Florence – Uffizi Gallery – Venetian Pictures

THE first room off the third corridor contains a valuable collection of Venetian pictures. To the left of the entrance is a portrait said to be that of the Condottiere, or Captain of Free Companies, Bartolommeo d’ Alviano, and, with still less probability, to have been painted by Giorgione. Above it is a very lovely small picture by Paolo Veronese (1528-1588) of St. Catharine in prayer, before her martyrdom. Near these pictures, high on the wall, is an interesting portrait of the sculptor Sansovino, by Titian (1477—1576). A head of a youth and another of a boy are by Paris Bordone (1513-1588), an artist who followed in the steps of Giorgione, and is remarkable for warmth of colour.’

The Annunciation by Paolo Veronese, an unfinished work, is a good example of the method practised by this master. We here see the cool tone of colour he used in the preparation for daylight effects, which are treated by him with such marvellous truth. According to a nearly contemporary author, ‘ Paolo Veronese always placed his figures in a large space, with the accompaniment of rich architecture. In his colouring he made use of a half tint in flesh, as well as drapery and architecture, laying in the first sketch with the utmost purity of drawing and composition.’ The Virgin here is very lovely; a long garden walk is seen in perspective through an arch, and there is, a pavement of variegated marbles in the foreground. Six fluted columns on either side of the arch give the idea of a portico in which the Virgin is’ at prayer ; but the accessories belong rather to a princess in her palace than to the simple maiden of Nazareth. A small picture under glass, by Vittore Carpaccio, who flourished in 1500, of a number of figures, is a new and valuable addition to the gallery.

The Dead Christ in the midst of the Apostles is a very beautiful , and delicately executed drawing by Gian Bellini (c. 1428-1516) ; and near the door is a very fine full-length figure of a gentleman dressed in black by Morone (1510-1578).

A very lovely little picture of the Martyrdom of St. Justina, by Paolo Veronese, to the left of the door, is followed by a Madonna and Child surrounded by heads of Cherubim, by Titian ; the tone of this picture is heavy, probably the fault of the restorer, and the Virgin, a lovely Venetian woman, wants expression.

Venus lamenting the death of Adonis, by Alessandro Bonvicino or Il Moretto of Brescia (1514-1564), is a splendid piece of painting ; and Moses with the flocks of his father-in-law, by Leandro Ponte da Bassano (1558-1623), is also very fine and of a deep full colour.

One of the most important pictures in this room is by Tintoretto (1512-1594), though attributed to one of his school —the Entrance of our Saviour into Jerusalem. It is original in treatment, full of life and variety, and true to nature.

High on the fourth wall is a fine portrait of Admiral Venier, by Tintoretto. He wears a crimson silk mantle over his armour, one hand rests on a helmet; the sea is seen through the open window.

The portrait of the Duchess of Urbino, by Titian, is most interesting for composition and colour, though this last has suffered greatly from the cleaner, and the soft Venetian glazes have been destroyed, leaving the face hard and sharp in outline. Her portrait when young is in the Pitti Gallery, where it was long known under the misnomer of the ` Bella di Tiziano.’ Near the entrance to the room is the husband of the Duchess, also by Titian, a very fine picture, and in better preservation. Francesco della Rovere I. was the grandfather of Francesco Maria -II., whose portrait by Baroccio is in the Tribune. This Duke was one of the most successful generals of his time. He was the nephew and adopted heir of Guidobaldo da Montefeltro, Duke of Urbino, and great nephew of Pope Sixtus IV. Educated under the auspices of men of genius and learning, who formed the Court of Guidobaldo and his Duchess Elisabetta Gonzaga, Francesco was the friend of the youthful Raffaelle, who is said to have painted him, when a fair young man, in his fresco of the School of Athens. During the reign of Pope Alexander VI. (Borgia), Guidobaldo was deprived of his duchy, and Francesco of his hereditary possessions; but when another uncle of Francesco became Pope, under the name of Julius II., he was restored to his rights, and after the death of Guidobaldo succeeded to the Duchy of Urbino. When hardly eighteen years of age, he was entrusted with the command of the Papal forces; but when Leo X. succeeded Julius as pontiff, the Duchy of Urbino was too tempting a morsel, and the new Pope seized on various pretexts to deprive Francesco of his dominions; he at length succeeded in banishing Francesco, and he then created his own nephew, Lorenzo, the father of Catharine de’ Medici, Duke of Urbino; the new duke was, however, as much hated as Francesco was beloved, and when, on the early death of Lorenzo, Leo proposed to include Urbino in the Papal States, Francesco, aided by his own people, recovered his dominions, and assumed the command of the allied armies of Italy. He was present at the coronation of the Emperor Charles V. at Bologna, in 1530, and died in 1538, at the age of forty-seven. His Duchess, Eleonora Gonzaga, was related to his aunt Elisabetta, the wife of Guidobaldo di Montefeltro, Duke of Urbino.

