Category Archives: Art – Renaissance

FRENCH ART in the 16th Century.

FEATURE image: Ulysses and Penelope, Francesco Primaticcio called Le Primatice (1504-1570), Toledo Museum of Art, c. 1560, oil on canvas, 44 3/4 x 48 3/4 in. (113.6 x 123.8 cm).

Jean Perréal (1455-1529), Portrait Louis XII, c. 1514, Windsor collections de S.M. la Reine d’Angleterre.

Jean Perréal’s most important attribution is this portrait of Louis XII who was King of France from 1498 to 1515. Louis XII was married three times – the first annulled; the second leaving the king a widower, and, in his last three months of life, to Mary Tudor (1496-1533), the favorite sister of King Henry VIII of England. Despite these wives, the king had no living sons. The Salic Law prohibited his line to continue on the French throne through his daughters. When Louis died in 1515, his throne eventually passed to his cousin, Francis I.

Jean Perréal (1455-1529), Portrait of a woman, c. 1500, Louvre. https://collections.louvre.fr/ark:/53355/cl010059108
Detail of above.

Jean Perréal (c.1455-1530) was Court painter to the Bourbons and later worked for the kings of France starting with Charles VII. Perréal journeyed to Italy several times. In 1514 he went to London to paint Mary Tudor’s portrait and supervise her new dresses as Mary, aged 18 years, sister of the English king, married the 52-year-old King Louis XII of France.

Master of Saint Giles (active 1490-1510), St. Giles protects a wounded deer for Charles Martel, c. 1500, National Gallery, London, oil on oak, 63.4 × 48.4 cm.
Master of Saint Giles (active 1490-1510),Virgin with Child, c. 1500, Louvre.
Master of Saint Giles (active 1490-1510), St. Giles’ Mass, c. 1500, National Gallery, London, oil on oak.

The Master of Saint Giles was a Flemish or Flemish-trained painter who was active in France. He is named after artworks in London attributed to the artist called Scenes from the Legend of St. Giles. As the artist’s identity is obscure, the saint depicted in his artwork is shrouded in legend.

St. Giles is possibly an 8th century hermit in France who became the patron saint of beggars, the handicapped, and blacksmiths which was an important trade in the Middle Ages. In one work, the artist depicts a famous story about St. Giles. Before King Flavius’s hunting party, he protected a deer from their bows and arrows. The king was apologetic and Giles persuaded him to establish a Provençal monastery in which St. Giles served as its first abbot.

Le Rosso (1494-1540), La Fontaine de Jouvence, c 1535, fresco, Chateau de Fontainebleau, Galerie Francois I.

France conducted wars in Italy starting in 1494 that continued into the 16th century. By this pugilistic means, many of the Italian Renaissance’s ideas and practices were brought back to France. It had been just the opposite in the 12th century when French ideas, particularly that of troubadours and chivalry, were brought back to Italy following trade expeditions by merchants.

After fighting ceased, King Francis I invited Italian artists into France, most famously Leonardo da Vinci (1452-1519) in 1516. Following more war in Spain, Francis I began in earnest a revolution in art in France in 1526. The king made the Château de Fontainebleau one of the most active artistic centers in Europe, attracting many Italian artists such as Le Rosso (1495-1540) and Primaticcio or Primatice (c. 1504-1570). The French Renaissance, under the influence of these Italian masters, synthesized French and Italian art whose style was later described as the School of Fontainebleau.

Le Rosso or Rosso Fiorentino was a friend of Pontormo (1494-1557) and worked under Andrea del Sarto (1486-1530), a founder of Italian Mannerism. He first worked in Florence (1513-1523) and then in Rome (1524-1527). With the sack of Rome in 1527 by German troops of the Holy Roman Emperor Charles V (1500-1558), Rosso wandered about Italy for a while. In 1530 he was in Venice and, in that same year, went to France.

