Monday, June 19, 2006

The Venetian Renaissance Painters Bellini, Giorgione, And Titian, And The Most Beautiful Painting Of All Time -- The Envelop Please!

"Imagine a world where all our modern bromides about art were still fresh ideas.

Where an image of a naked woman in a landscape wasn't a cheesy cliche, but a radical move. Where you could be the first person ever to take pleasure in a flashy brushstroke. Where artists were just starting to contemplate the possibility that a work's meanings might be suggestive and slippery rather than all tied down.

Such an art world once existed -- in Venice, circa 1515.

A stunning exhibition opening today at the National Gallery called "Bellini, Giorgione, Titian and the Renaissance of Venetian Painting" puts us at the moment when the business-as-usual of later Western art was still deeply unusual.

It's easy to take endless pleasure in the best of these paintings. It's hard to imagine they could leave anyone cold.

Titian's "Noli Me Tangere," a smallish painting of a rolling landscape in which a miraculously graceful Christ meets an equally exquisite Mary Magdalene, would be a strong contender as most beautiful picture of all time.

Titian's "Portrait of a Man With a Glove," from the Louvre, and his "Bacchanal of the Andrians," a huge picture of sun-licked frolics that has come here from the Prado in Madrid, are very nearly as great. Likewise several pictures by his rival Sebastiano del Piombo; by Giorgione, the young master who had kick-started the new style but died in 1510, before it flourished; and by Giovanni Bellini, the grand old man of Venetian art who launched the city's scene in the 1470s and continued to move it forward right up to his death in 1516. Even theoretically "lesser" Venetian artists such as Palma Vecchio, Paris Bordone and Gian Girolamo Savoldo turn out works that are easy on the eyes and absolutely charming.

What's harder to recognize at our late date is all the radicalism and novelty that underlies the beauty.

Take Titian's "Noli Me Tangere," painted around 1514, when he was perhaps 25 years old." ...

Blake Gopnik "Veering Off in Venice: At the National Gallery, A Renaissance Shift That Set Narrative Aside" Washington Post June 18, 2006

National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C. link to this exhibition.

Titian's "Noli Me Tangere" ["Let No One Touch Me"] from the National Gallery of Art, London. About 1514.

Is it, or is it not, the most beautiful painting of all time?


Noli me Tangere

about 1514

about 1487 - 1576

NG270. Bequeathed by Samuel Rogers, 1856.

This is one of the two earliest works by Titian in the [National Gallery of London] Collection.

Christ appears to the Magdalen after the Resurrection to comfort her. At first she thinks he is a gardener; when she recognises him he tells her not to touch him -'noli me tangere' (let no one touch me) - as told in the Gospels (John 20: 14-18). Elsewhere, the Bible records that Christ will soon ascend to heaven and send the Holy Spirit down to his followers: he does not want them to cling to his physical presence.

X-ray photographs show that Christ was originally painted wearing a gardener's hat and turning away from the Magdalen. The landscape was also drastically altered while the work was in progress.

On loan to the exhibition 'Giorgione, Bellini, Titian. The Renaissance of Venetian Painting' at the National Gallery of Art, Washington DC from June to September 2006.

Oil on canvas
110.5 x 91.9 cm.

Image and caption credit: National Gallery of London. With thanks.


Post a Comment

<< Home