Showing posts with label Pinacoteca Nazionale. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Pinacoteca Nazionale. Show all posts

30 January 2018

Bernardo Bellotto – landscape painter

Venetian artist blessed with uncle Canaletto’s talent

A view of the New Market Square in Dresden, painted by Bernardo Bellotto in about 1750
A view of the New Market Square in Dresden, painted by
Bernardo Bellotto in about 1750
The landscape artist Bernardo Bellotto, a nephew and pupil of the masterful view painter Canaletto, was born on this day in 1721 in Venice, the city that brought fame to his illustrious uncle.

Bellotto painted some Venetian scenes but travelled much more extensively than his uncle and eventually became best known for his work in northern Europe, and in particular his views of the cities of Vienna, Warsaw and Dresden.

His work was notable for his use of light and shadow and his meticulous attention to detail.  His paintings of Warsaw became a point of reference for architects involved with the reconstruction of the city after the Second World War, so precise was he in terms of perspective and scale and the intricacies of architectural features.

Born in the parish of Santa Margherita in Venice, Bellotto was related to Giovanni Antonio Canal – Canaletto’s birth name – through his mother, Canaletto’s sister, Fiorenza Canal, who married Lorenzo Antonio Bellotto.

A Bellotto of the Rio dei Mendacanti with the Scuola di San Marco in Venice, probably executed in about 1741
A Bellotto of the Rio dei Mendacanti with the Scuola di
San Marco in Venice, probably executed in about 1741
It was natural for Bernardo to study in his uncle’s workshop and to an extent mimic Canaletto’s style. Sometimes, he would sign a painting with Canaletto’s name, which led to confusion later as art historians were occasionally unsure as to whose brush was actually responsible for a particular work.

But where Canaletto devoted himself largely to painting in his native city and in England, where he developed a considerable following, Bellotto left Venice at the age of 21 for Rome and spent much of his life away, travelling around Italy at first and then venturing north.

He painted views of Rome, Florence, Verona and Turin before accepting an invitation in 1747 from Augustus III, King of Poland and Elector of Saxony, to become his court painter in Dresden.  Those paintings he made of Dresden that have survived offer a glimpse into the outstanding beauty of the city, so much of which was destroyed by bombing during the Second World War.

As his fame spread, more invitations followed, to paint for the courts of Vienna, where he was based from 1758, and then Munich, where he moved in 1761. They were timely opportunities, given that the outbreak of the Seven Years’ War forced Augustus III’s court to disperse.

Bellotti's Self-Portrait as Venetian Ambassador, painted in about 1765
Bellotti's Self-Portrait as Venetian
painted in about 1765
He returned to Dresden after about a year but when Augustus III died in 1763 his importance in the city declined and he left for Russia, hoping to find employment at the court of Catherine II in St Petersburg.

Stopping off in Warsaw, however, his plans changed when he received an invitation from Augustus III’s successor, King Stanislaus Augustus Poniatowski, to be resident painter at his court in Warsaw, where he would remain for the rest of his life. He tended to be known as Il Canaletto and signed himself Bernardo de Canaletto.

While in Warsaw, for the first time he painted some historical scenes as well as views, including the Election of Stanislaus Augustus, and painted his own image in robes and wig in Self-Portrait as Venetian Ambassador.

The position gave Bellotto the financial stability to provide for his wife, Elisabetta, to whom he had been married before leaving Venice, and their four children.  He died in Warsaw in 1780 and was buried at the 17th century church of the Capuchins in Miodowa, a street in the centre of the city.

As well as his many views of city scenes and real landscapes, in which historians believe he probably made use of the camera obscura technique to achieve exact proportions and perspective, Bellotto was a proponent of the genre known as capriccio, in which the artist would indulge in fantasy by ‘moving’ famous monuments, buildings or ruins so that they could appear in the same view.

Many of his pictures can be seen in the Gemäldegalerie in Dresden, the Kunsthistoriches Museum in Vienna and the National Museum in Warsaw.

In Italy, there are Bellotto collections at the Gallerie dell’Accademia in Venice and at the Pinacoteca di Brera in Milan.

The Campo Santa Margherita in Venice, at the heart of the area in which Bellotto grew up
The Campo Santa Margherita in Venice, at the heart of the
area in which Bellotto grew up
Travel tip:

Campo Santa Margherita, the main square of the parish where Bellotto grew up in the Dorsoduro area of Venice, offers visitors a glimpse of a real Venetian life in a neighbourhood away from the hordes that throng Piazza San Marco and the other main tourist locations in the city.  A large open space, the square is typically the scene of a local market, with some stalls selling fresh fish caught in the lagoon, and is surrounded by 14th and 15th century houses mostly occupied by Venetians.  There are a good number of restaurants and bars, which come to life at night in particular, when the square is a meeting place for students from the nearby Ca' Foscari University of Venice.

Bellotto's 1745 View of Turin Near the Royal Palace
Bellotto's 1745 View of Turin Near the Royal Palace
Travel tip:

During his time in Turin, working for the court of Charles Emmanuel III of Savoy, Bellotto spent much of his time around the Royal Palace, the historic house of Savoy in the centre of the city.  Built in the 16th century and modernised in the 17th century, the palace complex includes the Chapel of the Holy Shroud, which was built in the west wing and joins the apse of the Cathedral of St John the Baptist. The Chapel was added to house the Holy Shroud of Turin, believed by some to be the burial shroud of Christ, which was owned by the Savoy family for almost 500 years.