Rosso arrived to Fontainebleau and, with Primaticcio, became one of the founders of the Fontainebleau style which had a tremendous influence on French painting. Reputedly a neurotic person, Rosso’s death was accounted a suicide by Vasari though that is unconfirmed. The classic style found in Rosso’s The Fountain of Youth was increasingly replaced by his later emotionally charged style.

https://www.chateaudefontainebleau.fr/en/espace-groupe/visites-scolaires-chateau-de-fontainebleau/les-dossiers-pedagogiques/la-renaissance/

Le Rosso (1494-1540), Pietà, c. 1540, Louvre. https://collections.louvre.fr/ark:/53355/cl010061332

Primaticcio (c.1504-1570) was a founder of the Fontainebleau School in France with his fellow Italian artist Le Rosso in the 1530s. Primaticcio was a talented artist of universal range – from painting and interior decoration to sculpture and architecture.

From the mid1520s to 1532 Primiticcio trained in Mantua under Giulio Romano (c. 1499-1546). He was called to France by King Francis I in 1532 where he worked at Fontainebleau with Le Rosso. Between 1540 and 1542 the artist represented the king in Italy on an art buying expedition. In that time when he was away Rosso died, and Primiticcio, upon his return to France, began working with Niccolò dell’Abbate (c. 1509-1571) at Fontainebleau. It was in this period that he produced decorations in the galerie d’Ulysses that have been lost. In 1546, and again in 1563, Primaticcio went to Italy where on one trip he made casts of Michelangelo’s sculpture and in the other met Vasari.

Ulysses and Penelope, Francesco Primaticcio called Le Primatice (1504-1570), Toledo Museum of Art, c. 1560, oil on canvas, 44 3/4 x 48 3/4 in. (113.6 x 123.8 cm). http://emuseum.toledomuseum.org/objects/54742/ulysses-and-penelope?ctx=2f264d6c-812c-4e21-83c3-07cd963ab760&idx=0

The style of the painting is Mannerist which predominated in the 16th century. Mannerists went beyond the depiction of nature to flights of imagination and invention. For a stylistic statement, forms were twisting and elongated giving them greater pliability. Mannerists rejected the High Renaissance’s reliance on strict perspective and symmetry and preferred to construct compressed spaces with shaded tones, harsh colors, and the overall feeling of dreaming while awake.

After battling the Trojans and other subsequent troubled adventures, Greek hero Odysseus (Ulysses) has returned home to his wife, the faithful Penelope. Into the night, the reunited lovers recount their lives apart from one another. While Penelope counts the number of suitors on her hands who she held at bay, Ulysses cradles her chin in a gesture of tenderness and compassion. The composition is based on one of 58 wall frescos of scenes from Homer’s Odyssey at the palace of Fontainebleau near Paris. Unfortunately, the Gallery of Ulysses, Primaticcio’s masterpiece, was destroyed in 1738 after it had been allowed to decay over 200 years.

A kneeling woman, gathering wheat in sheaves, attributed to Francesco Primaticcio called Le Primatice (1504-1570), Louvre. https://collections.louvre.fr/ark:/53355/cl020005673
Mascarade de Persépolis, Francesco Primaticcio called Le Primatice (1504-1570), Louvre. https://collections.louvre.fr/en/ark:/53355/cl020005563

A preparatory drawing by Primaticcio in the Louvre for a lost composition of the cycle of L’Histoire d’Alexandre painted in the Room of the Duchess of Etampes in Fontainebleau. It was the masquerade that brought about the fire in Persepolis, an historic event that took place in 330 BCE when Alexander the Great conquered the Achaemenid Persian Empire following the battle of Guagamela the year before.

It is not disputed in history that after Alexander arrived to the Persian capital city of Persepolis it was looted and burned to the ground, destroying many great cultural treasures. Though recorded by several historians, accounts vary. The first century Roman historian Quintus Curtius Rufus wrote that while drunk during a large celebration with his companions, attendants and  courtesans, Alexander himself started the fire as the rest joined in. (see – https://www.worldhistory.org/article/214/alexander-the-great–the-burning-of-persepolis/

Niccolò dell’Abbate (c. 1509-1571), The Death of Eurydice, c. 1550s-1560s, oil on canvas, 189.2 × 237.5 cm, National Gallery London.

Niccolò dell’Abbate was from Modena in Italy. He was influenced by the sculptural and optical illusion achieved in the artwork of Andrea Mantegna (1431-1506). He was also influenced by Correggio (1489-1534), a master of chiaroscuro. By 1552 dell’ Abbate was in France helping Primaticcio at Fontainebleau with the royal chateau’s interior decorations though most of his artwork has disappeared. The Death of Eurydice is a fine example of the Mannerist landscape which the artist is responsible for having introduced into France.

