Tag Archive for 'Artibus et Historiae'

Leonardo, Giorgione, Titian

Leonardo da Vinci, Portrait of a woman ("La belle ferronière"), Paris, Louvre

The latest volume of the excellent journal Artibus et Historiae includes an extended article by yours truly on Leonardo da Vinci’s signficance for the art of Giorgione and Titian. And much-debated, but still vaguely defined topic in connection with Giorgione and, by contrast, little-discussed in relation to Titian, I think Leonardo’s art is a particularly rich key to understanding aspects of both artist’s creativity.

The article has a rather long and slightly tedious history. It started life as a paper given at a conference on the significance of Florentine art in other parts of Italy held in Lausanne in 2012, organised by my friend Chris Fischer and professor of art history in that city Nicholas Bock. It was originally written out to be published in a proceedings that never happened and then say in my virtual desk drawer for years, out of sight, but never entirely out of mind, as I updated it with new literature and thoughts occasionally as it came to me. The lockdown period came and seemed like an oppotune moment to extract it, dust it off and submit it.

So, it is not exactly my scholarship of ten years ago preserved in amber, but something like that. Not everything in it reflects my thinking today, but I found it sufficiently worthwhile as is not to attempt a thorough rewrite. It was, from the begnning, much influenced by my teacher at Columbia University 2002-4, David Rosand, who sadly passed away in 2014. It is therefore dedicated to his memory.

Find it in Artibus no. 84 (2021), pp. 115-47.

Giorgione, Portrait of a old woman ("La vecchia"), Venice, Accademia

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!