At the end of 1761 Bellotto returned to his home Dresden to find it had been devastated during the Prussian invasion. Worse, was the fact that he found himself in great financial difficulty arising from the death of two of his major patrons, Augustus III, Elector of Saxony and King of Poland and Count Heinrich Bruhl, the prime minister of Saxony in 1763.
Their deaths and his financial situation made Bellotto melancholic and it was around this time that he painted the Kreuzkirche which now lay in ruins. It had been partially destroyed during the Seven Year War, at a time when Bellotto had been forced to flee the city. The painting is entitled View of the Kreuzkirche in Ruins and was completed by Bellotto in 1765. The Kreuzkirche is the oldest church in Dresden and, during the conflict, was shelled by Prussian artillery. The building was set ablaze and finally collapsed. The church tower, though damaged, remained standing. Work commenced on the reconstruction the church and it was decided to preserve the original tower. Unfortunately, in June 1765, with the construction of the new church already under way, the greater part of the tower collapsed. The painting is a good example of how Bellotto unique, capacity to capture the spirit of an event. His depiction of the ruin is an unusual one for it is not an ancient ruin as far as the artist was concerned. It was a relatively new one as the destruction had only occurred five years earlier. Bellotto had completed a work depicting the great church some years earlier (see painting in the previous blog). However, in this work, we see the jagged remnants of the church rear up skywards. The cleanliness of the once beautiful church has gone. There is nothing clean about the church now. The scene before us is just a mass of noise and dirt. It is a chaotic scene which we find hard to believe that it could ever be put back to its former glory. The Church, as the body of Christ, has been violated all over again and the civic wounds of the German city have been violently opened for all to see. This is the price to be paid when once we set forth to war. In the painting we see many of Dresden citizens. Close to the ruins we can just make out craftsmen as they start their preparations to rebuild the once –beautiful edifice. On the periphery we see men and women dressed in their best clothes staring at the ruin. For them it was just a day out to visit the site where the destruction had taken place. For them it was just blatant voyeurism.
Another melancholic landscape Bellotto painted around this time was his bleak depiction of the town where he used to live, Pirna, destroyed by Prussian artillery fire.
In the mid 1760’s there was a revival of classical antiquity in art and Bellotto turned to painting idealised views featuring classical motifs that he had once drawn when living in Venice and Rome. In 1764 the Dresden Academy of Fine Art was founded by order of the Prince-Elector Frederick Christian and at that time, Christian Ludwig von Hagerdorn was the Academy’s general director of the Saxon Art Collections. Hagerdorn disliked Bellotto and by-passed him when he applied to become a professor of the Academy. It could be the fact that Bellotto could not speak German which rankled him or maybe it was Bellotto’s style of painting as Hagerdorn once wrote of Bellotto:
“…He loses no opportunity of bringing up the subject of his dreary art and his enormous family…”
Franz Xavier who had taken on the role of the regency of the Electorate of Saxony together with his sister-in-law, the Dowager Electress Maria Antonia of Bavaria intervened and Bellotto was admitted to the Academy and granted a three-year teaching post and given the title of “associate member for perspective”. Belloto’s reception piece was his 1765 painting, Dresden from the Neustädter Bridgehead.
Bellotto took part in the Academy’s first exhibition on March 5th 1765. He submitted four of his works, one of which was his painting entitled Architectural Capricciowith a Self-Portrait in the costume of a Venetian Nobleman. It is an idealised setting incorporating a number of famous Venetian buildings including the Marciana Library. The gentleman in the foreground wearing the red robes and a heavily embroidered sash on his left shoulder of a Venetian procurator is thought to be a self-portrait. Look closely at the pillar behind the dignitary and you will see a handbill. On it is a quotation by the Roman poet Horace:
Pictoribus atque poetis
Quidlibet audendi semper fuit aequa postestas
which translates to:
Painters and poets have always shared an equal right to dare to do whatever they wanted.
One can only believe that Bellotto added this poster with the saying of Horace to remind people that it is correct to believe that anything is possible.
Bellotto was not happy at the Academy and found it harder and harder to work under Hagedorn and so, half way through his three year tenure he requested a leave of absence so that he could travel to St Petersburg. Russia at the time was ruled by Catherine the Great who was known for her support for foreign artists. On his way to Saint Petersburg, however, Bellotto accepted an invitation in 1764 from Poland’s newly elected King Stanislaus Augustus Poniatowski to become one of his court painters in Warsaw. Poniatowski was an avid art collector who wanted to add to his collection. Bellotto wrote to the Dresden Academy asking for an extension to his leave of absence and once granted he summoned his wife and daughters to come and live in Warsaw. His wages as court painter managed to elevate him financially to his former status.
Bellotto started to work on his royal commission to provide a number of paintings depicting panoramic cityscapes of both Warsaw and Rome to be hung at the royal palace, the Ujazdów Castle, which was situated just outside the city and was, at that time, being refurbished. The idea of having depictions of the two cities side by side was to infer that Warsaw was the “new Rome”. He was allocated the large room on the ground floor of the castle for his large works. However, the refurbishments met with financial problems and the work was eventually abandoned, and in 1777, Bellotto’s paintings were moved to the Royal Castle in Warsaw. As Bellotto painted more views of Warsaw, they took the place of some of the paintings depicting Rome. His paintings were hung in the antechamber outside the Throne Room and were visible to the ambassadors and other dignitaries who had come for an audience with the king. The room became known as the Canaletto Room and Bellotto’s paintings today are still to be seen in that room.
