the saint’s life story according to Christian iconography: the lion from whose paw Jerome was said to have removed a thorn,

the red bishop’s hat, the candle in the cave as an allusion to the holy trinity and the immersion in reading.

For a long time, the authorship of this painting was questioned, but some characteristics match with others made by Mantegna: the owl, which appears in his frescoes at the Ovetari Chapel, as well as the rocks and silvery cloud, similar to those painted in the Agony in the Garden, now part of the collection at the National Gallery of Art in Washington D.C. The tortured aspects and stiffness of the figure of Jerome, whose body seems to blend in with the landscape, follows Mantegna’s style, characterized by sculpted forms, expressive rendering and a revival of the aesthetics of Ancient Rome. His studies of ancient ruins likely piqued his interest in rocks, a frequent feature in Mantegna’s backgrounds which, assembled like architecture, have a touch of fictitiousness.

Giovanni Bellini
Born to a family of artists, Bellini collaborated with his father, the painter Jacopo Bellini (1396-1470), until he began receiving his own commissions. He adopted from his brother-in-law, Andrea Mantegna (circa1431-1506), qualities such as rigorous design and expressiveness in the figures portrayed. Bellini developed a personal style in the treatment of light, in the use of color fields, and in the representation of his subjects’ body and skin textures. In MASP’s painting, "The Virgin with Standing Child, Embracing Mother" (Madonna Willys) (1480-90), Bellini shows a certain distance between the Virgin Mary and Jesus, in order to underscore the divine dimension of the characters.

While their bodies are close, the facial expressions are cold and Mary seems to avoid his gaze; they do not have the same affinity seen in so many other versions of this recurring theme in Italian painting from the period. The painting presents the two figures behind a parapet, which separates the spectator from the scene, emphasizing the transcendence in the subjects’ divine nature, in contrast to mundane life on our side of the canvas. The parapet may also represent a frame, and the green field a backdrop, and, as such, viewers are faced with a painting within a painting. Here, Bellini incorporated the spatiality proposed by Florentine painting, characterized by the depth of the space, without losing the symbolism and formal rigor of Byzantine painting.

Niccolò di Liberatore (called L'Alunno)
The nickname L’Alunno, given to Niccolò di Liberatore, came from the inscription alumnus Fulginiae, seen on one of his works. It means “citizen of Foligno” and not “student,” as was wrongly affirmed by Giorgio Vasari (1511-1574), the forerunner to Italian art historiography. Niccolò was the son-in-law of painter Pietro di Giovanni di Corraduccio Mazzaforte (1404-1463), with whom he studied and established a mutual collaboration on commissions. Though there is little documentation on his career, art historians agree on the important role he played in introducing the pictorial culture of Padua to Umbria region, especially the model of emotional tension and starkness learned from the work of Andrea Mantegna (circa1431-1506).

The painting at MASP displays Gothic tendencies, as expressed by the level of detail in the sculpted adornments. Extremely decorative, the piece was once the door to a tabernacle or a shrine, as the keyhole on the left attests. The theme of Christ as a suffering man is associated with the representations of the wounds of the Passion of Christ and also the mass of Saint Gregory the Great, at which, according to Christian narrative, Jesus was said to have appeared while Saint Gregory was saying mass at the church of the Holy Cross in Jerusalem. This was a recurring theme in Italian art from the13th century on, depicted in illumination drawings and paintings from the region of Tuscany and Venice.

Sandro Botticelli and studio
The name Botticelli is derived from the word battiloro, goldsmith’s apprentice in Italian, the artist’s first occupation. He studied at the workshop of Fillipo Lippi (1406-1469) until 1467, when he joined Andrea del Verrocchio (1435-1488). In 1470, he opened his own studio, where he worked in collaboration with apprentices, a common practice at the time. Soon he became a protégé of the Medicis, an influential family of bankers who sponsored a large part of the artistic and architectural production in the city.

