The Master of the Figdor St Eustache
ACTIVE IN ROMAGNA AT THE END OF THE 15TH CENTURY
THE MARTYRDOM OF SAINT SEBASTIAN
Oil on panel, maroflauged
88.3 x 65.3 cm.; 34 3/4 x 25 3/4 in.
Saint Sebastian (died c. 288 AD) was an early Christian saint and martyr. Sebastian had prudently concealed his faith, but in 286 was detected. Diocletian reproached him for his betrayal, and he commanded him to be led to a field and there to be bound to a stake so that archers from Mauritania would shoot arrows at him. “And the archers shot at him till he was as full of arrows as an urchin is full of pricks, and thus left him there for dead.” Miraculously, the arrows did not kill him.
Sebastian later stood by a staircase where the emperor was to pass and harangued Diocletian for his cruelties against Christians. This freedom of speech, and from a person whom he supposed to have been dead, greatly astonished the emperor; but, recovering from his surprise, he gave orders for his being seized and beat to death with cudgels, and his body thrown into the common sewer. A pious lady, called Lucina, admonished by the martyr in a vision, got it privately removed, and buried it in the catacombs at the entrance of the cemetery of Calixtus, where now stands the Basilica of St. Sebastian. More St. Sebastian
The name of the artist derives from a panel depicting Saint Eustace in the Gemäldegalerie, Berlin, formerly in the Figdor collection, which was considered to be by Melozzo da Forlí by some of the titans of twentieth-century Italian art history, including Roberto Longhi, Carlo Volpe and Federico Zeri.1 While recognising the distinct debt to Melozzo, more recent scholars such as Tambini (see Literature) have questioned this attribution, proposing instead that it could be an early work by Marco Palmezzano while still heavily dependent on Melozzo’s style. More on this painting
Marco Palmezzano, (1459–1539)
Saint Sebastian, circa 1515-1520
Tempera and oil on wood
81 х 60 cm.
Christian Museum, Budapest
Saint Sebastian, see above
Marco Palmezzano (1460–1539) was an Italian painter and architect, belonging to the Forlì painting school, who painted in a style recalling earlier Northern Renaissance models. He was mostly active near Forlì.
After his initial training with the painter Melozzo da Forlì Palmezzano went to Rome in the early 1490s.
It is rumored that Palmezzano may have then traveled to Jerusalem to join the team painting frescoes at the Holy Cross church there, but no documentary evidence exists. He is, however, noted in property records as residing in Venice in 1495. Shortly thereafter, Palmezzano returned to Forlì, where he spent the rest of his long life—apparently with only brief excursions connected with commissions in other places in the region—until his death in 1539.
Palmezzano’s studio was prolific in producing altarpieces, most commonly featuring the iconic arrangement of an enthroned Virgin with child on her lap, while below, symmetrically sited in the foreground are flanking saints. Venetian painting, in general, and the work of Giovanni Bellini and Cima da Conegliano, in particular, were to remain the most powerful influences on Palmezzano’s output. Moreover, he remained faithful to the Venetian style of the later 15th and early 16th century. Mannerism entirely passed him by, and he seemed immune to subsequent developments in Venetian painting. One of the most attractive facets of Palmezzano’s oeuvre are the distinctive and suggestive landscapes that form the backdrops of many of his altarpieces. These are a blend of the ideal and lyrical, and of the observed reality of the Apennine foothills and mountains to the south of Forli for which Palmezzano clearly had a real affection. These landscapes are also employed to subtle and imaginative effect to convey the symbolic religious messages of the works. More on Marco Palmezzano
The Master of the Misericordia
ACTIVE IN THE SECOND HALF OF THE 14TH CENTURY
THE MYSTIC MARRIAGE OF SAINT CATHERINE
Tempera and gold on panel, arched top, in an engaged frame
135.3 x 80.2 cm.; 53 1/4 x 31 5/8 in.
This imposing painting once formed the centrepiece of a polyptych dedicated to Saint Catherine. It preserves in part its original frame with cusped arch. The lateral compartments remain untraced.
The Mystic Marriage of Saint Catherine covers two different subjects in Christian art arising from visions received by either Saint Catherine of Alexandria or Saint Catherine of Siena (1347–1380), in which these virgin saints went through a mystical marriage wedding ceremony with Christ, in the presence of the Virgin Mary, consecrating themselves and their virginity to him.
The Catholic Encyclopaedia notes that such a wedding ceremony “is but the accompaniment and symbol of a purely spiritual grace”, and that “as a wife should share in the life of her husband, and as Christ suffered for the redemption of mankind, the mystical spouse enters into a more intimate participation in His sufferings.” Catherine of Alexandria was martyred, while Catherine of Siena received the stigmata.
Both Saint Catherines are frequent subjects in Christian art; the scene usually includes one of the Saint Catherines and either the infant Jesus held by his mother or an adult Jesus. Very rarely both saints are shown in a double ceremony (as above). Saint Catherine of Alexandria is invariably dressed as a princess in rich clothes, often with a crown, and normally with loose long blonde hair and carrying a martyr’s palm, sometimes with her attribute of a wheel; Saint Catherine of Siena is shown as a Dominican nun in white with a black over-robe open at the front, so it is usually easy to tell which saint is depicted. More Saint Catherine
The Master of the Misericordia
ACTIVE IN THE SECOND HALF OF THE 14TH CENTURY
THE MYSTIC MARRIAGE OF SAINT CATHERINE
Detail, Christ placing the wedding ring on St. Catherine’s finger
The Master of the Misericordia was Florentine painter active in the second half of the fourteenth century. His early works show the influence of Taddeo Gaddi and Bernardo Daddi, the dominant artists of the previous generation, but as he developed his style was to prefigure artistic tendencies prevalent towards the end of the Trecento. The artist’s name was coined by Richard Offner in 1958 after a devotional painting of the Madonna of Mercy (Madonna della Misericordia), formerly at the monastery of Santa Maria di Candeli and now in the collection of the Galleria dell’Accademia, Florence.2 He is also sometimes known as the Master of the Orcagnesque Misericordia. More on The Master of the Misericordia
Attributed to Ventura Salimbeni, SIENA 1568 – 1613
THE FLIGHT INTO EGYPT
Oil on canvas
50 1/2 by 38 1/4 in.; 128.3 by 97.2 cm.