In its place at the centre of the south wall of the antechamber is Bellotto’s masterpiece, View of Warsaw from the Suburb of Praga.
It is an all-encompassing panoramic view of Warsaw which also incorporates a self-portrait of the artist sitting at his easel in the far left foreground.
Bellotto remained in Warsaw for sixteen years and died suddenly from a stroke in the city on November 17th, 1780 at the age of 59. He was buried in the Capuchin Church at Miodowa Street. The street was the subject of his 1777 painting and the church where he was buried can be seen in the left background emerging from behind the trees. Bellotto’s wife, Elisabetta, died five years later and their daughter Theresia Francisca left the city with her husband and hundreds of her father’s paintings and went to live in Vilnius, Lithuania.
Bellotto completed more than three hundred paintings, about a third of which were cityscapes which glorified some of the great capitals of Europe. The paintings were highly original but always managed to meet with the social and political demands of his patrons.
In this blog I am returning to an artist I talked about almost nine years ago. My artist today is Bernardo Bellotto who was born in Venice on May 22nd 1722. He was the third-born child of Lorenzo Antonio Bellotto and Fiorenza Domenica Canal, who was the eldest of three sisters of Giovanni Antonio Canal, better known to us as Canaletto. Bellotto’s started his initial artistic training at the age of fourteen when he worked in his uncle’s workshop. Two years later, at the age of sixteen, Bellotto became a member of the Fraglia dei Pittori (Venetian painters’ guild). Bellotto trained in Canaletto’s studio and would help him to satisfy the growing demand for Venetian scenes. Bellotto would later point out the family connection by signing some of his works ‘Bernardo Canaletto’ or ‘Bellotto de Canaletto’.
In around 1741, he and his uncle, Canaletto, took a trip along the Brenta canal to Dolo and Padua and during this time the two painters amassed a number of sketches which would be later transformed into completed oil paintings. On October 5th, 1741 a marriage contract was drawn up by Bellotto and his future father-in-law Giambattista Pizzorno, for permission for the artist to marry Elisabetta Pizzorno. On November 5th 1741, Bellotto married Elisabetta Pizzorno at Il Redentore church in Venice. A dowry of 850 ducats was agreed to be paid by the bride’s family to the groom at the time of marriage. Their first child, Lorenzo, was born on October 15th, 1742. A further insight into Bellotto’s life around this time is a document submitted by his mother in which she declares that the family has been abandoned by her husband Lorenzo and that the only goods in her possession are those procured for her by Bernardo who, with his work, maintained her and his brother Pietro, both of them being resident in Bernardo’s home. The brother Pietro Bellotto, who was also an artist, also declared before the same notary to have learned the art of painting from Bernardo. In order to continue living with his brother and improve in his profession Pietro signs a pledge to give him one hundred and twenty ducats a year.
In 1742 Bellotto set off on a painting trip and travelled extensively around the Northern Italian cities, stopping off at Florence and Lucca and during each stop he would complete a verduta of the place. A verduta is a highly detailed, usually large-scale painting of a cityscape or some other vista. These painting were very popular with the foreigners who travelled around Italy on their Grand Tour and wanted to bring home something to remind them of the places they had visited.
Bellotto made a number of painting trips to Lombardy and during a stopover and around 1746 whilst in Turin he painted a view of the city. It was entitled The Old Bridge over the River Po, Turin and it was a commission he received from Charles Emmanuel, King of Sardinia and Duke of Saxony. If you look closely to the extreme left of the painting you will see an artist sitting before his easel which was presumably a reference to himself. This and his other Turin depictions were large measuring 127 x 171cms and they were, as this was, sweeping panoramic views with such exquisite architectural detail of the brick tower and the bridge in the foreground. Look how well he has used light and colour to portray the reflections on still water and the hint with regards the moving currents. Bellotto eventually arrived in Rome where he studied study architectural and topographical painting and would remain in the Italian capital until 1743 at which time he journeyed back home to Venice.
In May 1746 Bellotto’s uncle Canaletto left Venice for England where his paintings were in great demand. A year later Bellotto also left Venice. His destination was Germany and the city of Dresden where he hoped to forge a career and avail himself of some lucrative commissions. His desire for commissions materialised within a year of his arrival as he became the court painter at the court of Friedrich August II, Elector of Saxony and soon Bellotto was the highest paid artist at the Saxon court. The following decade was to be Bellotto’s most successful.
The city of Dresden and the outlying districts, such as the villages of Pirna, and Königstein with its magnificent Königstein hilltop fortress, all of which offered Bellotto the chance to paint beautiful cityscapes and rural landscapes. In all, Bellotto completed thirty different paintings for the Elector. Fourteen depicting views of the city of Dresden and its wonderful buildings, eleven of Pirna and its surrounding rural landscapes and five of the magnificent Königstein fortress.