Historiography indicates that MASP’s "Virgin and Child with the Infant St. John the Baptist" (1490-1500) is a painting created by Botticelli, with studio assistants executing some of the elements, such as the figure of John the Baptist and the landscape, more detailed than his other paintings. The circular-shaped scene possesses various features characteristic of Botticelli: people’s gazes and their feet and hand gestures pointing in different directions, intimate, harmonious relationships between the characters (in contrast to "Madonna and Child by Giovanni Bellini" [circa 1430/35-1516]), clear colors and sharp, precise contours. His production was heavily influenced by Neoplatonic philosophy, as reflected in the idealization of beauty in his paintings. MASP’s painting revisits Christian narratives, straying from the mythological themes for which Botticelli is known, as seen in "The Birth of Venus" (1482-85) and "Primavera" (1477-82), both at the Galleria degli Uffizi in Florence.

Pietro Perugino and studio
Born Pietro Vannucci, Perugino was a painter and illustrator who worked in a number of Italian cities, mainly Perugia, Florence and Rome. The painter, possibly a pupil of Piero della Francesca (1415/1420-1492), collaborated with Sandro Botticelli (1445-1510) and Domenico Ghirlandaio (1449-1494), with whom he worked on the side walls of the Sistine Chapel in the Vatican. Though he is best known for having tutored Raphael (1483-1520), Perugino left his mark on the history of art by combining the Florentine compositional model, characterized by well-defined rendering, with the style dominant in Umbria, distinguished by the structuring of space based on architecture.

Such elements can be seen in the painting in the MASP collection, "St. Sebastian at the Column" (1500-10), in which the human figure, represented in a clear manner, is placed at the center, and depth is created from the layered positioning of geometric columns, arches and geometrical flooring. According to Christian tradition, Saint Sebastian was a Roman official who was sentenced to death by arrows after he converted to Christianity. Here, the artist innovated by depicting him as a young man—in medieval iconography he always appeared old. The nude, hairless body, and the painted face with delicate features seem to anticipate the homoerotic appropriation or reading of Saint Sebastian made by 20th century artists such as Pierre & Gilles, Leonilson and Derek Jarman.

Rafael
Ever since he began his education in the workshop of Pietro Perugino (1446-1524), Raphael Sanzio circulated in the court of Urbino, and at age16 he was already receiving commissions for his paintings. In1504, he moved to Florence and later to Rome, where he decorated the papal apartments (1508-20) and had contact with artists like Leonardo da Vinci (1452-1519) and Michelangelo (1475-1564).

MASP’s "The Resurrection of Christ" (1499-1502) was the subject of much discussion among art historians before it was attributed to a young Raphael. The debate was settled thanks to a comparison with sketches found at the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford, which revealed a composite study of the bodies of guards in the painting. The painting features characteristics which Raphael acquired from Perugino, such as the rigorous division of vertical and horizontal axises. Meanwhile, the symmetrical articulation between the central and peripheral elements was one of Raphael’s trademarks, who, in his paintings, strove for an ideal of harmonious beauty, derived from the values of classical antiquity.

Christ’s feet mark the center of the painting, above the rectangle formed by the four guards, who are gesturing in different directions. The half-opened cover of the sarcophagus in the center of the canvas suggests volume and depth, as do the hills and mountains in the background.

The angels beside Christ also imitate his gesture of pointing upward, alluding to the belief in a divine existence.

Andrea Fusina
Andrea Fusina was a sculptor, and his first work, dated from1495, was a clerical tomb in the Santa Maria della Passione Church in Milan. From 1503 until his death, he participated in the construction of the Milan Cathedral, along with Cristoforo Solari (1460- 1527).

Fusina was one of the main representatives of a generation of artists from Milan who sought to revive the forms and references from classical antiquity.

The work in the MASP collection, Christ Resurrected, depicts Jesus’s entire body wrapped in a shroud (a fabric used in funeral rites), bearing the wounds of the crucifixion, and carrying a chalice to collect the blood from the cut in his side—an allusion to the Christian sacrament of the eucharist.

The frontal presentation of Christ’s body, with its well-developed muscles and draped vestments, harkens back to the sculptures of the heroes of antiquity. There is a theory that the sculpture was made for the facade of the Milan Cathedral, since it is made of Candoglia marble, the material utilized in much of the cathedral’s construction.

Giampietrino
Born Giovanni Pietro Rizzoli, Giampietrino was one of the exponents of the generation of16th century Milan painters directly influenced by Leonardo da Vinci (1452-1519), who spent long seasons in the city. The first set of Giampietrino’s works is found in the churches and museums of Lombardy, featuring religious themes (especially representations of the Holy Family, the Virgin Mary and the Passion of Christ), or profane themes like The Death of Cleopatra, at the Louvre.