The flight into Egypt is a biblical event described in the Gospel of Matthew in which Joseph fled to Egypt with Mary and infant son Jesus after a visit by Magi because they learned that King Herod intended to kill the infants of that area. The episode is frequently shown in art, as the final episode of the Nativity of Jesus in art, and was a common component in cycles of the Life of the Virgin as well as the Life of Christ.
When the Magi came in search of Jesus, they go to Herod the Great in Jerusalem and ask where to find the newborn “King of the Jews”. Herod becomes paranoid that the child will threaten his throne, and seeks to kill him. Herod initiates the Massacre of the Innocents in hopes of killing the child. But an angel appears to Joseph and warns him to take Jesus and his mother into Egypt.
Egypt was a logical place to find refuge, as it was outside the dominions of King Herod, but both Egypt and Israel were part of the Roman Empire, linked by a coastal road known as “the way of the sea”, making travel between them easy and relatively safe. More on The flight into Egypt
Ventura di Archangelo Salimbeni (later called Bevilacqua); (20 January 1568 – 1613) was an Italian Counter-Maniera painter and printmaker highly influenced by the vaghezza and sensual reform of Federico Barocci.
He possibly spent some time, in Northern Italy and then moved to Rome in 1588 to work, together with others, on the fresco painting of the Vatican Library under pope Sixtus V. During 1590-1591, he received a commission for paintings in the Roman Jesuit Church of the Gesù and the Basilica di Santa Maria Maggiore. Salimbeni returned to Siena in 1595. Here he persisted in a Reformist or Counter-Maniera style.
He is known for detailed preparatory drawings, most of which are now in the Uffizi. He continued to create paintings for churches throughout Italy, including Florence. At the Basilica della Santissima Annunziata di Firenze, he frescoed lunettes (1605–1608) illustrating events in the history of the Servite Order. In the Duomo di San Salvatore, he executed a magnificent John the Baptist.
Around 1600, he got an assignment in Assisi for a fresco of the “Resurrection of Christ” and the “Dying Saint Clare is visited by the pope” in the vault of chapel of San Massimo in the Basilica of Santa Maria degli Angeli.
In 1603, Salimbeni was commissioned to paint frescoes for the church of Ss Quirico e Giulitta, one of the oldest churches in Siena. This period saw a proliferation of new assignments. The papal legate, cardinal Bonifazio Bevilacqua (1571–1627), who had commissioned Salimbeni’s paintings, was so pleased that he invested Ventura Salimbeni with the Order of the Golden Spur, a very selective papal order. He was even authorized from now on to name himself Cavalieri Bevilacqua. More on Ventura di Archangelo Salimbeni
Paolo Caliari, called Paolo Veronese, VERONA 1528 – 1588 VENICE
THE REST ON THE RETURN FROM EGYPT
154 x 166 cm.; 60 5/8 x 65 3/8 in.
The interrelationship of the five figures is informal, as befits the rural setting: the Virgin, Her head turned to Her right, looks at the left-hand Angel who offers Her a silver plate of dates, while the youthful Christ looks up at Joseph while being watched by the second Angel. The figure group of the Virgin and Child is especially moving: She rests her right hand on His torso, fingers splayed, while He rests his right forearm over Hers, holding a knife between forefinger and thumb, while leaning towards Her so that Their heads almost touch. Joseph is pouring wine and bread sits on a stone table draped with a white cloth, intended to be recognized by the viewer as prefiguring Christ’s Passion. More on the rest on the return from Egypt
Paolo Caliari, known as Paolo Veronese (1528–1588), was an Italian Renaissance painter, based in Venice, known for large-format history paintings of religion and mythology, such as The Wedding at Cana (1563) and The Feast in the House of Levi (1573). Included with Titian, a generation older, and Tintoretto, a decade senior, Veronese is one of the “great trio that dominated Venetian painting of the cinquecento” and the Late Renaissance in the 16th century. Known as a supreme colorist, and after an early period with Mannerism, Paolo Veronese developed a naturalist style of painting, influenced by Titian.
His most famous works are elaborate narrative cycles, executed in a dramatic and colorful style, full of majestic architectural settings and glittering pageantry. His large paintings of biblical feasts, crowded with figures, painted for the refectories of monasteries in Venice and Verona are especially famous, and he was also the leading Venetian painter of ceilings. Most of these works remain in situ, or at least in Venice, and his representation in most museums is mainly composed of smaller works such as portraits that do not always show him at his best or most typical.
He has always been appreciated for “the chromatic brilliance of his palette, the splendor and sensibility of his brushwork, the aristocratic elegance of his figures, and the magnificence of his spectacle”, but his work has been felt “not to permit expression of the profound, the human, or the sublime”, and of the “great trio” he has often been the least appreciated by modern criticism. Nonetheless, “many of the greatest artists … may be counted among his admirers, including Rubens, Watteau, Tiepolo, Delacroix and Renoir.” More on Paolo Caliari, known as Paolo Veronese
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