56th Annual Meeting of the Renaissance Society of America, 2010 Venice

The IAS sponsored six sessions on Giovanni Bellini at the RSA’s 2010 annual meeting, held April 8-10, 2010 in Venice:

GIOVANNI BELLINI I: TOWARD 2016: CRITICAL ASSESSMENT AND EXAMINATION OF AN EARLY SOURCE
Friday, 9 April 2010, 2:00–3:30, Fondazione Cini – Sala degli Arazzi
Organizer & Chair: Carolyn C. Wilson, Independent Scholar, Houston

Peter Humfrey, University of St Andrews: “Bellini in Rome: A Summing-Up”
In 2008 the most comprehensive exhibition of Giovanni Bellini since 1949 was held at the Scuderie del Qurinale in Rome. Certain aspects of the display were controversial, and many fewer of the major masterpieces were present than in 1949. The exhibition nevertheless provided an exceptional opportunity for our generation to examine a large assembly of high-quality paintings side by side, and to test old questions relating to Bellini’s chronology and his use of shop assistants. The present paper will attempt to summarize what has been learned from the exhibition itself, and assess how the catalogue advances our knowledge and understanding of the painter.

Anchise Tempestini, Gallerie degli Uffizi: “Giovanni Bellini: il catalogo delle sue opere tra XX e XXI secolo”
La ricostruzione del catalogo di Giovanni Bellini, sulla base degli scarsi documenti, delle firme, delle fonti storiche, comprese le due edizioni delle Vite di Vasari, si è consolidata, dopo il fondamentale contributo di Crowe e Cavalcaselle (1871), ad opera soprattutto di Fry (1899), Gronau (1930), Dussler (1935 e 1949), Gamba (1937), Pallucchini (1949 e 1959), Heinemann (1962), Bottari (1963), Robertson (1968), Pignatti (1969), Huse (1972), Goffen (1989), Tempestini (1992, 1997 e 2000), Humfrey (2004), Bätschmann (2008), Lucco e Villa (2008), senza dimenticare i contributi sparsi in vari interventi di Longhi (1914, 1927, 1946, 1947, 1949). Si sono così confrontate metodologie molto articolate, da quella basata sull’idealismo, alla pura visibilità, all’attribuzionismo, al positivismo, fino ad approdare oggi ad un’indagine fortemente basata non solo su ricerche storiche, ricostruzione della personalità, interpretazione dei simboli e confronti stilistici ma anche e soprattutto su indagini tecnologiche sui supporti, la tecnica pittorica e i disegni sottostanti.

Amy N. Worthen, Des Moines Art Center: “An Inconvenient Text: The Supplementum Chronicarum as a Source for Information about Gentile and Giovanni Bellini”
Jacopo Filippo Foresti’s Supplementum Chronicarum, first published in 1483, appeared in twenty-one editions through 1581. The text was updated and corrected by Foresti until 1503. The
edition of 1486 was the first to mention Gentile Bellini and it included a report of Gentile’s trip to Constantinople. Andrea Mantegna and Giovanni Bellini were first included in the 1503 edition. This entry featured the phrase, “Gentile minimus frater.” Although hardly proof of Giovanni’s seniority, Foresti’s contemporary assertion deserves consideration. It was probably Vasari’s source for his often-discounted statement that Gentile was the younger. Recently, Fortini Brown, Agosti, and Chong have addressed implications of some Supplementum texts, but did not explain how and why Supplementum texts differ. The 2008 Bellini and Mantegna exhibitions glossed over or ignored Foresti. But because the chronology of Giovanni’s early development and dating of works depends on his birth date, the Bellini primogeniture problem continues to tantalize.