In MASP’s "The Virgin Nursing the Child with the Infant St. John the Baptist" in Adoration, Giampietrino revisited a traditional image of the Blessed Virgin. The scene harks back to the Egyptian theme of Isis Nursing Harpocrates, inserted into the Christian tradition by the Copts, Egyptian Christians, between the 4th and 7th centuries.

The reference to Da Vinci’s painting is clear: from the dark background, figures emerge in sfumato, a technique that smudges the painting’s lines, conferring upon it a smoky effect, and the scenery viewed through the window has a fantastical, dreamlike quality.

The 14th century painting tradition is also seen here, in the tiled floor which creates depth, and the window which presents a landscape in contrast to the curtain positioned behind the characters. The column decorated with grape leaves in the upper left corner is a symbol related to the Catholic sacrament of the eucharist, as is the cross held by Saint John the Baptist, an allusion to Jesus’s death.

Francesco Francia and studio
Born Francesco Raibolini, Francesco Francia was a goldsmith, jeweler and painter. He entered the Accademia di Bologna in1506, at the same time that Michelangelo (1475-1564) was at work in the city. As indicated by Giorgio Vasari (1511-1574), biographer and precursor to art history, both competed for commissions and had personal conflicts. Francia was familiar with the works of Pietro Perugino (1446-1524) and Raphael (1483-1520), a personal friend. These two artists definitively influenced Francia’s introduction of the balanced and idealized images of classicism in Bologna. The work in the MASP collection, "Virgin with Child and the Infant St. John the Baptist", is a painting with strong lighting and vibrant colors.

The triangular composition, quite common in portraits, is not rigid; it features a lightness reinforced by the curvature of the Virgin Mary’s head, the diagonals of the cross, and the gestures and movement of the babies. The painting depicts a recurring scene in Italian Renaissance art, the "Virgin Mary with the baby Jesus", but unlike other representations of the theme, like" Virgin with the Standing Child, Embracing his Mother" (Madonna Willys) (1480-90), by Giovanni Bellini (circa1430/35-1516), also in the MASP collection. In Bellini’s painting, there is an emotional distance between the subjects, while in Francia’s, Mary is portrayed holding the boys in an affectionate, intimate manner.

Paris Bordon
Initially educated in music, Paris Bordon studied under Titian (1488/90-1576) for a short period—long enough to elicit envy from the master, who refused to teach his techniques, as Bordon was able to copy his style so well. Bordon is one of the most expressive artists in16th century Venetian painting, both for his well-shaped figures, which feature great expressivity, as well as his construction of scenographic architecture.

The work in the MASP collection, "Portrait of Alvise Contarini" (?) (1525-50), was first attributed to Titian when it was acquired by the museum. Originally found in the Palazzo Contarini in Venice, it was believed that the painting was a portrait of Andrea Navagero (1483-1529), a friend of Titian’s. After its authorship was attributed to Bordon, the theory arose that the subject was actually a member of the Contarini family, part of the local aristocracy, a social position evidenced by the subject’s garments, made of noble materials including black velvet and animal fur. Like in the Titian painting in the MASP collection, the clock in Bordon’s work symbolizes ephemerality and the fleeting nature of time, power and life. The triangular composition, the light emanating from a single source and the contrast between strong colors are striking characteristics of Venetian painting from this era.

Alessandro Allori studio
When it entered MASP’s collection, the painting "Portrait of a Florentine Noble" (Piero de Medici?) was attributed to Bronzino (1503-1572). In1978, art historian Robert B. Simon, in correspondence with Pietro Maria Bardi (1900-1999), the museum’s director at the time, indicated that the painting was produced by Allori, with much participation from the pupils at his studio. To support this assertion, Simon used a portrait of the same character in the same position, signed by Allori. There are also disagreements regarding the subject’s identity, as indicated by the painting’s title; he is possibly a member of the Medici clan, considering the resemblance to a portrait painted by Bronzino, currently found in the Liechtenstein Gallery in Vienna. But the character’s clothes, made with black velvet and patterned fabrics, and complemented with a richly embroidered collar, clearly indicate that he was part of the aristocracy. The subject appears with an enigmatic gaze, in front of a smooth background, possibly evocative of a decorative and scenographic context. Though active in decorations, Allori’s studio was mainly dedicated to painting portraits of the Florentine aristocracy and selling small-scale copies of monumental paintings.