Le Maître de Flore (active 1540-1560), Le triomphe de Flore (The Triumph of Flora), private collection (Vicenza).

Le Maître de Flore is a  French painter of the mid16th century Fontainebleau School. The use of the moniker Maître de Flore derives from this and another artwork.

Le Maître de Flore, The Birth of Cupid, after 1550, Oil on wood, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York. https://www.metmuseum.org/art/collection/search/437006?ft=master+of+flore&offset=0&rpp=40&pos=7

The painting above by the Master of Flore in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York is seen as depicting the birth of Cupid, with attendants in the birthing room assisting Venus. The composition, which is animated and decorative, is an example of the School of Fontainebleau, the high art style developed in 16th century France by Italian artists under the sponsorship of the French king.

Attributed to Le Maître de Flore (active 1540-1560), La Charité, c. 1552. Louvre.
https://collections.louvre.fr/ark:/53355/cl010065400.
School of Fontainebleau, Diana the Hunter, c. 1550, 75 5/8 x52 3/8 in. Louvre. https://collections.louvre.fr/ark:/53355/cl010064749https://collections.louvre.fr/CGU

Perhaps the most famous artwork to come out of the School of Fontainebleau is an anonymous work in the Louvre entitled Diana the Hunter. With influences of both Le Rosso and dell’ Abbate, Italian masters of the school, it is believed to depict Diana de Poitiers, the legendary French beauty and mistress of Henry II.

School of Fontainebleau, Woman in her Toilet, c, 1550,  Musée des Beaux-Arts, Dijon.

A recurring theme of the Italian masters and French artists in the 16th century is that of the naked woman, shown half-figure in her bath, or dressing. Some have an allegorical significance, others are combined with a portrait. This particular work which depicts some beauty of the day was so admired that there are known 16th century copies of it in Basel and in Massachusetts.

Jean Cousin the Elder (1490-1560), Saint Mammès coming to surrender to the court of the governor of Cappadocia, around 1541, tapestry, 440 × 450cm, Paris, Louvre Museum.

Jean Cousin was born in Sens and died in Paris. He was a French painter, engraver and sculptor.

St. Mammès was martyred under Emperor Aurelian in Cappadocia around 275. In Asia Minor he was highly revered by early Christians. In the 8th century his relics were taken to France and into Langres cathedral. Around 1540, eight tapestries were produced for the cathedral chancel depicting scenes from the saint’s life. Three of the tapestries survive: two in Langres and one in the Louvre.

In the Louvre tapestry, St. Mammès is accompanied by a lion to visit Aurelian who condemned him to death. In the background building the saint’s execution is already taking place. The tapestry’s elements point to the wave of influence that was the Italian Renaissance: its expansive landscape; its compositional use of perspective; and its classicizing architecture and buildings’ decoration, all of which came together in Francis I’s School of Fontainebleau. The tapestry’s varied and nuanced use of color lend a painterly appearance to the woven artwork.

Pseudo Félix Chrétien (active 1535-37), Three men lower barrels into the cave, Städel Museum Frankfort.

The picture displays a scene at one of the likely nearby hôtels that housed merchants, diplomats and others so to be close by the king. It is evident by Félix Chrétien ‘s artwork that creative activity went far beyond the confines of the royal chateaux. Many painters whose names and works are unknown flourished in 16th century France. Italian Renaissance techniques are used in the painting such as its correctly rendered spatial perspective, realistic figural development, and the typical gestures found in the latest Franco-Italian Mannerist style.

Jean Clouet (1485-1540), François Ier, 1524, Louvre.

Jean Clouet was the Court Painter to King Francis I. While Clouet was an influential artist in the establishment of Renaissance portraiture in France, his only documented painted portrait is that of Francis I’s librarian, Guillaume Budé (1467–1540).

A leading humanist of the sixteenth century, Budé’s fingers hold his page and a quill in the midst of writing. The words on the page in Greek presents an epigram: “While it seems to be good to get what one desires, the greatest good is not to desire what one does not need.”