GIOVANNI BELLINI II: BELLINI AND THE VENETIAN PORTRAIT
Friday, 9 April 2010, 4:00–5:30, Fondazione Cini – Sala degli Arazzi
Organizer: Carolyn C. Wilson, Independent Scholar, Houston
Chair: Patricia Meilman, Independent Scholar, New York City
Respondent: Jennifer Fletcher, The Courtauld Institute of Art, Honorary Fellow

Elizabeth Perkins, Columbia University:  “Giovanni Bellini, Antonello da Messina, and the ‘Signs of Men’s Character'”
Prior to the last quarter of the fifteenth century, portraiture in Venice is mainly confined to votive images and static ducal profiles. The year 1474 marks an important turning point: a new, expressive portrait type emerges through the work of Giovanni Bellini and Antonello da Messina. Their sitters wear few embellishments, and carry no identifying attributes; instead they embody what Philostratus referred to as “the signs of men’s character.” In light of recent monographic exhibitions that have provided the opportunity for closer study of both artists’ portraiture, this paper will examine the relationship between Giovanni Bellini and Antonello by considering several portraits from this early period of 1474 to 1476, with particular attention to Giovanni Bellini’s portrait of Raffaele Zovenzoni (Biblioteca Trivulziana, Milan) as an important point of intersection between the two artists.

Eveline Baseggio, Rutgers University, New Brunswick: “Humanism, Intimacy, and Faith: Jacometto Veneziano’s Opera Perfettissima and Parallels in Portraits by Giovanni Bellini and Leonardo da Vinci”
Scholars almost unanimously agree in identifying the pair of small, once-joined portraits now in the Robert Lehman Collection as the work cited by Marcantonio Michiel as an opera perfettissima di mano di Iacometto. Hitherto, the Lehman portraits remain the only work assigned with certainty to the Venitiano. They represent an essential point of reference for the reconstruction of the activity of this fascinating yet mysterious painter-miniaturist whom the sources describe as a successful artist, perfectly integrated in the Venetian context. The purpose of this paper is to reexamine and offer a new reading of Jacometto’s masterpiece through comparison with Giovanni Bellini’s Portrait of a Young Boy in Birmingham and Leonardo’s Portrait of Ginevra de’ Benci in Washington. Each sheds light on the Lehman panels’ intended function, sitters’ identities, and allegorical imagery; Bellini’s and Leonardo’s portraits may indeed have served as sources of inspiration for Jacometto’s creation.

Antonio Mazzotta, The National Gallery, London:  “Un ritratto dimenticato: Giovanni Bellini e gli agostiniani”
Un dipinto autografo — ma spesso dimenticato — di Giovanni Bellini, che ritrae Gabriele Dalla Volta (1468–1537), apre nuove strade nello studio del rapporto tra Bellini e gli ordini religiosi veneziani. Un poliedrico intellettuale e uomo di potere come il Dalla Volta (è stato, oltre a generale dell’ordine degli eremitani agostiniani, editore e architetto) ha fatto parte delle più alte sfere umanistiche veneziane del principio del Cinquecento: è nota infatti la sua amicizia e corrispondenza con Pietro Bembo. La presenza di un suo ritratto accerta l’esistenza di un legame con Giovanni Bellini, che arricchisce il quadro dei rapporti del pittore con la sua stessa città e società. L’obbiettivo della ricerca è inoltre di far luce sulla relazione tra Bellini e l’ordine degli eremitani agostiniani a Venezia, e in particolare con la chiesa di Santo Stefano, alla quale peraltro, stando al Ridolfi, donò “una effigie del Salvatore in atto di benedire.”

GIOVANNI BELLINI III: BELLINI’S CHRISTIAN PICTURES, AN ART “MORE HUMAN AND MORE DIVINE” I
Saturday, 10 April 2010, 9:00–10:30, Fondazione Cini – Sala degli Arazzi
Organizer: Carolyn C. Wilson, Independent Scholar, Houston
Chair: Beverly Louise Brown, Independent Scholar, London