But the character’s clothes, made with black velvet and patterned fabrics, and complemented with a richly embroidered collar, clearly indicate that he was part of the aristocracy. The subject appears with an enigmatic gaze, in front of a smooth background, possibly evocative of a decorative and scenographic context. Though active in decorations, Allori’s studio was mainly dedicated to painting portraits of the Florentine aristocracy and selling small-scale copies of monumental paintings.

Jacopo Tintoretto
By all indications, Tintoretto attended the studio of Titian (1488/90-1576). What distinguished him from his contemporaries was the intense use of color, reinforced by quick, firm brushstrokes, marked by abrupt interruptions.

He distorted perspective, disorganized human anatomy and used colors strongly to give vibrations to the shadows, striving for greater expressiveness and drama. He was more interested in the emotional dimension behind each scene than faithful representation.

MASP has two quite distinct paintings by Tintoretto, one created during his youth and a late one. The painting "Ecce Homo or Pilate Presents Christ to the Crowd" (1546-47) alludes to the biblical passage in which Pilate consults the crowd on Christ’s fate. In the triangular composition, in which triangles, squares and rectangles can be identified, the public watches the scene of characters deciding Christ’s fate while making theatrical gestures, as if onstage. The dog adds a touch of nonchalance to the scene and might have been painted to resolve the composition.

Meanwhile, "Lamentation Over the Dead Christ" (or Pietà) (1560-65) features a sinuous composition, in which the represented figures are intertwined in an outdoor, though intimate, setting.

The colors are dense and take shape with the thick, shaded lines that render the figures.

The painting is a free interpretation of the Christian iconography that narrates the moments after Christ’s crucifixion.

Girolamo Santacroce
As a youth, Girolamo Santacroce left his trade as a goldsmith to dedicate himself to sculpture. He contributed to the works at the Caracciolo di Vico Chapel (1516) in Naples, made by two Spanish sculptors who brought the Roman sculptural style to the region and influenced Santacroce. After this experience, the artist lived in Carrara for a year, completing the monument to the Cardinal Cisneros which the two Spaniards had left unfinished. After returning to Naples, he created the altars for the Santa Maria di Monte Oliveto Church (1524), as well as other sets of sculptures in the city.

The sculpture in the MASP collection, "God the Father" (circa 1530), was created to be part of an architectural ensemble, possibly as an altar or the lateral piece of a funeral monument. God’s gaze, directed downward, indicates that the sculpture was planned for an elevated locale. The spiral movement of the draped garments indicates the effect of the wind, which seems to rejuvenate and energize the elderly father’s fragile body, bent from the weight of the years. The sculpture has boreholes in the head, suggesting the possibility that it was once adorned with a halo made of wood or metal.

Titian
Born in the Venice region, Titian became one of the most renowned painters of the Renaissance during his lifetime. As a youth, he was an apprentice at the workshops of Giovanni Bellini (circa1430/35-1516) and Giorgione (1477-1510). Titian was one of the first painters to forgo sketches and primary drawings, applying the paint directly on the canvas, thus giving color an extremely relevant role in his production. His paintings are characterized by large formats and scenes that seek to provoke emotions in the spectator, rather than simply to narrate a story.

In MASP’s painting, Cardinal Cristoforo Madruzzo (1512-1578) is portrayed standing and not dressed in his religious garments. Madruzzo was bishop of Trento, the city that hosted the Council of Trent (1545-63), when this portrait was painted, and he actively participated in the discussions that led to the beginning of the Counter-Reformation, the Catholic church’s response to the Protestant Reformation. In the painting, at left, the clock on the table, a common element in Venetian iconography from that era, is an allusion to the ephemeral and fleeting nature of time and power. The portrait went through several restorations since the 19th century, some of which were poorly executed.

Some of its elements, including the pants, the red at the base and the shoes, are not original. In1992 and1995, the painting was restored to correct a 40-centimeter stain located at the center of the canvas.

Jacopo da Ponte Bassano and studio (Francesco il Giovane and Gerolamo Bassano)
Jacopo da Ponte, known as Bassano, spent most of his life in the city of his birth, Bassano del Grappa, located in the Italian region of Veneto. He visited Venice on numerous occasions, establishing relationships with other painters, as well as collectors.