Jean Clouet, Guillaume Budé, c. 1536, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, oil on wood, 15 5/8 x 13 1/2 in. (39.7 x 34.3 cm).

Jean Clouet, also called Jean Clouet II and Janet, was probably the son of a Flemish painter who was the Court Painter to the Duke of Burgundy. Jean Clouet II made a number of portrait drawings of the Court that survive, most in Chantilly.

Jean Clouet, Portrait of Admiral Bonnivet, c. 1516. Musée Condé, Chantilly, France.
French Anonymous, Head of a bearded man, capped with a hat, three-quarters to the right. End of 16th century. Louvre.
Francois Clouet (before 1520-1572), Portrait of Pierre Quthe, 1562, Louvre.

François Clouet was the son of Jean Clouet II and succeeded him as Court Painter to the king in 1541. Like his father, he was also called Janet and specialized in portrait drawings, most of which are housed in Chantilly. Francois Clouet’s first signed painting was the 1562 portrait of Pierre Quthe in the Louvre. Its style was influenced by the Florentine artists, particularly Angelo Bronzino (1503-1572).

François Clouet, A Lady in Her Bath, c. 1571, oil on oak, 92.3 × 81.2 cm (36 5/16 × 31 15/16 in.), National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.

The identity of Clouet’s model has long been debated. She may have been Marie Touchet, the mistress of Charles IX, or possibly Diane de Poitiers, the legendary French beauty and mistress of Henry II. The painting is boldly composed as it evokes poses of Venus, the love goddess, found in Italian art but also in its presentation of fecundity such as the nurse suckling a child and a bowl of ripe fruit of the season. The raised curtain is a device used in royal portraiture though here it may be just decorative.

François Clouet, La reine Marguerite enfant, c. 1560, Chantilly.
Workshop of François Clouet, Marie de Gaignon, marquise de Boissy (1524-1565), c. 1550-1565, Louvre.
Corneille de Lyon (active 1533-1574), Portrait de Marot, c. 1540, Louvre.

Corneille de Lyon (active 1533-1574) was born in The Hague and worked in Lyons, France for over 30 years starting around 1540. A contemporary and rival of François Clouet (c. 1520-1574), Corneille de Lyon is well documented as a popular leading painter in the French style. As the artist did not sign or date his works, it is virtually impossible to positively identify his artwork. It was only in 1962 that his first work –and nearly all of them are miniature in scale – was positively identified. The nature of his work was described by contemporaries. In 1551 the Venetian ambassador who visited the artist’s studio observed: “We paid a call to an excellent painter who…showed us the whole Court of France, both gentleman and ladies, depicted with the utmost likeness on a great many small panels.”

Working in oil on wood panel, Corneille de Lyon was Peintre et Valet de Chambre du Roi to Henry II (1519-1559) and Charles IX (1550-1574). Corneille likely did paint the entire court. Portraits usually show half-length figures dressed in dark colors against a neutral, somewhat iridescent and greenish background. Groups of such portraits are of uneven quality marking studio artists supervised by the master. The precise drawing of facial features with its smooth planes and enamel-like techniques conveys sitters of placid expression whether their gaze is distant or engaged. Costumes are portrayed with detailed realism yet in a rich, modulated and less definite form.

Painter to the king since 1551, Corneille became a landowner by gift of the king in 1564. In June 1564 one of the artist’s high-born visitors to his home was Catherine de‘ Medici (1519-1589), then regent. Before his death in 1574, the Netherlandish-born Corneille, with his family and household, became Roman Catholics after working in the French Court for nearly 35 years.

https://en.wahooart.com/@@/8Y352R-Corneille-De-Lyon-Portrait-of-Gabrielle-de-Rochechouart
https://www.wga.hu/html_m/c/corneill/rochecho.html

Corneille de Lyon (active 1533-1574), Portrait of Gabrielle de Rochechouart, c. 1574, Oil on wood, 16.5 x 14 cm, Musée Condé, Chantilly.
Pierre Dumonstier “the Uncle” (c.1545-c.1610), Portrait of an Unknown Man, chalk drawing with watercolor, c. 1580, Musée Jacquemart-André.