Rosella Lauber, Università Iuav di Venezia: “Per nuovi contributi sul San Francesco nel deserto di Giovanni Bellini, ora nella Frick Collection di New York”
Si proporrà un caso-studio incentrato sul problematico dipinto di Giovanni Bellini del San Francesco nel deserto, ora nella Frick Collection di New York. Anche attraverso la presentazione di nuovi documenti d’archivio e la riflessione su dati non noti, saranno indagati i passaggi collezionistici del quadro, partendo dalle parole di Marcantonio Michiel nel fondamentale manoscritto marciano cinquecentesco della Notizia d’opere di disegno, e compresa la rilevazione di segnali di “pentimenti” nella sua descrizione. Si affronterà il problema della committenza, ancora in parte misteriosa e su cui si avanzano nuove piste di ricerca. Si ragionerà sulla collezione rinascimentale del nobile veneziano Taddeo Contarini, proprietario pure di opere quali i Tre Filosofi di Giorgione. Si rifletterà su agenti e mediatori, e su una serie di fonti riferite alla tavola di Bellini. Si esplorerà una rete di famiglie e personaggi che nel tempo hanno posseduto il San Francesco Frick, anche ricostruendo anelli sinora mancanti.

Paul Hills, The Courtauld Institute of Art: “Vesting the Body of Christ in the Art of Bellini”
Metaphors of clothing or veiling pervade the Bible and Christian imagery. Giovanni Bellini tapped into this tradition in a highly nuanced manner in his paintings of Christ. This paper examines how Bellini describes vestments and shrouds. It argues that his artistic reformulation of drapery as furnishing an image as much as clothing a person grew out of his presentations of the body of Christ. Significantly, the body and its integument are often a little detached. Particular attention will be paid to the unusual painting of Christ Blessing, in the Louvre. The feminization of this Christ will be explored and links with the iconography of St Francis proposed. Another focus will fall on the Resurrection from San Michele. Loin-cloths and shrouds in this altarpiece may be compared with Byzantine precedents and related to the Venetian rituals of Holy Week.

Brigit Blass-Simmen, Kulturstiftung St. Matthäus: “Sky Fits Heaven: Presence of the Divine, New Interpretations”
The paradigm change in the visual arts that occurred during the fifteenth century, as realized by Giovanni Bellini, arguably followed both observation of nature and change in spirituality, namely from a transcendental system of being and seeing (represented by the gold background) to an observed and lived reality that affected the traditional ways of painting (represented by a new conception of paese in the background). Most especially the sky was given ample space by Bellini, yet in proportion to the landscape. Building on achievements of his Northern and North Italian predecessors, he developed an atmospheric sky that united hitherto separated spheres: the natural realm with the divine realm. As will be argued with focus on Bellini’s Berlin Resurrection, that his is a dramaturgy in paint, whereby natural phenomena (e.g., sunrise, sunset, stormy atmosphere) are deliberately included to emphatically foreground the religious narrative — the main act of the painting.

GIOVANNI BELLINI IV: BELLINI’S CHRISTIAN PICTURES, AN ART “MORE HUMAN AND MORE DIVINE” II
Saturday, 10 April 2010, 11:00–12:30, Fondazione Cini – Sala degli Arazzi
Organizer: Carolyn C. Wilson, Independent Scholar, Houston
Chair: Diane Cole Ahl, Lafayette College

Catarina Schmidt Arcangeli, Kunsthistorisches Institut Florenz, Max Planck Institut: “Bellini’s Private Devotional Images: A Boom around 1500”
This paper newly focuses on the economic aspects of the “mass production” of devotional images for private use that issued from Bellini’s workshop, the leading “manufacturer,” from ca. 1500 forward and that must surely have generated a significant source of income. Bellini’s public commissions throughout the city had become conveyers of a style expressing a novel concept of devotion; they led to an increasing demand from Venetian citizens for small-sized “imitations.” Socioeconomic diversity among the clientele for these works may explain variety in type and quality among Bellini’s extant devotional images. Despite the difficulties inherent in assessing the function and intent of works now most often removed from their original contexts, sufficient sources survive to shed light on questions of manufacturing, style, and patronage.