Through engravings, he was able to keep up on the work of such artists as Titian (1488/90-1576) and Albrecht Dürer (1471-1528). The decision to remain in his small town matched with Bassano’s reserved character and his interest in the study of religious scriptures, elements of his personality revealed by the selection of themes of strong moral inclination. His four sons were also painters and they continuously contributed to his commissioned works. The last ten years of his production are characterized by nocturnal, theatrical and dark scenes.

The painting in the MASP collection, "Adoration of the Shepherds" (1580-90), appears to be uncompleted, as suggested by the unfinished details of the barn in the background, at left. The only source of light seems to emanate from Jesus and Mary, illuminating the shepherds and the cow, and reaching the squatting man and the goat behind him. The contrasts of light and shadow almost entirely cover the the scene, which is dominated by a large mass of darkness.

Carlo Saraceni
Born in Venice, Carlo Saraceni moved to Rome at age19, studying under the inconspicuous painter Camillo Mariani (1556-1611). The works he produced in Rome up until1610 reflect the influence of different painters active in the city, such as Titian (1488/90-1576) and Jacopo Tintoretto (1518-1594), but the legacy of German painter Adam Elsheimer (1578-1610) comes closest to his work as a youth.

Both created complex, asymmetrical, inclined compositions, with defined diagonals and a wide variety in the range of characters and background scenes, as seen in the painting in the MASP collection, "Mars and Venus", with a Circle of Cupids and Landscape (1605-10). Saraceni often painted on copper, something new in Rome at the time, and, given the difficulty of this technique, his works are generally small.

In the painting owned by MASP, Mars, the god of war, is portrayed as disarmed, in an intimate scene with Venus, surrounded by cupids, who use Mars’s armor as a plaything. The dancing circle of cupids confer movement upon the painting, softening its angles and slopes, and adding a dreamlike element to the composition, in opposition to the symbols of war associated with Mars. The characters stand out in the foreground, theatrically separated from the landscape backdrop, alluding to the Renaissance masters who influenced the artist.

Attributed to Guercino
Guercino, born Giovanni Francesco Barbieri, was a pupil of Benedetto Gennari "the Elder" (1563-1658), and he worked for the Bologna nobility throughout his life. In1621, recruited by the Pope Gregory XV (1554-1623), he moved to Rome and created the paintings for the Papal residence, as well as "The Burial of St. Petronill"a (1623), the altarpiece for Saint Peter’s Basilica in the Vatican. He returned to Bologna in 1623, after the death of the pope. "Mythological Scene" (Chronos Admonishes Eros in the Presence of Venus and Mars) was donated to MASP in 2006 by the Brazilian authorities, after being seized at the port of Santos in São Paulo for irregular importation.

The work presents gods of Greco-Roman mythology, a theme Guercino inherited from the classical values of the Italian Renaissance. Eros, or Cupid, in the figure of a baby, is depicted alongside his parents, Venus, the goddess of love, and Mars, the god of war.

Saturn, or Chronos, the god of time, represented by the old man pointing his finger at Eros, seems to be reprimanding him.

The geometrical composition, characterized by the triangular distribution of the figures, as well as the dynamic of the gestures, the contrast of brightness and shadow, the light emanating from a shared focal point, and the color that is intensified by the shadows, are features of Italian Baroque painting, alluding to the influence that the work of Caravaggio (1571-1610) had on Guercino.

Bartolomeo Passante, or Mestre da Anunciação aos Pastores
There are discrepancies regarding the authorship of the painting "Adoration of the Shepherds" (circa 1630-35). When came to MASP in the1950s, it was attributed to Spanish painter José de Ribera (1591-1652). But, following an exchange of correspondence between Pietro Maria Bardi (1900-1999), the museum’s director at the time, and specialists in Italian and Spanish art, the authorship was attributed to Bartolomeo Passante, a Neapolitan apprentice of Ribera. Some historians disagreed with this, claiming that some of the works originally attributed to Passante were actually created by an anonymous painter in Naples, the Master of the Annunciation to the Shepherds, and the painting in the MASP collection was one of them. In1969, Roberto Longhi (1890-1970), a historian specializing in Italian art, wrote an article in which he asserted that the entire set belonged to Passante, but the issue remains unsettled.