Towards the close of the 16th century, there were two families of French artists who were active – namely, the Dumonstiers and the Quesnels.

The Dumonstiers were descendants of one of Le Rosso’s fellow workers at Fontainebleau in the 1530s. Pierre Dumonstier (c.1545-c.1610) was one of three brothers, all of whom were portrait painters. The brothers had close links to the royal house, particularly to Catherine de’ Medici. Pierre produced several drawings, many in color giving them a somewhat painted appearance. Portrait of an Unknown Man is a chalk drawing with watercolor.

In terms of style, what in the beginning of the 16th century produced precise drawing of facial features in portraiture gave way by the end of the century to greater modeling fluency so to achieve intense expression. Portraiture’s overall format, however, remained constant: a face isolated on a neutral background rendered with close analytic attention.

The Quesnel artistic dynasty began with a court painter to James V of Scotland (1513-1542). One of that painter’s sons, François Quesnel (1543-1619), produced many drawings. His painted portrait of Mary Ann Waltham is signed and dated by the artist. Quesnel concentrates on rendering the face with the rest of the body and costume handled perfunctorily. This dichotomy of attention to form was the case in the drawings as well. It may be that the master produced the face in these portraits and left the body and costume to studio assistants.

François Quesnel (1543-1619), Mary Ann Waltham, 1572. 22 x17.5 in., Private, UK.

SOURCES:

A Dictionary of Art and Artists, Peter and Linda Murray, Penguin Books; Revised,1998.

La Peinture Française: XVe et XVIe Siècles, Albert Châtelet, Skira, Genève Suisse, 1992.

French Painting: From Fouquet to Poussin, Albert Châtelet and Jacques Thuillier, Skira, 1963.

The Art of Connoisseurship, or How The Art Institute of Chicago’s Titian Painting was Discovered to be a Work by an “Imitator.”

FEATURE image: Allegory of Venus and Cupid, c. 1600, Imitator of Titian (Tiziano Vecellio, Italian, c. 1485/90-1576), oil on canvas, 51 1/8 x 61 1/8 in. (129.9 x 155.3 cm). Charles H. and Mary F.S. Worcester Collection, 1943.90.

By John P. Walsh

The pleasant if heavily-restored late 16th century allegorical painting in the collection of The Art Institute of Chicago is today called Allegory of Venus and Cupid and dated to around 1600. Attributed to an “imitator” of Titian it remains in museum storage (“Not on Display”).

When this same painting was “rediscovered” around 1930 it was hailed as a Titian masterpiece and over the next 15 years was talked of that way in the general press and in some quarters of the art press. It delighted crowds who came to see it hang on the walls of The Art Institute of Chicago and The Cleveland Museum of Art. Called The Education of Cupid and dated to the 1550s, it was compared favorably with Titian’s famous allegorical subject paintings in Paris’s Louvre and in Rome’s Galleria Borghese.

The painting through the Great Depression and World War II was labeled “Titian,” but among expert connoisseurs there existed a longstanding dismissal of that attribution ever since its first known “resurfacing” in the mid1830s at Gosford House in Scotland.

Titian, Self portrait, c. 1550, Gemäldegalerie, Berlin.

In Italian his name is Tiziano Vecellio, but in English the artist is famously known as Titian (1485-1576)

Titian was part of a family of artists who had been civic leaders in 13th-century and 14th-century Italy, such as mayors, magistrates, and notaries. Offspring of two Vecellio brothers in the fifteenth century became artists. One of the brothers was ambassador to Venice where the family had a timber trade there. The ambassador’s grandsons became Venetian-trained painters. The younger grandson was the great Titian.

Titian became the leading painter in Venice and an influential artist throughout Sixteenth-century Italy. His cousin Cesare Vecellio (1530-1601) was an engraver and painter trained in Titian’s workshop. These Vecellio cousins and their sons became artists and were allowed to use the appellation “di Tiziano” which would bring them attention. Yet these family members were, along with later followers of Titian, artistic mediocrities.

The painter of The Art Institute of Chicago’s allegory entitled Allegory of Venus and Cupid is only identified as an “imitator” of Titian. Its allegorical motifs share similarities with Titian’s and this is perhaps partly why this Old Master painting by an unknown follower of Titian was mistaken for the master himself when it resurfaced on the art market in 1927.