The city of Dresden and the outlying districts, such as the villages of Pirna with the nearby Sonnenstein Castle, and Königstein with its magnificent Königstein hilltop fortress, all of which offered Bellotto the chance to paint beautiful cityscapes and rural landscapes. In all, Bellotto completed thirty different large scale paintings for the Elector, each between two and three metres wide. Fourteen depicting views of the city of Dresden and its wonderful buildings, eleven of Pirna and its surrounding rural landscapes and five of the magnificent Königstein fortress. The finished works were to be hung in the royal painting gallery in the Stallhof, which forms part of the Royal Palace in Dresden. Bellotto’s depictions of the city of Dresden were remarkable for their topographical meticulousness, mathematical perspective and the way in which he portrayed the way the light played on the various architectural structures. The way he handled the light was truly remarkable.
This painting is part of the NGA Washington. This depiction by Bellotto of the Fortress of Königstein is one of five large canvases, commissioned by Augustus III in the spring of 1756 but never delivered, depicting the renovated medieval fortress in the countryside near Dresden.
Bellotto having received the royal commission to complete thirty large scale paintings of Dresden, Pirna and Königstein was proceeding well with the commission. The Elector’s commission had enabled Bellotto to live a life of luxury. He had an seven reception rooms in his Dresden apartment which was awash with luxurious furnishings, Venetian mirrors and fine wallpapers and fabrics. Life could not have been better. What could possibly go wrong? The answer to that question was the Seven Year War, which broke out involving all the main European “players”. The Prussian army invaded Saxony and entered the city of Dresden and Augustus, the Elector of Saxony and Bellotto’s patron fled the city and barricaded himself in at the Königstein fortress for several months before escaping to Warsaw. Bellotto left Dresden and his luxurious home and went to Pirna.
This view from the south of Königstein includes several buildings within the fortification: the southern end of the Brunnenhaus facing us to the left, the Georgenburg oblique behind it, and the Magdalenenburg in the foreground
In 1758 Bellotto and his sixteen-year-old son obtained passports to travel to Bayreuth from where he completed an onward journey to Vienna.
Shortly after his arrival in Vienna, Bellotto received a couple of private painting commissions. One was from Prince of Liechenstein and one from Wenzel Anton, the Prince of Kaunitz who was also chancellor to Empress Maria Theresa. Not only were they lucrative commissions it gave Bellotto a chance to receive a thirteen painting commission from the Empress herself. The commission tasked the artist to complete six depictions of the city of Vienna and seven much larger panoramic views of Schönbraun and Schloss Hof imperial palaces and their gardens.
For the two years Bellotto was in Vienna with his son he worked non-stop producing paintings for the Empress’ commission and other commissions for members of her court. This phenomenal output can also be put down to the help he received from his son Lorenzo. The resulting depictions were amazing and offered to serve as testimony of Vienna’s imperial magnificence
In 1761, after almost two years in Vienna, Bellotto left the city and travelled, not to Dresden where his wife and daughters lived, but to Munich. This could have been because of the on-going troubles with the Prussian invaders. He had been given authorisation to visit the German city through a letter from Empress Marie Theresa to her cousin Maria Antonia, the Princess of Bavaria, who had fled from Dresden since the Prussian siege. Once there Bellotto was commissioned to paint panoramic views of Munich and the Baroque Nymphenburg Palace in the western suburbs of the city, which was Maria Antonia’s birthplace and summer residence.
At the end of 1761 Bellotto returned to his home Dresden to find it devastated during the Prussian invasion. Worse, was the fact that he found himself in great financial difficulty arising from the death of two of his major patrons, Augustus III, Elector of Saxony and King of Poland and Count Heinrich Bruhl, the prime minister of Saxony in 1763. Their deaths and his financial situation made Bellotto melancholic and it was around this time that he painted the Kreuzkirche which now lay in ruins. It had been partially destroyed during the Seven Year War, at a time when Bellotto had been forced to flee the city. The painting is entitled View of the Kreuzkirche in Ruins and was completed by Bellotto in 1765. The Kreuzkirche is the oldest church in Dresden and, during the conflict, was shelled by Prussian artillery. The building was set ablaze and finally collapsed. The church tower, though damaged, remained standing. Work commenced on the reconstruction of the church and it was decided to preserve the original tower. Unfortunately, in June 1765, with the construction of the new church already under way, the greater part of the tower collapsed. The painting is a good example of how Bellotto unique, capacity to capture the spirit of an event. His depiction of the ruin is an unusual one for it is not an ancient ruin as far as the artist was concerned. It was a relatively new one as the destruction had only occurred five years earlier. Bellotto had completed a work depicting the great church some years earlier (see painting earlier in the blog). However, in this work, we see are the jagged remnants of the church rear up skywards. The cleanliness of the once beautiful church has gone. There is nothing clean about the church now. The scene before us is just a mass of noise and dirt. It is a chaotic scene which we find hard to believe that it could ever be put back to its former glory. The Church, as the body of Christ, has been violated all over again and the civic wounds of the German city have been violently opened for all to see. This is the price to be paid when once we set forth to war. In the painting we see many of Dresden citizens. Close to the ruins we can just make out craftsmen as they start their preparations to rebuild the once –beautiful edifice. On the periphery we see men and women dressed in their best clothes staring at the ruin. For them it was just a day out to visit the site where the destruction had taken place. For them it was just blatant voyeurism.
In my last blog I looked at the Pinturicchio frescoes in the Bufalini Chapel and although the artist had painted numerous frescoes in many places of worship, in this blog, I just want to focus on his artistry in the Bagnoli Chapel, part of the Collegiate church of Santa Maria Maggiore, in the town of Spello, Perugia and the frescoes executed by him at the start of the sixteenth century during one of last major commissions.
