Venice – The Academy – Hall Of The Presentation

This fine hall was originally the Albergo, (guest-chamber or public reception room,) of the Fraternity. It still retains its magnificent decorations, and the pictures it contains were originally painted for the very places they now occupy. The gorgeous carved and gilded wooden roof represents Christ in Benediction, surrounded by the four Apostles with their symbols.

Take a seat near the staircase, and examine, first,

625. Antonio Vivarini da Murano and Giovanni Alamanno, Our Lady and Child with the Doctors of the Church (1445). This glorious work is the finest surviving specimen of the early Venetian school. In the centre, on a raised dais, sits Our Lady, enthroned, with the Child erect on her knees. The placid though somewhat insipid features of both show the influence of the Cologne school, in which it is probable that Giovanni (the German) received his art-education. The soft and pensive early-German tinge in Our Lady’s face helped to form the later Venetian type of Madonna. The closed garden in which she is seated, as well as its beautiful architectural framework and throne, also recall the German Paradise-pictures. Four angels hold a canopy over the Madonna’s head. To the L. stand two of the Latin Doctors of the Church ; St. Jerome, in his Cardinal’s hat and robe, holds the church in one hand, and his translation of the scriptures (the Vulgate) in the other ; with St. Gregory the Pope, in gorgeous canonicals, at whose ear the Holy Ghost, as a dove, whispers. To the R. are the other two Doctors, St. Ambrose of Milan, grasping the scourge, symbolical of his act in repelling the Emperor Theodosius from the gates of the church at Milan after the massacre at Thessalonica ; and St. Augustine, bearing his book De Civitate Dei. Both these are habited in their vestments as bishops. You cannot sit too long before this noble and beautiful picture, supreme in its own kind : examine every part of its decorative work carefully. Alike in colour and in sentiment it forms the foundation for all later Venetian painting.

Over the entrance doorway (626), Titian’s Presentation in the Temple, a picture painted for the place it now occupies, and with the stonework in its right-hand corner forming an apparent continuation of the doorway beneath it. It was long removed’ from this spot, and had the two breaks below filled up with canvas; but it has now, to its great advantage, been restored by the authorities to its original position. It treats its subject somewhat cavalierly, as a mere excuse for voluptuous painting, fine colour, and good architectural perspective. St. Joachim, in a yellow robe, with his back turned to the spectator, near the centre of the picture (just behind the little jumping dog) lays his hand on St. Anne’s shoulder. These are the parents of the little Virgin, and they have brought her to the Temple to present her to the Lord. Our Lady herself, contrary to their expectations, mounts the steps alone, and fearlessly halts near the middle. At the top, the High Priest opens his arms to receive her, attended by other priests. :Below, near the foot of the stairs, spectators, who are mere sumptuous portraits of handsome Venetian ladies, observe her action with praise and admiration. To the L. stand senators and nobles, obviously portraits, and clearly more interesting to Titian than the sacred personages. The background is an excellent landscape in Titian’s own country of Cadore. The “celebrated” old woman with the basket of eggs in the centre foreground is undoubtedly suggested by a similar figure in a picture by Carpaccio, which we shall see here-after. This work is of course much later in date than those we have hitherto been examining, and I merely mention it here for local convenience. Its Renaissance architecture and its free Renaissance feeling and composition may be instructively contrasted with the fine early decorative arrangement of 625. I star it rather out of deference to universal opinion than from any personal liking for its tawdry sentiment.

Now, ascend the red marble staircase at the end of the room, and continue a few steps along the corridor to the first door on the R., giving access to ROOM XVII.