Between the portraits of the Duke and Duchess of Urbino is a large painting by Carlo Cagliari (1570-1596), the son of Paolo Veronese ; it represents the Virgin in glory with Saints below.

St. Margaret bearing the Palm of Martyrdom, above the door, is by Palma Giovane (1544-1628).

Entering the farther room, to the right is a battle-piece by Titian, the sketch for a large picture of the Battle of the Bridge at Cadore, in which the Condottiere, or Captain of Free Companies, Bartolommeo Alviano, is seen on one side in front, with his hand on his bâton of command. The picture itself was painted for one of the rooms of the Ducal Palace at Venice, and was destroyed by fire in 1570. The landscape is â faithful representation of the neighbourhood of Cadore, Titian’s birthplace.

There is a striking portrait on the next wall, in glowing colours, of a man with a red beard and hair, by Paris Bordone (1513-1588) ; and above it is the portrait of Giovanni de’ Medici of the Bande Nere by Titian. Giovanni was the father of Cosimo, the first Grand Duke of Florence. He, served as a captain of a Free Company in the wars against the Papal general, Francesco della Rovere of Urbino, whose picture we have just noticed. Giovanni also fought against the French, and was killed at the battle of Mantua in 1526.

The Marriage at Cana of Galilee by Tintoretto is the sketch for his celebrated painting on the ceiling of the Sacristy of Santa Maria della Salute at Venice.

Below is the sketch by Titian of the Virgin and Child for his beautiful picture in Santa Maria de’ Frari at Venice ; his method of work may here be studied. Boschini, a contemporary and friend of Palma Giovane, thus describes Titian’s practice :—` He grounded his picture with such a layer of colour, that it served as a bed or foundation on which to build the expression; and I have myself seen the bold touches given by a brush laden with colour, sometimes a stripe of pure terra rossa, which he used as a half tint, sometimes with white lead, whilst with the same brush he painted in red, black, and yellow, and thus formed the relief for a light.’

Two interesting pictures here are attributed to Giorgione. The first represents the Infant Moses offered his choice between burning coals and gold, in the presence of King Pharaoh ; the second, the Judgment of Solomon.

A picture of the Madonna and Child, in which the Child, wears a coral necklace, and presents a pomegranate to St. Catharine, is by Titian, and extremely lovely.

The much-admired Flora by Titian is painted with wonderful gradation in the flesh tints ; the luxuriant loveliness and golden hair of the female represented are the only merits which constitute this picture such a favourite, as there is an utter want of soul or expression in the face. Near it is a most splendid portrait by Giovanni Battista Moroni (1510–1578) of Giovan Antonio Pantera, the author of the `Monarchy of Christ,’ which was published in 1535. He is in a black dress ; a white parchment volume is before him.

On the third wall the Virgin and Child, to whom St. John is presenting flowers with St. Anthony beside them, is a most lovely composition by Titian.

Beyond this picture is a splendid painting of the Crucifixion by Paolo Veronese, evidently a sketch for a larger work. The centurion, to the right, is on a noble white charger, which is dashing forwards, and nearer the foreground are the soldiers, who draw lots for the garment. St. John is seen to the left, leading the Virgin away. The picture is rich in colour, and has truth and variety of expression.

A good portrait by Tintoretto represents the sculptor Sansovino.

Near the door is the portrait by Titian of Catharine Cornaro, Queen of Cyprus, as St. Catharine, with her wheel of martyrdom, which might here be equally typical of the wheel of fortune. The great grand-daughter of Marco Cornaro, Doge of Venice, this lady was married to the son of Lusignan, King of Cyprus, on which occasion she was formally adopted a daughter of the Republic. When left a widow in 1475, she was obliged by the Senate to resign to them her right over the island, and to return to Venice, where, however, she was allowed to pass the rest of her days in legal state.