Troilo Baglioni was the prior, later bishop and protonotary of the Church of Santa Maria Maggiore in Spello, an ancient town and commune of Italy, in the province of Perugia in east central Umbria. He was in charge of the management of the chancellery of that church and the diocese and it was he, who, in 1500, commissioned Pinturicchio to decorate the walls of the Cappella Bella which later became known as the Baglioni Chapel . Pinturicchio and his workers set about the task in the Autumn of 1500 and completed the commission in the Spring of 1501. The paintings, typically for Pinturicchio, were completed in such a short period as he had around him, a well-organized workshop, with other masters painting above his drawings. The finished product ensured his artistic reputation and prominence in Umbria.
The chapel has a quadrangular floor plan with a cross-vault. The entire chapel, all three walls and the ceilings, are covered in frescoes. The frescoes are themed stories about the childhoods of Mary and of Jesus. a pictorial account of the Annunciation, the Adoration of the Shepherds, and Jesus at the Temple..
On the vaulted ceiling, we see depicted four Sibyls, female prophets, Tiburtina, Eritrea, Europea and Samia, seated on thrones and flanked by cartouches with prophecies of the coming of Jesus Christ.
As you enter the chapel, on the left wall, there is Pinturecchio’s fresco of the Annunciation, which is set in a large Renaissance loggia. As we look at it our eyes are drawn through, what is termed, the hortus conclusus (enclosed garden) towards the handsomely and meticulously detailed landscape background. The two main characters in the fresco are Mary and an angel. Mary had been reading a book which was on a tall ornate wooden lectern but has now been distracted by the angel, who kneels before her with a white lily in one hand, symbolising virginal purity. Above them we see God the Father depicted encircled by angels and giving off a ray of light which incorporates the Holy Ghost in the form of a dove (just above the lectern).
Look to the lower right of this fresco. What is strange about this fresco is that if you look closely under the small bookshelf, you will see a portrait. In fact, it is a self-portrait of Pinturicchio, featuring the bejewelled inscription, “BERNARDINVS PICTORICIVS PERVSIN[VS]” referring to Pinturicchio’s birth name of Bernardino di Betto.
The rear wall of the Baglioni Chapel features the fresco depicting the Adoration of the Shepherds. It is a depiction of an idyllic scene within an extensive landscape and includes a number of secondary motifs. In the background, we can see the arrival of the camels of the Magi procession. The setting in the foreground is a grassy area in front of the stable, and a line of shepherds who have come to visit and bring gifts to the mother and the new-born child.
The three shepherds stand out as being over-sized. They have expressive and detailed features, after the fashion of early Netherlandish painting which influenced Pinturicchio. Their facial characteristics are in a way crude, almost scowling and differ greatly from anything else in Pinturicchio’s repertoire of figures. The one exception is the young man on the left with a goat. This is depicted with a more idealized beauty, inspired by ancient reliefs with sacrifice motifs.
Art historians have put down Pinturicchio’s depiction of his “crude scowling” shepherds as being influenced by the figures of the shepherds in the Portinari Altarpiece which was painted by Hugo van der Goes around 1472.
In the left background of the fresco on the rear wall we see a meticulously drawn town at the foot of a mountain. To the right we see a temple-like stable with a window through which we can see a mountainous landscape. On the roof of the stable sits a peacock, a symbol of immortality.
In the sky above the nativity scene we observe a cluster of angels on a bank of clouds. They are celebrating the birth of Jesus in song.
On the right-hand wall as you enter the Baglioni Chapel there is a large fresco pictorially recounting the story of the Dispute with the Doctors. . It is based on an occurrence in the early life of Jesus depicted in Chapter 2 of the Gospel of Luke. Twelve-year-old Jesus had accompanied Mary and Joseph, and a large group of their relatives and friends to Jerusalem on a Passover pilgrimage.. On the day of their return, Jesus hung back in the Temple, but Mary and Joseph thought that he was among their group and she and Joseph headed back home. It was not until a day after they returned that they realised Jesus was missing, so they returned to Jerusalem, finding Jesus three days later among a group of philosophers.
In the background we see the Temple of Jerusalem with its large dome. The scene follows an arrangement which Pinturicchio had already used in his fresco on the wall of the Bufalini Chapel, which itself originated from a Perugino fresco in the Sistine Chapel, Delivery of the Keys. At the centre of the depiction stands the Child Jesus who is debating with and surrounded by two groups of philosophers from the Temple of Jerusalem. His books are scattered on the pavement in front of him. By contrast, the richly dressed scholars either clutch their books close to their chests or read aloud from them. The temple can be seen in the background and is characterized by a large dome. The crowd is formed by standard set of characters which includes young spouses, wise men, toothless women and others, all of whom are witnessing the dispute.