The work in the MASP collection is considered one of the artist’s best paintings, as he made use of tenebrism, a technique from the Baroque period in which a single light source is utilized to highlight the shadows, adding drama and tension to paintings dominated by dark tones. In spite of the seriousness and gravity of the composition, the lightness of the angels surrounding Jesus provides an intimate, family ambiance to the work, likening the scene of divine intonation to one found in the realms of everyday life.

Ciro Ferri
Ciro Ferri was a pupil of Pietro da Cortona (1596-1669), working in the master’s studio for over ten years. In1673, he assumed command of the Medici Academy in Rome. The authorship of the painting in the MASP collection, "Moses and Jethro’s Daughters" (1660-89), formerly attributed to Cortona, was revised in 1932, after news emerged of the existence of an engraving made from this work and signed by Ferri.

The painting narrates the passage from the Old Testament book of Exodus in which Moses, on the run after having killed an Egyptian soldier, brandishes a spear and saves the daughters of the priest Jethro from an attack.

The scene is vertically divided into two contrasting sections: the serene female world, with circular shapes, and the battle between the men, dominated by angles. The spears are pointed in different directions, in tension with the abrupt gestures of the men; at the same time, the circle created by the well is reinforced by the curves and movement of the women, by the drooping garments, and the flow of the water being poured from the jug.

There is also an interplay of intense dialogue between the colors: from the blue of the sky and the dress of the woman in the foreground with the whiteness of her skin; from the red of the jug and the red clothes of the fallen man on the right; from the green of the garments of the other men with the green of the vegetation.

Alessandro Magnasco
Also known as Il Lissandrino, Alessandro Magnasco was one of the most important Genovese painters of his era. He was educated in Genoa, Milan, where he studied in the mid-1680s, and in Florence, where he lived at the Medici court and became familiar with German and Flemish painting. The work in the MASP collection, Landscape with Shepherds (1710-30), was painted with quick brushstrokes, indicating an intuitive process, and it features little variation between the tones of green and brown, in opposition to the contrast of the colors in the sky with that of the vegetation.

The leaning tree at the center of the painting adds drama and movement to nature, dominating the natural landscape and relegating the group of people around it to a supporting role.

The tree’s branches and leaves mix with the outline of the clouds, which in turn blend with the contours of the mountains in the background. Magnasco innovated by using nature as the central element in the painting, and not as a backdrop, distant and subordinate to human narratives, and he seems to anticipate the notion of the sublime, a feature of 19th century Romanticism, which sought beauty in the grandiosity and violence of nature.

Giuseppe Mazzuoli
A member of a family of artists and architects, Giuseppe Mazzuoli was introduced to sculpting by his brother, Giovanni Antonio (1644-1706), in Siena. In his early youth, he moved to Rome, where his education was complemented at the studio of Ercole Ferrata (1610-1686). His first commission, "Dead Christ" (1671), made for the church of Santa Maria della Scala in Siena, caught the attention of Gian Lorenzo Bernini (1598-1680), with whom he later worked on several projects in Rome. Of the sculptors associated with this phase of Italian Baroque, Mazzuoli was the one who most assimilated Bernini’s characteristics, especially the rendering of movement and the dramatic nature of garments.

The sculpture in the MASP collection, formerly attributed to Bernini by some historians, was produced by a middle-aged Mazzuoli for the Palazzo Barberini, in Rome. "Sleeping Diana" (1690-1700) is a variation on the ancient images which depicted a nymph, a figure from Greco-Roman mythology associated with inspiration and the arts, slumbering beside a fountain.

Its earliest precedent is the sculpture Sleeping Ariadne (1512), associated with a sarcophagus which was fitted as a fountain in the Belvedere Courtyard at the Vatican. The half-moon characteristic and the bow and arrows strapped to her back, seen in the sculpture, are features of the iconography of Diana, the Roman goddess of the hunt and the moon.

MASP - Museu de Arte de São Paulo
Credits: Story

"Art from Italy: from Rafael to Titian"
26.6 to 4.10.2015
Curatorial: Adriano Pedrosa, Eugênia Gorini Esmeraldo, Tomás Toledo

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
Translate with Google
Home
Explore
Nearby
Profile