National Gallery of Canada / Musée des beaux-arts du Canada

Bulletin 22, 1973

Annual Index
Author & Subject

Bartolommeo Veneto and His Portrait of a Lady

by Creighton Gilbert

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7 Those of 1505-1507 published by A. Venturi, Archivio Storico dell'Arte, vol. VI (1894), p. 297 ff, one of 1508 previously published by Cittadella, Documenti risguardanti la storia artistica ferrarese (Milan: Tip. di D. Taddei, 1860), p. 51.

8 How vital these inscriptions have been in rescuing Bartolommeo from anonymity may be suggested by contrasting him with an artist such as the Master of the Half Lengths, of the same generation in Flanders, also a painter of small portraits, who did not inscribe his works, so that to us they are at best a group of pictures which modern scholars have recognized as all being by one artist whom they have so labelled. It may be added that the contrast is typical, for Flanders is full of such artificially named artists in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, as well as another group of even more prominent painters, whom modern scholars first assembled and labelled in a similar way, and thereafter have linked to documents about a person's biography with likelihood but not complete certainty (i.e., the Master of Flémalle as Robert Campin, the Master of the Death of Mary as Joos van Cleve). This whole phenomenon is unknown in Italy at the time; "Masters" there are only assistants and followers of major artists whom scholars distinguish from each other to sort out the production of a single studio, artists unrecorded because they never had a shop or a personality of their own. The difference in the two places is partly due to the destruction in the North of many large documented paintings during the Protestant Reformation, and partly to the weaker tradition of local biographies in the North. The extreme illustration of the weaker northern biographical tradition is the fact that the earliest texts we have which deal with artists in the Netherlands are the minor allusions in ltalian writings (Bartolommeo Fazio, Vasari, Francesco Guicciardini). Thus Bartolommeo Veneto, if he had not inscribed his paintings, would have been the only Italian case of an anonymous personality in the Renaissance.

9 This painting was often seen and noted in the years up to 1932, when it was sold from the collection of the Counts Donà delle Rose, Venice. Thus it is reproduced in the article on Bartolommeo in the Italian Encyclopedia. Since that date it has been in a private collection in Venice not open to visitors or named in print, and has been seen in a single exhibition in 1947 (cf A. Riccoboni, Pittura veneta, prima mostra d'arte afltica dalle raccolte private veneziane, p. 21). Michelangelo Muraro kindly assisted me in this matter. Several writers (e.g., A. de Hevesy, Art Quarterly, vol, II [1939]) report incorrectly that the painting is in the Museo Correr, Venice.

10 Giovanni Morelli, Kuflstkritische Studien über italienische Malerei; Die Galeriefl zu München und Dresden (Leipzig: F.A. Brockhaus, 1891), pp. 221-225. This book, an expanded edition of an 1881 text, in which all the material on Bartolommeo had been presented already, analyzed this question effectively in philological detail and in its implications for Bartolommeo's role. When Bernard Berenson published his lists of pictures in 1894 (Venetian Painters of the Renaissance, loc. cit.), beginning in his twenties as an avowed disciple of Morelli, his two-line definition of Bartolommeo included the assertion "pupil of Gentile Bellini," but unfortunately neither he nor anyone else followed this up. Most of the later surveys of Bartolommeo's career do not allude to this inscription. (A. Venturi, A. L. Mayer, Michalski, Hevesy, and the Thieme-Becker entry, most surprising of all.) It was noted, using Morelli's views, by Borenius in his edition of Crowe and Cavalcaselle (1912), and by Fogolariin the ltalian Encyclopedia (1930), thus saving it from oblivion. E. Bassi, in Dizionario biografico degli Italiafli (loc. cit.), unfortunately slips into the interpretation "Giovanni Bellini." She offers no reasons and does not give any indication that there is an interpretation other than hers, so it may be that this is the result of hastiness, as in other details of her article noted elsewhere in these notes.

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