Called The Education of Cupid and dated to the 1550s, it traded back and forth to the dealer for almost a decade until it was bought in 1936 by a well-connected Chicago couple who collected sixteenth-century Venetian paintings. The Wemyss ‘Allegory’ (named for its former British owner, Lord Wemyss) came to Chicago out of what amounted to be a Scottish attic.

It gained ready acclaim as a rediscovered Titian and since its subject was reminiscent of Titian’s Allegory of Marriage (1533) in the Louvre and a Titian subject allegory in the Galleria Borghese, the Wemyss ‘Allegory’ in Chicago was hailed as completing a triumvirate of Titian’s greatest allegorical compositions.

The problem was that this Chicago Titian was not a Titian at all, although it took about 10 years for that fact to gain modern acceptance.

After the purchase, the new owners immediately lent their Titian to The Art Institute to mount on its gallery walls. It would hang next to the collector couple’s verifiable Tintoretto, Veronese, and G.-B. Moroni. The museum eventually acquired the Wemyss ‘Allegory’ in 1943, but not before it toured The Cleveland Museum of Art during their “Twentieth Anniversary Exhibition” in 1936 and viewed with enthusiasm as a Titian.  

The collector purchase and subsequent loan to the Art Institute was front page news in Chicago. The director of the museum at the time, Robert Harshe, compared the work in importance to only two others in The Art Institute at that time – El Greco’s Assumption of the Virgin (1577-79) and Girl at the Open Half Door (1645) attributed to Rembrandt. Curiously, this painting first attributed to Rembrandt has been itself increasingly questioned in terms of its high authorship. One of the first historical European paintings to enter the museum’s permanent collection, Girl at the Open Half Door is today identified with the moniker “and Workshop” to indicate the possibility that it was created by a student under the master’s supervision.

The Assumption of the Virgin, 1577-79, El Greco ( see – https://www.artic.edu/articles/810/the-many-lives-of-el-grecos-assumption)
Young Woman at an Open Half-Door,1645, Rembrandt van Rijn and Workshop (see – https://www.artic.edu/artworks/94840/young-woman-at-an-open-half-door). Author’s photograph.
“Allegory of Venus and Cupid,” c. 1600, Imitator of Titian (Tiziano Vecellio, Italian, c. 1485/90-1576), oil on canvas, 51 1/8 x 61 1/8 in. (129.9 x 155.3 cm). Charles H. and Mary F.S. Worcester Collection, 1943.90.

Soon after its acquisition by The Art Institute, the Titian attribution was loudly critiqued in print and eventually dropped. The subject of the painting is of a girl who appears before Venus to be initiated into the mysteries of Love. At the girl’s right are Venus and the boy Cupid with an arrow. In the background two satyrs raise items such as a basket with two doves and a bundle of fruit.

Allegories were popular in Italian Renaissance art to convey social, political, economic and religious messages using historical and mythological figures. This painting’s figures, however, appear to be derivative of specific Titian works. Further, it possesses little of the technical brilliance or psychological revelations found in Titian’s work such as in Triple Mask or Allegory of Prudence (c. 1570, London, National Gallery). For example, Titian’s imitator gives the figure of the girl the same dramatic hand gesture found in Titian’s Venus with a Mirror (c. 1555, The National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C. ). Insofar as the girl’s skyward gaze and flowing hair, the imitator cites The Penitent Magdalene (1531-33, Florence, Palazzo Pitti).

Titian, Venus with a Mirror, 1555, National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.
Titian, Penitent Magdalen, 1533, Pitti Palace.

In addition to the painting’s derivative character of well-known Titian works, what most connoisseurs recognized by 1945 was what they called its “very modern” execution. This referred to its sharp color contrasts and figurative forms which developed only after Titian’s time. Connoisseurs also noted that Titian differentiated sharply between hair and ornament and that his female figures’s hair is neatly braided, whereas the hair is “in a mass” in the Wemyss ‘Allegory’. 

These characteristics pointed to the picture being related less to authentic Titians in Paris and Rome and more to those attributed dubiously, even spuriously, to Titian in Munich and at the Durazzo Palace in Genoa. Though this inauthenticity of Chicago’s Wemyss “Allegory” could have been questioned at the start of its appearance in Chicago in 1936, the museum was not adhering closely to the historical connoisseurship.

