On one occasion, back in the dim and distant 1990s, the late lamented scholar, perhaps the last of the great modern connoisseurs, Sir Denis Mahon, used the metaphor of an edifice or an architectural structure to describe Poussin’s development.* When confronted with certain pictures that he thought didn’t fit into the edifice, he was apt to reject them and banish them to another art history building site. The metaphor is a neat one: structural features that don’t fit could lead to the whole building crashing down, or tilting at an angel like an art historical Tower of Pisa. I must confess that the idea of the edifice came to me when I first saw the Malmesbury Judgment of Paris. My initial reaction was that it looked too “Venetian” and therefore it couldn’t fit into Raphael’s stylistic development or edifice. However, after reading more on the subject, pondering all the material sent to me by Graeme Cameron, and thinking about the comments of another Raphael scholar- incidentally, also a Poussin scholar interested in stylistic progression- Konrad Oberhuber, I began to learn more about what Oberhuber, and other leading Raphael scholars were calling Raphael’s Venetian, even Giorgionesque phase, which coincides with the date of the Malmesbury Judgement of Paris, historically attributed to Giorgione. It’s a difficult idea to convey since it involves a whole raft of stylistic, cultural, even sociological factors, all of which can be called for the sake of convenience the Rome/Venice nexus.
Raphael Studies and the Rome/Venice Nexus.
|Sebastiano del Piombo, The Death of Adonis. Probably painted in Rome after Sebastiano had arrived from Venice in 1511 with Agostino Chigi. Ducal Palace, Venice in background..|
The connections between Roman and Venetian art has a long history, usefully discussed by Patricia Fortini Brown (Venice and Antiquity: The Venetian Sense of the Past), but what was the relationship between the two cities in the period in which the Malmesbury picture is said to have evolved- 1510-12. More relevantly, what was the conduit through which Venetian ideas about painting were passed to Raphael and his workshop? A recent essay by Costanza Barbieri in 2005 has considered the links between Raphael’s and Sebastiano’s painting in Rome, and also linked it with patrons for whom both artists worked. As Barbieri points out, Agostini Chigi who commissioned the frescoes in the Loggia della Galatea, brought Sebastiano from Rome in 1511. Due to loans to the Vatican, Chigi had become superintendent of papal finances and was a farmer of an alum monopoly- probably the richest private gentleman in Italy at that time.As Barbieri plausibly said, in Venice, Chigi could have looked at the “facades of Venetian palaces”, particularly the Fondaco dei Tedeschi painted by Giorgione and Titian, now only known through copies and fragments. It was Barbieri’s view that it may have been as a result of viewing these frescoes that Chigi decided to bring Sebastiano- Giorgione’s pupil- to Rome to work on his villa, although it could be that Sebastiano thought he would have a better chance of advancing, away from the competitive milieu of Venice and Chigi was his passport. According to the Chigi family archives, (1618-30), Agostino met the painter in Venice and brought him with him to Rome in 1511 but “travelled very little after his youthful days.” On arrival in Rome, Sebastiano would have been the most important channel for the communication of Venetian painting, “the representative of the Venetian style in Rome.” Although nothing is known about the intended program of the Loggia, it may have been a competition situation with stylistic battle lines being drawn. As a result of this commission, and given Chigi’s Venetian links, Raphael learnt about Venetian technique; colours were imported from Venice, with Raphael even sending members of his workshop there to collect them. Although Raphael’s Galatea trumps Sebastiano with its classicism and its “archaeological and classical appearance” , to use Barbieri’s words, that scholar did believe that Raphael “looked at Sebastiano’s colour technique with interest close to emulation.”
|Sebastiano, Polyphemous and Raphael, Galatea, Villa Farnesina, both 1511. It is not known which came first, although it is likely to have been Sebastiano.|
This interest in the Venetian influence on Raphael has been evolving since the late 1980s.** Carlo Pedretti said of the Sistine Madonna: “It appears with the technique of oil on canvas Raphael was after the chromatic effects of the Venetians.” More relevantly, in 1999, Oberhuber referred to a new phase in Venetian influence and “colour shift” involving “Giorgionesque richness…” going on to say “….and in other works we will see that Raphael had not overlooked what Chigi had brought with him from Venice.” This topic of Raphael and Venetian art had solidified by the time of the 2004 exhibition in London with Tom Henry observing that “Sebastiano may well have brought some completed paintings with him, and Raphael probably sought him out and studied his work as soon as he arrived.” One of these may have been Sebastiano’s Death of Adonis, which AHT suggested in an earlier post Raphael must have seen. It is a transitional work because it blends Venetian colorito with the statuesque grandeur of Michelangelo. Also, the inclusion of the Ducal Palace in Venice serves to underline the link with that city. Barbieri’s essay drew all these scholarly thoughts and strands together, but with the focus on how Raphael’s stylistic preferences were formed out of his study of Giorgione and Sebastiano.