On the left of the crowd, dressed in the dark robes of a protonotary apostolic (a prelate who is a member of a college charged with the registry of important pontifical proceedings). It is a portrait of Troilo Baglioni, who commissioned the frescoes for his chapel
Pinturicchio’s many paintings and frescoes can be seen throughout Italy. Between 1481 and 1482, he worked in Rome, and collaborated with Perugino on the frescoes of the Sistine Chapel. From this his career flourished and he worked uninterruptedly in the service of five popes: from Sixth IV to Julius II, passing through Innocent VIII, Alexander VI, and Pius III. He also received commissions from well-to-do and important clients such as the della Rovere family and Pandolfo Petrucci, the lord of the Italian Republic of Siena.. In Siena, among the many works, he created the extraordinary cycle of the Piccolomini Library in the Duomo of Sienna,and completed frescoesin the chapel of San Giovanni Battista.
Bernardino di Betto (Benedetto), the Italian painter known as II Pinturicchio dies in Sienna in 1513 aged 61.
Over recent months I seem to have concentrated on writing about artists who were practicing their trade during the Victorian period and the first couple of decades of the twentieth century. Yet, when I look back on my earliest blogs I seemed to have favoured the Dutch and Flemish painters of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. Today I am going to deviate again and look at the life and work of the fifteenth century Italian Renaissance painter Pinturicchio. I came across the artist and one of his major fresco commissions when I read the excellent blog io sto a casa, written by Jackie, an American teacher who lives with her Italian husband in Le Marche, Italy. She and her husband are lovers of art and often travel around the country visiting places of interest which hold artistic treasures. It was she who mentioned the artist Pinturicchio in one of her recent blogs.
Bernardino di Betto was born around 1454 in the Italian city of Perugia. He was also known by his nickname, Il Pinturicchio, meaning “little painter” because of his small stature. His parents were a family of artisans, his father being a cloth tanner. His early life seems to have been filled with unhappiness, compounded by the death of his father from the plague when Pinturicchio, was just a teenager. His first foray into the world of fine art came when the talented miniaturist, Giapeco Caporali opened a bottega (a workshop of a major artist in which other artists may participate in the execution of the projects or commissions of the major artist) close to Pinturicchio’s father’s house at Porta Sant’Angelo. Pinturicchio worked there for a time and would take a share of the profits of the work completed in the studio. In 1481 Pinturicchio joined the painters’ guild in Perugia. Perugia was at that time experiencing a great artistic fervour and the central Italian city was becoming a renowned hub for artistic activities of which Pinturicchio contributed. Once Pinturicchio had enrolled in the guild of Artists and Painters in Porta Sant’Angelo, Perugia, his output began to be recorded. He received many commissions and joint commissions for his fresco work.
Meanwhile, in Rome, the first phase of the work on the Sistine Chapel had been on-going. The fresco work had been carried out by some of the Italian Masters, such as Botticelli, Perugino, Ghirlandaio, Signorelli, Cosimo Rosselli and Pinturicchio. The first phase of this massive undertaking came to an end around 1482 and most of these Italian Masters returned to their home cities. This is with the exception of Pinturicchio who did not go home but instead remained in the city and set up a workshop. as he could take advantage of the opening left by the other great artists. He then chose a group of Italian painters who had collaborated with him at the papal chapel. His group contained artists from the many regions of the country who were willing to remain in Rome and work for him. Having set up this group and with many of the renowned artists having left the eternal city he was awarded his first commission in Rome by Nicolò Manno (Riccomanno) Angeli Bufalini, a consistorial lawyer and one-time bishop of Venafro, for his family chapel which was part of the Basilica of Santa Maria in Aracoeli in Rome, which stands on the Capitalone hill. Pinturicchio’s frescos in the Bufalini Chapel depicted scenes from the life of Saint Bernardino of Siena and Saint Francis. The commission was to remember the reconciliation that took place between the Bufalini family and the Baglioni of Perugia, thanks to St. Bernardino.
Pinturicchio and his team set to work on the chapel around 1484. On the vaulted ceiling there are depictions of the four Evangelists, Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, each seated on a cloud, in front of a dark blue, star-studded background.
The chapel itself has a quadrangular base, with the vault and floor decorated with cosmatesque mosaics. The Cosmatesque style takes its name from the family of the Cosmati, which flourished in Rome during the twelfth and thirteenth centuries and practiced the art of mosaic. The inside of the chapel comprises of three sides and the frescoes on the three walls are dedicated to the life and miracles of St. Bernardino of Siena, an Italian priest and Franciscan missionary, who was canonized as a saint in 1450, and who was very popular during the Renaissance. The frescos also featured two stories of St. Francis.
The back wall of the chapel, the altar wall, is decorated by a fresco entitled The Glory of Saint Bernardino. It is horizontally divided into two sections. The lower section depicts San Bernardino standing on a rock with outstretched arms. His right hand points up to Christ. In his left hand he holds an open book in which one can read:
PATER MANIFESTAVI NOMEN TVVM OMNIBVS
“Father, I have shown your name to everyone”,
Above him are two angels who are in the process of crowning him. Either side of him stand two saints,. On his right is St. Louis of Toulouse adorned in in his solemn episcopal robes and on his left stands Saint Anthony of Padua in a Franciscan habit.. In one of St Anthony’s hands he holds the flame symbolising his piety whilst in the other he holds a book symbolising his knowledge. The background of this lower section is a landscape with rocks, lakes and mountains, which extends the depth of the space. This scene is probably one Pinturicchio would have recalled from his homeland.
In the upper part of the fresco we see Christ in the act of blessing. His figure is encased in a mandorla. The term mandorla means an almond-shaped frame that surrounds the totality of an iconographic figure. Surrounding Christ are worshiping and music-making angels.