Sir Joseph Archer Crowe by Louis Kolitz (German, 1845-1914), London, National Portrait Gallery.
Sir Joseph Archer Crowe by Louis Kolitz (German, 1845-1914), London, National Portrait Gallery.
Giovanni Battista Cavalcaselle, 19th century.
Giovanni Battista Cavalcaselle, 19th century.

Sir Joseph Archer Crowe (British, 1825-1896) and Giovanni Battista Cavalcaselle (Italian, 1819-1897) had seen all three of the spuriously attributed Titians in Munich, Genoa, and at Gosford House which was now in Chicago. It was well known the pair excluded all three from their Titian catalog except to note that they were imitations which had been notably damaged and restored. Chicago museum research in the late 1930s was also aware of Crowe and Cavalcaselle’s attributive work for they cited them in official publications on the Wemyss ‘Allegory,’ but overlooked their conclusions.

With the museum’s acquisition of the Wemyss ‘Allegory’ in 1943 Crowe and Cavalcaselle’s negative attribution for it was no longer ignored or denied.  About its reworking in England one tempting and likely wishful speculation was that the Wemyss ‘Allegory’ was restored by Sir Joshua Reynolds (1723-1792) but that claim remains unsubstantiated. Further facts contextualized in the deft historical hands of modern connoisseurship left the Wemyss ‘Allegory’ out in the Titianesque cold as an imitator. In the case of the Chicago painting it was by historical comparison with compositional arrangements in known Titians that the compositional arrangements in the Munich and Chicago paintings were deemed by Crowe and Cavalcaselle to be done by imitators. Historically for Titian it would be nonsensical or “unique” for Titian to have manipulated the figures in that way at that time.

By the mid1940s the Chicago painting was searching for a new name attribution, since Crowe and Cavalcaselle did not give it one. The notion that it was done by Damiano Mazza (active after 1573), an obscure 16th century artist and student of Titian, was proposed but later dismissed.

Chatsworth, Duke of Devonshire: Van Dyck, Sketchbook.
Rome, Galleria Borghese: Venus and Cupid with Satyr Carrying a Basket with Fruit, attributed to Paolo Veronese.

Some of the confusion over the attribution to Titian of the Wemyss ‘Allegory’ is based on erring connections made using erring extant evidence. For example, the conjecture of Vienna School-trained art historian of Venetian art Hans Tietze (Czech, 1880-1954) that a sketch by Sir Anthony van Dyck (1599-1641)–which Tietze wrongly believed was made at Chatsworth House of a painting once attributed to Titian–shared similar motifs with the Wemyss ‘Allegory’ is a thin thread for possible attribution to Titian. It may be argued that the Wemyss ‘Allegory’ shares very little with the Van Dyck sketch except for the satyr lifting a basket. Further, the painting which Van Dyck sketched is no longer attributed to Titian and has long been in the Galleria Borghese in Rome as a minor Venus and Cupid with Satyr Carrying a Basket with Fruit now attributed to Paolo Veronese. It was in Rome where Van Dyck must have made his sketch, not England, and it was there he misidentified it as Titian. It is a tenous trail of misleading evidence that became the prompt to a connoisseur’s mistaken thought.

Paris, Louvre: Allegory of Marriage, Titian, 1533.

Nuptial paintings

One persuasive conclusion on attribution today for the Wemyss ‘Allegory’ was offered by Hans Tietze’s wife, the historian of Renaissance and Baroque art, Erika Tietze-Conrat (1883-1958). Tietze-Conrat believed that The Art Institute painting resides in a pool of works done by assistants and imitators who combined varied elements of Titian’s allegories as found in the Louvre’s Allegory of d’Avalos (the aforementioned Allegory of Marriage) and the Borghese’s Education of Cupid.

Erwin Panofsky (German, 1892-1968) postulated that those known Titians were nuptial paintings. Building on that premise, Tietze-Conrat postulated that numerous reproductions were made by Titian followers so to create nuptial paintings for their patrons to suit their needs. The derivative works shared the intimacy of a private format with a recognizable cast of 16th century depictions of mythological actors and the evocation of a Titianesque mood.