|Raphael, Portrait of Baldassare Castiglione, Louvre, c. 1514.|
There was already a context for this since the author of a book on renaissance colour, as well as the editor of the Raphael Cambridge volume, Marcia Hall, argued that the technique of Sebastiano’s Polyphemous may have inspired the “unifying effects” in Raphael’s School of Athens of 1511-12 (noted by Barbieri). The preparation of the wall in the Venetian way resulted in “purplish grey tint to the intonaco.” Wether this is borne out by the restoration of the Loggia , which may have ended now as the rooms are open to the public, remains to be seen. Barbieri observes that this hands-on research will add “important information about concerning the stylistic development of Raphael.” In a technical discussion of Sebastiano’s painting, Barbieri also noted the influence of Venetian glazing technique on Raphael’s Portrait of Castiglione, of about 1514 whose painting technique “using thin layers of superimposing colours to obtain the final hue” was similar to Venetian methods analysed in renaissance treatises on the art of painting.
|Raphael, detail from The Liberation of St Peter, Vatican, Stanza di Elidoro, 1514.||Sebastiano del Piombo, Pieta, 1516, Museo Civico, Viterbo.|
It was also believed by Barbieri that the dazzling light effects in the magnificent fresco of the Liberation of St Peter, may have been influenced by Sebastiano’s Viterbo Pietà, current with the fresco. According to Barbieri, a lost Giorgione painting (Self-Portrait as Orpheus) had similar notte effects- a demand for these night scenes may have been created by patrons. This author speculates about Raphael learning about night time effects from prints such as Marcantonio Raimondi’s “Il Morbetto”, but is inclined to believe that Raphael’s knowledge of these light effects came from Venice, especially Giorgione’s experiments.
|Malmesbury Judgement, 1512.|
One of the claims of the compilers of the research summary on the Malmesbury J of Paris is that this picture shows Raphael’s absorption of Giorgione: “it was Raphael’s unique ability to absorb and adapt other master artist’s styles that has led to its profound Venetian and ”Giorgionesque” appearance.” (Cameron). We know that Raphael was a great synthesiser of other painter’s styles and ideas, but does it therefore follow that the Malmesbury painting is by his hand, albeit in a “Giorgionesque” manner? This incorporation of other painting styles has been noted on occasion by Raphael scholars. In the catalogue to the 2004 Raphael exhibition, Tom Henry and Carol Plazzota relevantly stated that Raphael assimilated various styles but also established his own; “He was quick to appreciate quality and absorb innovation, adapting and improving the inventions of other masters with incredible ease.” Yet none of these scholars has noted the significance of the Malmesbury painting, which the authors claim is explained by its attribution to Giorgione for 500 centuries. Centuries of attribution certainly are a stumbling block to accepting the current identification, which is one of the main challenges facing its supporters. Yet, to be fair to the authors, it should be pointed out that Oberhuber, a compiler of a Raphael catalogue of pictures, and a scholar fascinated by artistic development, did point out that “The larger picture of Raphael’s output has not been fully painted.” Oberhuber believed that certain works of Raphael “delicate and more finely executed products” remained “unrecognised.” Had Oberhuber not died in 2007, it would have been interesting to see if he would have admitted the Malmesbury Judgment of Paris into this small enclave of overlooked works. As it stands, it remains to be seen how this scholarship develops in the future, or if it turns out to be a cul-de-sac in Raphael studies.
Nuancing Stylistic Growth in Raphael’s Art.
What exactly was Oberhuber trying to say here? He was formulating a project which depended more on the micro analysis of paintings rather than the allocation of stylistic factors to broad swathes of Raphael’s development; an approach that hasn’t customarily troubled Raphael scholarship, though this relates to other painters as well. Traditional connoisseurship has relied more on determining stylistic homology between groups of paintings rather than the microanalysis that Oberhuber was seeking. There had been hints of this interest in the nuances of stylistic growth before Oberhuber though. Cecil Gould, in a 1982 article considered the problem of the authorship of Raphael’s paintings, particularly those attributed to Guilio Romano. Gould ventured that Raphael’s oeuvre was more varied than hitherto thought; the painter varied his manner in nearly every picture, which Gould observed created “obvious problems of connoisseurship, even in the years when he was painting pictures just by himself.”