On entering the Bufalini Chapel, the wall to the left comprises of two scenes one atop the other, divided by a painted frieze. The upper part is a lunette, a half-moon shaped, or semi-circular, arch, which depicts St. Bernardino being penitent before the Porta Tufi in Siena and this fresco shows a young Bernardino’s first hermitage.
The fresco on the lower part of the left-hand wall is much more interesting. It depicts the Funeral of Saint Bernardino.
The fresco on the lower part of the left-hand wall is much more interesting. It depicts the Funeral of Saint Bernardino. The setting is a city scene with a chessboard-like pavement. It is painted using geometrical perspective, which enables the depiction of a three-dimensional form as a two-dimensional image which carefully looks like the scene as visualized by the human eye. The vanishing point is a building similar to one depicted in Perugino’s painting, Delivery of the Keys, although Pinturicchio has two buildings of different heights at the sides. On the left is a loggia, a covered exterior gallery or corridor, supported by piers decorated with fanciful gilded candelabra. On the right is a cubic building connected through a double loggia to the landscape and the bright sky in the background.
The foreground is dominated by the Saint Bernardino’s funeral. We see his body laid out on what is termed a catafalque, a decorated wooden framework supporting the coffin of a distinguished person during a funeral or while lying in state. Its presence increases the sense of spatial depth
All sorts of folk, friars, pilgrims and the “common” people approach the body to pay their respect. Look at the tall figure in the left foreground wearing the brown robe, with a fur-lined hood and gloves. He is Riccomanno Bufalini, the person who commissioned the frescoes.
The remaining characters we see standing around the coffin often portray a series of miracles attributed to Bernardino during his life. We see the once-blind man who was healed and given back his sight by the body of Bernardino, standing by the head of the coffin pointing to his eyes. There is the resurrection of someone possessed by the Devil, the healing of the stillborn baby of John and Margaret Basel, the healing of Lorenzo di Niccolo da Prato, wounded by a bull, and the pacification of the warring Umbrian Bufalini and Baglioni families.
The right wall of the Bufalini Chapel features a double mullioned window. Pinturicchio has implemented an illusionistic perspective, when he painted two imitation symmetrical windows, one depicting a blessing from God the Father and the other featured a peacock which was an early Christian symbol of immortality.
There is also a fresco featuring, on the left, a scene from the life of St. Bernardino of Siena in which we see him receiving the religious habit. It is set in an oblique perspective that exploits the decorated pillars with a grotesques arch. Finally, there is a small scene on the right featuring, in the background, a view of the Verna Sanctuary over a rocky peak which depicts St. Francis in the act of receiving the stigmata, in honour of the Franciscan foundation of the Aracoeli.
Under the real window is an illusory opening depicting five characters: among them is an aged friar, perhaps the convents prior, and a lay figure that resembles him, perhaps an administrator of the basilica.
In the next blog I will be looking at the frescoes by Pinturicchio on the walls of the Baglioni Chapel in Spello.
The Arts and Crafts Movement was a design movement which emerged from the Pre-Raphaelite circle with the founding of the design firm Morris and Co. in 1861 by William Morris. It was a design movement which aspired to enhance the quality of design and make it available to the widest possible audience. The term was not coined until 1887 and the Arts and Crafts Movement officially started when Morris and fellow artist, Edward Burne-Jones established a group that they called the Birmingham Set or Birmingham Group. They were an informal collective of painters and craftsmen who worked in Birmingham, England in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. My featured artist today, Joseph Edward Southall, was one of the leaders of this group. He was probably the most important, if not the most celebrated artist of that group and was looked upon as among the most dedicated.
Joseph Edward Southall was born in Nottingham on August 23rd 1861, the son of a grocer, Joseph Sturge Southall, and his wife Elizabeth Maria Baker, both offsprings of distinguished Quaker families. Just a year after the birth of Joseph Southall his father died aged twenty-seven and Joseph and his mother had to go and live with his maternal grandmother in Edgbaston, a suburb of Birmingham
Joseph Southall’s education was to attend Quaker schools. He attended the Friends’ School at Ackworth and in 1872, at the age of eleven, transferred to the Friends’ School at Bootham, York, where he received his first tuition in art when he was taught watercolour painting by the English artist and educator, Edwin Moore. From the school at Bootham he went to a school in Scarborough while still carrying on with private lessons with Moore. On September 1st 1878, following on a few days after his seventeenth birthday, Joseph Southall completed his schooling and began an apprenticeship at the offices of the renowned Birmingham architectural partnership of Martin and Chamberlain. He remained with the firm for four years but continued his art studies at evening classes at the Birmingham School of Art. Both the architectural company and the School of Art were steeped in the spirit of John Ruskin and the Arts and Crafts movement. The architect John Henry Chamberlain was a founder and trustee of the Guild of St George, while the Principal of the School of Art, Edward R. Taylor, was a pioneer of Arts and Crafts education and a friend of William Morris and Edward Burne-Jones. It was also around this time that Joseph took to reading books written by Ruskin and William Morris, and what he gained from this would remain with him for the rest of his life.
