Monthly Archive for April, 2014

Hype: Titian caricaturing Michelangelo and Raphael painting the Pope’s Beard

No, these aren't the caricature mentioned, but they're also by Titian (and/or his assistants), and they're on the back of the Ancona Pala Gozzi.


In the latest issue of the scholarly journal Artibus et Historiae, I have an article on a caricature found on the back of a Titian canvas, seemingly depicting Michelangelo. It’s fairly speculative, I suppose, but that’s the nature of such things, and in any case it engages a number of issues — caricature, cartooning, the grotesque — that have been chronically under-examined in the history of art and the humanities in general. Oh, there’s also an extensive excursus on Pope Julius II’s beard, and Raphael and Leonardo are implicated…

Here’s the abstract:

The article examines drawings found on the back of the canvas of the recently surfaced Portrait of a Man (Girolamo Cornaro?) painted by Titian around 1511–1512. Drawn with the point of the brush, they depict a large head in profi le and two smaller figures. Loose and broad in execution, at least the former belongs to the domain of caricature. By comparison with similar drawings, on paper as well as the versos of other paintings, the drawings are here attributed to Titian. Further, the possibility that the head might be a portrayal of Michelangelo is explored, as is its value as evidence of the reception of Michelangelo’s outsize public stature and self-fashioning as an imperfect, Socratic artist whose work carried palpable overtones of the grotesque. The two figure studies, in themselves acutely Michelangelesque, are related to inventions by other contemporaries. Next, the fact that the caricature wears a beard, but no moustache, occasions an excursus on contemporary facial hair generally and specifically that of Michelangelo’s patron, Julius II. Ecclesiastical beards were a controversial issue at the time, and shaving one’s upper lip carried liturgical significance. Julius was the fi rst Renaissance pope to grow a beard, as is famously charted by Raphael in his portraits of him in the Vatican frescoes and elsewhere. By focusing on the depiction of his beard, the article sheds new light on the iconography of these pictures and potentially their confused chronology. Lastly, Titian’s drawings are examined in the context of contemporary grotesques with reference to Leonardo’s explorations of exaggerated physiognomies. On this basis, it proposes a reevaluation of Renaissance caricature.

The issue is second of two dedicated to Professor Peter Humfrey in his retirement. I am very happy to thus take part in the celebration!

Artibus et Historiae vol. 68 is available now in a specialist library near you!

The Week

The week in review

OK, I’ll try again. As should be evident, I’m not finding much time to blog these days, but I refuse to let go entirely, and who knows if times might not turn more propitious, Bunker-wise in the not-too-far future? Also, the National Gallery internet presence, which I’ve previously hinted at, is still in the works. So, not much to say right now, but I have some links to share!

  • In-depth interview with Jean-Luc Martinez, the recently appointed director of the Louvre. Excellent, critical interview in which the director at Tribune de l’art takes his time to answer Didier Rykner’s not always easy questions. In three parts: one, two, three.
  • Pharoahe Monche interviewed. Another in-depth interview, this one with one of the greatest rap lyricists. Candid and insightful.
  • T.J. Clark on Veronese’s Allegories of Love at the National Galleries. Clark takes a close look at four wonderful pictures that just happen to be on display in one of the great exhibitions of the decade right where I work. Clark does tend to go on a little long, but it is still highly worthwhile to follow his eye.
  • How Not to Make a Graphic Novel. Fine piece by Sean Michael Robinson on the creative process as it pertains to long-form comics.
  • Raphael’s Influence on Titian 1508-1520. Kiril Penušliski examines the evidence and adds a few good observations. Now, somebody should examine more closely Titian’s influence on Raphael…
  • The New Chairman

    Passing the mantle: Thomas Thorhauge and Stine Spedsbjerg at the Danish Comics Council general assembly in March


    It happened a few weeks ago, but I figured I should still note it here: we have a new chairman, or rather chairwoman, of the Danish Comics Council. Elected at the general assembly on 18 March, Stine Spedsbjerg succeeds my pal Thomas Thorhauge who had decided to step down. Stine is a successful online cartoon diarist and earns her keep in advertising. She’s enormously enterprising and resourceful — I can’t think of a better person to take over.

    The Danish Comics Council was founded in 2009. I was part of the founding group along with a diverse group of comics professionals, and have sat on the board since. Considering that we have had no funding apart from the annual fee paid by members, it’s been a productive five years: we’ve had a hand in the establishment of a state-approved cartoonist’s programme (BA, ‘graphic storytelling’) at the Animation Workshop in Viborg, Denmark — the first of its kind in Denmark; we’ve managed to place the semi-private Comics Museum archive with a state-recognized institution, the Storm P. Museum in Copenhagen, which secures it for the future in terms of preservation, collection, expansion, research and facilitation; we’ve created an comics award, the Ping, given annually to cartoonists in a number of categories; we’ve undertaken annual registration of all comics published in Denmark, published annually in a small compendium; we’ve arranged two conferences at the University of Copenhagen, one of which helped stimulate the establishment of the Nordic Network for Comics Research (NNCORE): we’ve partnered with the ambitious Danish comics biennial Copenhagen Comics; we’ve brought comics to wide audiences through live cartooning and other activities; and quite a lot more.

    While Thomas takes a well-deserved breather (though remaining at the Council’s board), there is plenty for Stine to get up to. The Comics Council is still essentially an unfunded organisation and other affiliated groups such as Copenhagen Comics will also depend on more steady sources of funding to survive — the hope is eventually to secure larger, ongoing partnerships with possible patrons, as well as with the Danish State to help secure an institutional infrastructure for Danish comics in the future. And I know Stine also has ambitions for preaching the comics gospel to a much wider audience than is currently the case.

    Here’s to the next half-decade!

    Photo: Henrik Conradsen