To keep this in balance, Gould was considering late Raphael when his workshop had been established rather than the period of 1510-12 when the Roman workshop was establishing itself. Nevertheless, , the problem of authorship is clearly germane to the earlier Roman period as the controversial re-appearance of either copies of Raphael’s Portrait of Julius II by his own hand or the workshop show. The essential point to grasp here is that technical notes about colour made by scholars such as Hall, Barbieri and Oberhuber do point to a less uniformly stylistic development and to a variegated evolution due to influences that Raphael encountered in this period, which have yet to be assimilated into the study of Raphael’s paintings. This is clearly one of the main problems that supporters of the Malmesbury attribution face: it’s difficult to even get interested parties to grasp the context of a Rome/Venice nexus and its effect on Raphael’s development, let alone persuade decriers to support the attribution. However, once this stylistic diversity advocated by leading Raphael scholars is accepted, it then becomes fair to consider whether this stylistic fluctuation is accounted for by Raphael studying painters like Giorgione, or at least the School of Venice’s works disseminated in Rome in that crucial period of 1510-12. It is a matter of record that from 1510 onwards Raphael had access to Venetian styles through the pupils of Giorgione, Sebastiano del Piombo and maybe even Titian. In 2004, Henry speculated about Raphael having the chance to see early works of Titian “which may have reached Rome by this time.” This begs the obvious question: how could the Malmesbury J of Paris fit into this stylistic intersection of Roman and Venetian art? If we create a new edifice consisting of “Venetian” and Central Italian styles, then where would the Malmesbury canvas be located in the structure?
The Influence of Giorgione and the Venetian School on the Malmesbury Painting.
|Giorgione and Titian, Concert Champetre, Louvre, 1508-9.||Malmesbury Judgement, 1512.|
The obvious Venetian painting to compare the Malmesbury picture to is the Concert Champetre, whose attribution gauge registers equally with Titian and Giorgione, though it’s more likely to reflect a confluence of influences in early cinquecento Venice, even Sebastiano for some scholars. This beautiful picture epitomises the Arcadian ideal, and it explains partly why the Malmesbury Judgement has been assigned to Giorgione since it possesses the same atmosphere of drowsy pastoral lyricism, though this is slightly qualified by an identifiable mythological subject which works against the poetic abstraction. The authors of the Raphael research summary perceive a link not only between the Louvre Concert, but also the canonical Tempest by Giorgione, so we have three paintings- a triangle of works with the Louvre Concert as its apex. One angle of this triangle, Giorgione’s Tempesta is too vast a subject to deal with here, although specific characteristics have been claimed between it and the Malmesbury Judgement.
|Comparisons of Malmesbury Paris with contemporary figures in Concert Champetre and Tempesta. (Graeme Cameron)|
In his Secrets of Leonardo da Vinci Vol. 1, Graeme Cameron said that the seated figure in the Malmesbury painting was “reminiscent of the standing figure in Giorgione’s Tempesta.” AHT claims no expert knowledge of renaissance costume; it merely notes similarities between the dress, -“the parti-coloured tights and plumes and slashes of the sixteenth-century”, to use Crowe and Cavalcaselle’s words- worn by figures in all three paintings We can also add an observation of Frank DeStefano made to AHT after posting the first report in this series. He points out that in the 1999 Giorgione catalogue edited by Pedrocco and Pignatti, a picture they attribute to Giorgione, a "Rustic Idyll" seems to have stylistic links with the Malmesbury J of Paris. This will need to be checked when the libraries re-open, but this 12x19cm panel pictures a young man with a woman who holds an infant. DeStefano observes that the costume of the man in this painting is “remarkably similar to the one worn by Paris in the Judgments.” On a related point- which takes us back to Joannides, Frank DeStefano says that he originally thought this picture was a Rest on the Flight into Egypt, but now believes it could be depicting the story of Paris and Oenone, suggesting the influence of humanists in Venice. In passing, the importance of the treatment of the J of Paris in the Rome/Venice nexus should not be overlooked here. As Joannides said in his article on Titian, Giorgione and Paris, more research is needed on the relationship of poetry and painting in the humanist culture of Venice
“Much investigation remains to be carried out on the interaction of poetry and painting in Venice around 1500 and it is likely that only a systematic appraisal of vernacular literature, and perhaps poems and stories, that remain unpublished in manuscripts- or merely the operations of chance- will recover lost relations.” (Joannides)
As was said in the last section, much the same kind of project (inspired by Damisch’s point about the origin of Raphael’s knowledge about the J of Paris story) needs to evaluate the themes of the Malmesbury J of Paris within the milieu of 15th century humanists in Rome, especially as it seems that one of the figures in the Malmesbury Judgement can be linked with a Raimondi engraving- more of that later. This cultured elite included poets and patrons, some of whom – like Chigi, who is now thought to be a facilitator of knowledge of Venetian painting styles- had direct cultural links with that city and were on good terms with Raphael and members of his workshop. That humanist culture obviously impacted on styles, and one might add this proposed research on poetry and painting is just as important an aspect of the Rome/Venus nexus as studying the stylistic, physiognomic and technical elements of the painting, the subject of the next section. Whether one agrees with the attribution or not, it seems perverse not to accept that research on the Malmesbury J of Paris should evolve along these lines.
