Wednesday, 6 October 2010

M/M Bellini, Giorgione, Titian, and the Renaissance of Venetian Painting (National Gallery Of Art, Washington)

Image courtesy of the author. All rights reserved.

Review by Nicola Linza

I personally am very selective when it comes to any art survey volume. An art survey I have found can be either very weak, or very important and powerful, yet rarely anything in-between. In terms of the Italian Renaissance they are rarely on the powerful side as they don't function to serve the key purposes for historians, curators, and collectors. Most importantly surveys rarely clarify the impact of significant artists of a period and their relationship to the bigger realm of art history between their collective works. This is not the case with Bellini, Giorgione, Titian, and the Renaissance of Venetian Painting.

The rich and informative catalogue by David Allan Brown et al., a publication done in association with the National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., focuses on the most intense period of the Renaissance in Venice. The work examines a time when Giorgione, Titian (young at the time,) Sebastiano del Piombo, and Palma Vecchio worked alongside each other, and their lesser known colleagues, each and all in the light of the great Giovanni Bellini. The period which is examined represents the first three decades of the sixteenth century. It also represents a pivotal and major period of visual, and intellectual, impact for Italian art in Italy, Europe, and the world.

Brown et. al. does not handle this exhibition catalogue like a normal, or typical, survey. With 336 p., 9 1/2 x 11 1/2 , 31 halftones + 162 color illus. it is a masterfully planned art volume. Although written in a serious and scholarly manner, a layman will enjoy it.

The volume does not divide up the artists, but looks at their interrelationships. Secular subjects are explored, as are themes of music, love, and time. The leading scholars efforts, along with their detailed entries, provides a solid source for continuing discussion of pictures that are nothing short of monumental.

Bellini, Giorgione, Titian, and the Renaissance of Venetian Painting is an exhibition book that is, in my view, well worth obtaining now while available at the publisher price. I see this work as a required addition to any great library on Renaissance art today, and will certainly be valued tomorrow.