Southall however felt unfulfilled with his architectural training. Southall left the architectural practice to pursue his studies in painting and carving. For him, architecture should embrace and craft disciplines such as painting and carving and with that in mind and having been inspired by his reading of Ruskin and Morris he decided to go on trips to Europe to broaden his artistic education. In 1882 he visited Bayeux, Rouen and Amiens in Northern France where he was enthralled by the ancient cities with their Gothic cathedrals. In 1883, now a free agent, he, accompanied by his mother, journeyed to Italy and spent thirteen weeks visiting Pisa, Florence, Siena, Orvieto, Rome, Bologna, Padua, Venice and Milan. It was during his stay in Italy that he fell in love with the works of the painters of the Italian Renaissance and the frescoes of the fifteenth century painter, Benozzo Gozzoli
Southall returned home with an overwhelming appreciation of the Italian Primitives and set his mind to study and practise the art of painting in tempera, a painting medium he had witnessed whilst in Italy. In an essay by Peyton Skipwith in the book of paintings, Joseph Southall: 1861-1944.Sixty works by Joseph Southall, 1861-1944, from the Fortunoff Collection, he quotes Southall’s recollection of his time in Italy:
“…the thrill of joy which I experienced when, without any knowledge of what I was about to see, I stepped inside the enchanting cloisters of the great Campo Santo of Pisa. There I found myself at 21 years of age face to face with a vast series of frescoes, so quiet and yet so gay, so reticent in manner and so lively in essence that words must ever fail to convey even the faintest expression of what I felt…”
After returning to England Southall began to experiment with the tempera medium whilst at the Birmingham School of Art. It was at the Birmingham School of Art that he met Arthur Gaskin, who became his closest friend. The School of Art was run by the enigmatic head, Edward R. Taylor who had made the Birmingham school one of the leading schools of art in Britain, and the foremost for the study of the crafts. One of Southall’s great work using tempera was his 1898 painting entitled Beauty Seeing the Image of her Home in the Fountain.
On his return to Birmingham Joseph Southall settled in the house of his uncle, George Baker, at 13 Charlotte Road, in the city suburb of Edgbaston and it would be here that he would remain for the rest of his life. George Baker was a charismatic man and a friend of John Ruskin. He was a staunch Quaker and a life-long admirer of John Ruskin’s Utopian ideals. Baker became a prominent member of Ruskin’s Guild of St George and succeeded him to become the second master of the Guild on Ruskin’s death in 1900. He also showed Ruskin some of his nephew’s 1883 Italian drawings. Ruskin was so taken by Southall’s architectural knowledge that in 1885 he gave Southall his first major commission. Ruskin wanted Joseph Southall to design a museum for the Guild of St George and have it built on Joseph’s uncle’s land near Bewdley, Worcestershire. To gather ideas for this project, Southall made a second trip to Italy in 1886, again visiting Pisa, Florence, Siena and Assisi, so as to do research into Ruskin’s commission. Unfortunately for Southall, the project was abandoned by Ruskin who reverted to his original plans to build a museum in Sheffield. Southall was very disappointed at the turn of events saying that his chance of becoming an architect vanished and he was destined to spend years of obscurity, followed by a little bitterness of soul. The years that followed this disappointment and his love of tempera began to wane. He was generally frustrated with the medium and eventually abandoned it leading him to favour painting with oils.
After a third visit to Italy in 1890, he once again became interested with the works by the Italian Primitives and slowly and once again experimented with the painting medium of tempera. His great influence now that he had returned to Birmingham, was his fellow Brummie artist, Sir Edward Burne-Jones.
It was he who congratulated Southall on his 1898 tempera painting Beauty Seeing the Image of her Home in the Fountain. It was also Burne-Jones who in 1897 sent Southall’s tempera self-portrait, Man with a Sable Brush, to the New Gallery, along with his own work. These paintings and others like them, confirmed Southall as one of the foremost British tempera painters and as such led to his participation in the exhibitions of the Arts and Crafts Exhibition Society and the exhibition of Modern Paintings in Tempera at Leighton House. The latter immediately preceded the foundation of the Tempera Society, of which Southall became one of the foremost members.
For a number of years Joseph Southall had been very close companions with his cousin Anna Elizabeth Baker, known as Bessie, who was two years older than Joseph. He completed a number of portraits of her including his 1887 portrait of her when she was twenty years of age.
Another early portrait of Anna was John Southall’s 1895 painting entitled Coral Necklace.
She also appeared in his 1898 painting Hortus Inclusus which means private garden. The setting is just such a garden with tall yew hedges in the background. It is a portrait of Southall’s wife-to-be although the wedding would not take place for another five years. It is an idyllic scene with Anna sitting on a bench in the garden with her cat by her side.
In June 1903 Joseph Southall and his long-time fiancé, Anna Elizabeth Baker were married. He was forty-two and she was forty-four. Their relationship started when they were both youths. Over time their relationship became more intimate and they eventually became engaged to be married. However, as they were cousins, this close kinship made the couple deliberately put off marriage until Anna was past child-bearing age. Probably my favourite portrait by Southall is the one which depicts he an Anna, eight years after they married. The setting is a beach, more than likely Southwold on the Suffolk coast, which is where they spent their honeymoon and returned their many times more. The title of the painting, The Agate, derives from Bessie seen in the depiction handing her husband an agate, a gemstone which can be found on the seashore in this area. This handing of the agate to her husband can be seen as a symbol of the couple’s collaboration, as we know that the agate gemstone is used by craftspeople to burnish the gilding on picture frames and Southall’s wife Anna, who was a talented craftswoman, would make the picture frames ready for her husband’s paintings.