8 February 2017

Guercino - Bolognese master

Self-taught artist amassed fortune from his work

Guercino - a self-portrait from about 1624-26,  which is part of a private collection
Guercino - a self-portrait from about 1624-26,
which is part of a private collection
The artist known as Guercino was born Giovanni Francesco Barbieri on this day in 1591 in Cento, a town between Bologna and Ferrara in what is now the Emilia-Romagna region.

His professional name began as a nickname on account of his squint - guercino means little squinter in Italian.  After the death of Guido Reni in 1642, he became established as the leading painter in Bologna.

Guercino painted in the Baroque and classical styles. His best known works include The Arcadian Shepherds (Et in Arcadia Ego - I too am in Arcadia), showing two shepherds who have discovered a skull, which is now on display at the Galleria Nazionale di Arte Antica in Rome, and The Flaying of Marsyas by Apollo, which can be found in the Palazzo Pitti in Florence, both of which were painted in 1618.

The Vatican altarpiece The Burial of Saint Petronilla is considered his masterpiece.

The Burial of St Petornilla by Guercino at The Vatican
Guercino's Burial of St Petornilla,
the Vatican altarpiece
Guercino's frescoes were notable for the technique of creating an illusionist ceiling and would make a big impact on how churches and palaces in the 17th century were decorated.

Mainly self-taught, Guercino became apprenticed at 16 to Benedetto Gennari, a painter of the Bolognese school at his workshop in Cento before moving to Bologna in 1615.

There he made the acquaintance of Ludovico Carracci, whose work was a great influence on him. Carracci encouraged him and Guercino's use of bold colours, and his ability to capture emotion in faces, was an echo of Carracci's style, although some of his early work also bears the stamp of Caravaggio. 

As his style developed, Guercino's altarpieces in particular were noted for their depth, achieved by his use of light and darkness.  His 1620 altarpiece of the Investiture of Saint William - currently housed at the Pinacoteca Nazionale in Bologna - is a great example.

In 1621, Guercino went to Rome, where he was influential in the evolution of Roman High Baroque art. His commissions included the decoration of the Casino Ludovisi, where his outstanding fresco, Aurora, adorns the ceiling of the Grand Hall.  It creates the illusion that there is no ceiling, with Aurora’s chariot painted as if it were moving directly over the building.

A detail from the ceiling at the Casino Ludovisi in Rome
A detail from the ceiling at the Casino Ludovisi in Rome
He also painted the ceiling in the church of San Crisogono in the Trastevere district, a portrait of Pope Gregory XV (now in the Getty Museum) and the St. Petronilla Altarpiece in the Vatican, which is now housed in the Museo Capitolini.

Some critics believe Guercino's move to Rome brought about a subtle change in his style - in the view of some critics, not necessarily for the better - due to the influence of Pope Gregory XV’s private secretary, Monsignor Agucchi, who was a proponent of the classicism of Annibale Carracci, whose work was somewhat more restrained than his cousin, Ludovico.

He is said to have felt under pressure to paint in the popular classical style on his return to Cento two years later, largely because most of his paying clients wanted traditional paintings.

Guercino ran his Cento studio until 1642, when Guido Reni died. Guercino moved to Bologna, taking over Reni's religious picture workshop, and was quickly recognised as the city's leading painter.

Guercino's tomb at the church of Santissimo Salvatore
Guercino's tomb at the church of Santissimo Salvatore
Notable for his prolific output - he completed more than 100 large altarpieces for churches and around 144 other paintings during his career - Guercino continued to paint and teach until his death in 1666, amassing a notable fortune.

As he never married, his estate passed to his nephews and pupils, Benedetto Gennari II and Cesare Gennari. His tomb is in the church of Santissimo Salvatore in Via Cesare Battisti in Bologna.

Travel tip:

The town of Cento, situated in the flatlands of the Po Valley equidistant from Bologna and Ferrara, grew from a fishing village in the marshes to an established farming town in the first few centuries in the second millennium.  Previously controlled by the Bishop of Bologna, it was seized by Pope Alexander VI and made part of the dowry of his daughter Lucrezia Borgia.  Main sights include the 18th century Palazzo del Monte di Pietà, which houses the Civic Gallery and some paintings by Guercino, whose works can be seen also in the Basilica Collegiata San Biagio, Santa Maria dei Servi, the church of the Rosary, and, in the frazione of Corporeno, the 14th-century church of San Giorgio.

Guercino's Madonna del Passero is part of the Pinacoteca Nazionale collection
Guercino's Madonna del Passero is part
of the Pinacoteca Nazionale collection
Travel tip:

Bologna's Pinacoteca Nazionale can be found in Via delle Belle Arti, a little over a kilometre from Piazza Maggiore to the north-east, inside a former meeting place for young Jesuits in the university district. The Pinacoteca's origins go back to 1762, when paintings from two other collections, one belonging to the Carracci family, were brought together. During the time of Napoleonic rule the most important works were hidden in Paris and Milan. The basis for the current collection was formed in 1827 with a catalogue of 274 paintings.  The gallery nowadays consists of 30 exhibition rooms showing works by Bolognese artists from the 14th century onwards, including a number of important canvases by the Carracci brothers, Annibale and Agostino, and their cousin Ludovico. Notable works include Ludovico's Madonna Bargellini, the Comunione di San Girolamo (Communion of St Jerome) by Agostino and the Madonna di San Ludovico by Annibale. There are 15 works by Guercino and 29 by Guido Reni.  Also represented in the gallery are Vitale di Bologna, Perugino, Giotto, Raphael, El Greco and Titian.

More reading:

How mystery still surrounds the death of Caravaggio

Titian - the Venetian giant of Renaissance art

The skill that enabled Giotto to bring figures on canvas to life

Also on this day:

1848: Students join uprising in Padua

(Picture credit: Guercino tomb by Sailko via Wikimedia Commons)