Bernard Aikema, Universtià degli Studi di Verona: “Giovanni Bellini: uno sguardo al particolare”
Focusing on seemingly insignificant or half-hidden details, this paper will examine Bellini’s landscape iconography with reference to problems of meaning, looking habits, and the discourse on painting. Relations with the treatment of landscape in contemporary painting in Northern Europe will be explored.

Tamara Durn, Case Western Reserve University: “Reconsidering Giovanni Bellini’s Washington Saint Jerome Reading”
The Washington Jerome is distinctive among Bellini’s other depictions of the saint for the prominent water-filled cut-rock structure in the left foreground. This conspicuous feature may indeed be the key to this work’s meaning. This paper proposes that Bellini’s inspiration derives from a passage in Jacobus de Voragine’s Golden Legend (“Jerome built his tomb at the mouth of the cave where our Lord had lain and was buried there”) and that all elements of the painting may be understood in relation to it. The foreground cut-rock structure may be identified as the tomb Jerome built for himself, and the cave behind as the site of Christ’s birth. Bellini orchestrates an intricate symbolic program to manifest that, as Christ, Jerome, and the viewer himself can be sanctified through a meditation on its meaning.

GIOVANNI BELLINI V: BELLINI AND THE ART OF DRAWING
Saturday, 10 April 2010, 2:00–3:30, Fondazione Cini – Sala degli Arazzi
Organizer: Carolyn C. Wilson, Independent Scholar, Houston
Chair: Paul Hills, The Courtauld Institute of Art

Colin Eisler, New York University: “The Iris Page in the Bellini Paris Notebook: Who Painted it and Why? Reasons for the Iris’s Presence in Works North and South of the Alps, 1430–1530”
The flower’s prominent role in the Sorrows of the Virgin proved a stimulus for pictorial concern with the iris due to the increasing popularity of the Stabat Mater. Botanical studies of the later fourteenth and earlier fifteenth centuries, along with special gardens in the Veneto, contributed to a new awareness of floral imagery in that region. Interrelationships between painting, botanical gardens, and herbal illustration proved particularly important toward the development of a new naturalism in art. Iris’s pharmaceutical properties were well known through Pliny’s Natural History. The same writer’s commentaries on Greek artists, widely printed and popular in the Veneto, included a characterization of the Theban painter Aristides that may prove key to the genesis of Bellini’s Iris image, revealing a hitherto unknown humanistic agenda for the identification between the Venetian and the Greek artist.

Karolina Zgraja, Bibliotheca Hertziana, Max-Planck-Institut für Kunstegeschichte: “Giovanni Bellini’s Drawings: A Critical Reassessment in the Light of Underdrawings”
The study of Bellini’s drawings on paper is problematic. Although no document attests to his activity in this area and no attributed drawing can be securely identified as a preparatory study for a known painting, over one hundred heterogeneous drawings have been assigned, often tentatively or controversially, to him. This paper will examine a selection of drawings that I accept as autograph works and that represent a chronological range and variety of techniques. Following a critical review of their respective attribution histories and observations on technique and style with hypotheses regarding function, these drawings will be compared with a variety of Bellini’s underdrawings that have been revealed through infra-red reflectography conducted during the past two decades. Assessment will follow of the extent to which comparison of underdrawings with drawings on paper provides new guidelines for attribution and understanding of the works on paper that have been ascribed to the master.

Elizabeth Carroll Consavari, Colgate University Venice Program: “In the Shadow of Bellini: Defining Bartolomeo Montagna and Artistic Identity in Early Sixteenth-Century Vicenza”
Bartolomeo Montagna (1459–1523) was one of the most productive painters of his day. However, we lack sufficient information critical to our understanding of Giovanni Bellini’s widespread influence in the terraferma. Painters from the Venetian terraferma often achieved a sense of volume through the altering of stroke gradation. By contrast, Montagna created volume in the manner of Giovanni Bellini. Scholars identify Montagna as the caposcuola of Vicenza; however, his training is not easily traced to Vicenza.This paper addresses the idea that Montagna’s mixed artistic influences outside of Vicenza are the most critical sources providing the best understanding of Montagna’s unique mescolanza of pictorial approaches. I explore not only the influence of Bellini in the case of Montagna’s most direct contact with him in Venice, but also discover his distinctiveness by viewing him in light of the historical identities of Venice and Vicenza, and not as the casualty of previous methodology.