Joseph Southall’s popularity and recognition as a great painter grew. He was at the height of his career during the latter years of the 1890’s until the start of World War I. His work was shown at numerous exhibitions, not just in Britain but in Europe and America and he was elected a member of the Royal Birmingham Society of Artists, the Art Workers Guild and the Union Internationale des Beaux-Arts et des Lettres. His major exhibition in England was held in 1907 at the Fine Art Society in London and three years later a major one-man exhibition was held at the Galeries Georges Petit in Paris. At the Paris exhibition Southall’s work was snapped up and following the event he received a number of lucrative commissions.
With the onset of war in 1014 Southall’s output as an artist waned. Southall being brought up a Quaker and followed their beliefs all his life had him take an anti-War stance at the onset of hostilities. Southall’s output as a painter declined considerably with the outbreak of World War I, as the pacifism inherent in his Quaker faith led him to devote his energies to anti-war campaigning. He abandoned his commitment to the Liberal Party and joined the Independent Labour Party, becoming Chairman of the Birmingham City Branch; the Party was the one left-wing body that always upheld its opposition to the war. Southall also chaired the Birmingham Auxiliary of the Peace Society and was a joint Vice-president of the Birmingham and District Passive Resistance League. His main artistic output during this period were anti-war cartoons printed in pamphlets and magazines, and art historians reckon they number among his most powerful works.
In the above cartoon we see depicted ‘all those who sit in the high places and cast the people into the pit’. A diplomat and a businessman push a blindfolded officer towards a precipice, whilst a fashionable society woman looks on and a cleric of the Established Church appears as the priest who ‘blessed our banners and bade speed to our swords’. Apart from Death, who gleefully accompanies this performance on his drum, only the diplomat sees what is happening; the others all have their eyes covered.
‘The Obliterator’ appeared in his anti-war pamphlet Fables and Illustrations opposite a mock sales promotion advertising the Obliterator’s record of leaving ‘nothing standing and nothing breathing’ while making ‘a clean sweep of civilisation’. Southall’s woodcuts and satirical fables were published when most of his wartime energies were consumed by pacifist activism in Birmingham and print caricature provided him a convenient alternative artistic output. The essence of his moral standpoint is an unshakable absolute conviction of conscience, clearly articulated in his fable ‘Inscription from Babylon’: although citizens ‘ought to be law-abiding’, in the final analysis, pacifism is justified by faith that ‘Divine law stood above human laws’ in the form of the the sixth Commandment: ‘Thou shalt not kill’
During the two decades of peace between the two world wars, Southall and his wife made regular trips to Europe, visiting France and Italy in the Spring and Autumn. Their European holidays were combined with their shorter summer holidays to their beloved Southwold on the Suffolk coast and Cornish breaks on the Fowey estuary, all of which gave Southall opportunities to paint the various places. At this time Southall’s favoured painting medium was watercolours. Many of these paintings were exhibited at the Alpine or Leicester Galleries in London and the Ruskin Galleries in Birmingham, as well as at the Royal Birmingham Society of Artists, the Royal Academy, and the Paris Salon.
Between holidays Southall spent time on lucrative commissions, painting portraits for wealthy patrons, who would often be from the Quaker community. One such work was his portrait of Sir Whitworth Wallace the first director of the Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery which opened in 1885.
At the 1930 Winter Exhibition at the Royal Academy, Southall exhibited his painting The Return. The painting depicts two women high up on the banks of a river, possibly the River Fowey, one seated on the grass in grey dress, with mustard coloured shoes and a blue hat with green bands. There is a red book on a rock beside her. The other woman stands. She wears a red hat, a salmon-coloured dress with white collar and cuffs. She waves a handkerchief and her white scarf also waves in the wind. On the still water below are sailing ships, casting long reflections on the water. On a small boat lower right, two figures appear to return the woman’s wave.
Many of the works at this exhibition focused on Southall’s Italian paintings, many done using tempera. So popular were paintings in that medium that the following Summer Exhibition 1n 1931 allotted one room for works using tempera. This was indeed a change of heart by the Academy Hanging Committee jurists who had scorned that painting medium and could not decide whether such works fell into a watercolour or oil classification.
Joseph and Bessie Southall made many trips to Italy and one of their favourite haunts was Venice which he depicted in a number of his works.
The couple made their last trip to Venice in the Spring of 1937 but later that year Southall was taken ill and had to undergo major surgery from which he never fully recovered. Doctors struggled to make a proper diagnosis of what was ailing Southall and he had to return to hospital on a number of occasions. Notwithstanding his poor health he still determinedly carried on painting. One of his last paintings was his memorial portrait in tempera of the Bradford MP, Frederick William Jowett who was a founder member of the Independent Labour Party. In the depiction we see a copy of the Independent Labour Party newspaper with a headline
“…IS THIS WHAT YOUR MEN FIGHT FOR?…”
Jowett had died in February 1944 and Southall had not quite finished it when he died nine months later. The work was then completed by Maxwell Armfield, before being presented to the City of Bradford.
Joseph Edward Southall died of heart failure at his home in Edgbaston in 1944, aged 83.