Today the Art Institute of Chicago has renamed their Wemyss “Allegory” as Allegory of Venus and Cupid and dated it to “around 1600.” The museum removed Titian and every other named attribution. Attribution has been returned to the term that connoisseurs Crowe and Cavalcaselle gave the painting in 1881, namely, “imitator.” 

“The execution here is very modern,” the pair wrote in their Life and Times of Titian in 1881. “It is greatly injured, but was apparently executed by some imitator of Titian.” Their late 19th century judgment hold fast today.

NOTES –

“first known “resurfacing” in the mid1830s in Scotland at Gosford House” – http://www.artic.edu/aic/collections/artwork/46314?search_no=6&index=4 ,retrieved Dec 29, 2014.

On Titian and Vecellio family – Encyclopedia of Italian Renaissance & Mannerist Art, Volume II, edited by Jane Turner, Macmillan Reference Limited, 2000, p. 1695.

For provenance since 1835 – see http://www.artic.edu/aic/collections/artwork/46314?search_no=6&index=4 ,retrieved Dec 29, 2014.

“ready acclaim as a rediscovered Titian…”; “lent their Titian to The Art Institute to mount……”; “Cleveland… ‘Twentieth Anniversary Exhibition’ in 1936…” –A Great Titian,” Bulletin of the Art Institute of Chicago (1907-1951) Vol. 31, No. 1 (Jan., 1937), p. 8; “Famed Titian Work Acquired by Chicagoans,” Chicago Tribune, October 20, 1936, p. 28; “The Mr. and Mrs. Charles H. Worcester Gift,” Daniel Catton Rich, Bulletin of the Art Institute of Chicago, Vol. 24, No. 3 (Mar., 1930), pp. 29-31 and 40.  The Chicago collectors were Mr. and Mrs. Charles H. Worcester, a museum Vice-President and lumber and paper manufacturer.

“…director of the museum… compared the work in importance to El Greco’s ‘Assumption of the Virgin’ and Rembrandt’s ‘Girl at the Open Half Door’” – “Famed Titian Work Acquired by Chicagoans,” Chicago Tribune, October 20, 1936, p. 28.

“….Allegories were popular in Italian Renaissance art…”-  http://www.iub.edu/~iuam/online_modules/iowc/b_003.html,retrieved December 29, 2014.

little of the technical brilliance or psychological revelations found in…Triple Mask…”H. E. Wethey, The Paintings of Titian: Complete Edition, vol. 2, The Portraits, Phaidon, New York, p. 50.

“its ‘very modern’ execution”; “in a mass” – The Wemyss Allegory in the Art Institute of Chicago, E. Tietze-Conrat. The Art Bulletin Vol. 27, No. 4 (Dec., 1945), p. 269.

“It was widely known the pair excluded all three from their Titian catalog…” – “A Great Titian Goes to Chicago,” Art News 35, 5 (1936), p.15 (ill.).

“Chicago museum research in the late 1930s was aware of Crowe and Cavalcaselle’s attributive work… overlooked their conclusions…” – Footnote #4, The Wemyss Allegory in the Art Institute of Chicago, E. Tietze-Conrat. The Art Bulletin Vol. 27, No. 4 (Dec., 1945), p. 269.

“…restored by Sir Joshua Reynolds…” – The Wemyss Allegory in the Art Institute of Chicago, E. Tietze-Conrat. The Art Bulletin Vol. 27, No. 4 (Dec., 1945), p. 269.

 “done by Damiano Mazza…” Ibid., p. 270.

Conjecture of Hans Tietze; Erika Tietze-Conrat’s postulation –  Ibid., p. 271.

“the execution here is very modern… It is greatly injured, but was apparently executed by some imitator of Titian.” – Crowe and Cavalcaselle, Life and Times of Titian, London, 1881,
II, p. 468.

https://www.academia.edu/13331765/THE_ART_OF_CONNOISSEURSHIP_OR_HOW_THE_ART_INSTITUTE_OF_CHICAGO_DISCOVERED_THEIR_TITIAN_PAINTING_WAS_A_WORK_BY_AN_IMITATOR._