GIOVANNI BELLINI VI: SEBASTIANO AND TITIAN: “DUE ECCELLENTI SUOI CREATI”
Saturday, 10 April 2010, 4:00–5:30, Fondazione Cini – Sala degli Arazzi
Organizer & Respondent: Carolyn C. Wilson, Independent Scholar, Houston
Chair: Peter Humfrey, University of St Andrews

Costanza Barbieri, Accademia di Belli Arti di Napoli: “Sebastiano Luciani e Giovanni Bellini: le due pale d’altare nella chiesa di San Giovanni Crisostomo”
La formazione lagunare di Sebastiano è tradizionalmente associata alla figura di Giorgione, come testimoniato da Vasari nelle Vite. La stessa formazione che Vasari riconosce a Tiziano, ma che da tempo è stata ridimensionata alla luce dell’importanza di Giovanni Bellini, vero caposcuola per tutta la generazione dei pittori nati intorno al 1480, incluso Sebastiano. La questione dei rapporti fra i due pittori sarà discussa soprattutto in relazione alle committenze in San Giovanni Crisostomo (con datazioni purtroppo ancora oscillanti), che vedono realizzarsi due pale d’altare curiosamente affini e drasticamente innovative sul piano iconografico: sia il giovane Sebastiano, nell’altare maggiore, sia il vecchio Bellini, nella pala Diletti, dipingono la figura principale, il santo dedicatario della pala, di profilo, in atto di leggere. Una assoluta novità in opere di quelle dimensioni, e che accomuna, certo non casualmente, il giovane Sebastiano, pronto per partire per Roma, e il vecchio caposcuola, alla fine del suo percorso.

Beverly Louise Brown, Independent Scholar, London: “Poetry in Motion: Bellini, Titian and the All’antica Relief”
Giovanni Bellini’s influence on Titian is inevitably discussed in terms of style. Titian, who probably worked with Bellini around 1506, is seen as borrowing the older master’s compositional structures as well as adopting specific motifs from his extensive repertoire of figural types. Frequently overlooked, however, is Titian’s introduction to the use of classical antiquity in Bellini’s workshop. Although Bellini’s response to antiquity may seem slim compared to his father’s or his brother-in-law Mantegna’s, he did incorporate fictive depictions of classical sculpture into his pictures. In works such as The Coronation of the Virgin and The Continence of Scipio, Bellini creatively used all’antica details as a commentary on the picture’s principal theme. Likewise in Jacopo Pesaro Presented to Saint Peter and Sacred and Profane Love, Titian employed all’antica reliefs as a poetic narrative to reinforce the underlying meaning of the work.

Patricia Meilman, Independent Scholar, New York City: “Titian’s Muse”
This study explores Titian’s sustained reaction to the magnitude of Giovanni Bellini’s excellence both in painting and in the rarefied realm of Venetian culture. When Titian entered Giovanni’s studio at the dawn of the sixteenth century, Giovanni, a Venetian citizen of the highest rank next to the nobility, had long worked for, and to a degree associated with, patricians and humanists. Indeed, Giovanni’s work was declared to have earned painting the status of a liberal art. Emulating his master’s success, the ambitious Titian sought to win acclaim among the patriciate and even after his own fame was established, he used Pietro Aretino to advertise his excellence to Venetian humanists in comparison with Bellini. Artistic inspiration between the two was surely reciprocal. Giovanni arguably used Titian’s innovations until his death in 1516, whereas Titian recollected his first significant teacher in his own last paintings some sixty years later.

For additional information about these or other sessions, please visit the RSA’s conference website.

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