Why hasn’t this Raphael attribution merited more attention?
The above question, prompted by a challenge from by H Niyazi of TPP, needs to be addressed. Why hasn’t the publication of the Malmesbury J of Paris attracted more interest? Apart from the fact that this blog isn’t the Burlington Magazine or some other such august journal- but you knew that already didn't you- there are probably a number of reasons.
· There is no context in Raphael studies for an evaluation of this picture. As I’ve been at pains to show in this post, the concept of the Rome/Venice nexus is comparatively recent. If we exclude the romanticist biographically- centred approach of Crowe and Cavalcaselle in the late 19th century,this research strand starts in the 1980s and begins to gain momentum at the start of the last decade. Every field of art history evolves at a different rate; some ideas take time to bed down. Oberhuber’s death may slow down interest in the Rome/Venice nexus with obvious consequences for this attribution; although the likes of Joannides and Barbieri show that it remains a strand of thought in Raphael studies, though both have different motives in pursuing it. This in itself doesn’t prove the attribution, but it helps to identify a context of stylistic development in which it seems to have appeared.
· At the risk of labouring this point, Raphael scholarship hasn’t paid much attention to the Judgement of Paris as a subject of interest to the humanistic matrix of early cinquecento Rome. Curiously, Damisch’s book on the Judgement of Paris- which devotes a lot of space to Raphael and abounds with relevant insights- hasn’t really been assimilated into analyses. This may have something to do with the bias against art history conducted by French scholars whose methodology- for better or worse- is more theoretical. The recent publication of Christian K. Kleinbub’s study of Raphael which draws heavily on modern French thought is a welcome exception to the rule.
· The Malmesbury J of Paris doesn’t fit the Raphael “edifice” and hence is dismissed. Yet leading Raphael scholars seem, if not to actually want to re-build that structure, at least re-design it to accommodate the Venetian elements. Wether Raphael scholars want to include the Malmesbury painting into this “re-build” is obviously a key question.
· Interest in the J of Paris has focused on Marcantonio Raimondi’s engraving alone, though occasionally it has been linked with other contemporary works as we’ll see. Joannides’s identification of the Venus figure in the Malmesbury painting with an engraving produced in Raphael’s workshop obviously helps to narrow the gap between the interpreter of Raphael’s J of Paris print, and the re-discovered picture. However, Joannides uses this source to argue the painting as a lost Titian creation, not a Raphael design. Obviously the next step is to analyse the links between the Malmesbury J of Paris and the engraving of the same subject, testing the claim that both contain stylistic, formal, as well as physiognomic similarities.
To make this absolutely clear, this will comprise the following: (a) analysis of Marcantonio’s engraving of the J of Paris, and surviving fragments compared with the Malmesbury picture; (b) analysis of morphological and physiognomic elements in the painting; (c) analysis of compositional similarities with Raphael’s works pre and post Malmesbury Judgement; (d) analysis of proposed biographical connections with figures in the painting including “La Fornarina” and Raphael himself. I’ll aim to get this penultimate section up round about Jan 10th, marking and other work permitting.
* Sir Denis- who sadly died in April this year-, used this term on a BBC programme made to accompany the Poussin exhibition of 1994 in London. Sir Denis, who was taking Blunt to task for not understanding Poussin’s pictorial language or his artistic personality, cheerfully criticised the former surveyor of the Queen’s Pictures for not being a connoisseur. I have come across the metaphor of architecture in other writings on connoisseurship from time to time; but Sir Denis is the only one who linked it explicitly with fitting pictures into an artist’s oeuvre. Konrad Oberhuber’s catalogue of early Poussin at Fort Worth in 1984 relies on environmental factors, as well as stylistic ones to chart the artist’s early development over time. Some of this crossed over into his Raphael catalogue of 1999.
** The earliest attempt to connect Raphael with the Venetian school, especially Giorgione, seems to have been made by those two great Victorian art explorers, Crowe and Cavalcaselle who saw associations between Venetian painting and Raphael’s landscapes. Apart from the odd throwaway line about Giorgione’s landscapes reminding them of “early Raphael”, they draw attention to a painting of a soldier in the London NG supposedly derived from Giorgione’s Castelfranco Altarpiece; they note how its quality merited an attribution to Raphael, though they maintained it was one of Giorgione’s studies for the altarpiece. AHT has not been able to find out anything more about this attribution; but this work has now been downgraded to a “17th century imitator of Giorgione” and is thought to have no connection with the Castelfranco painting. As to the attribution to Raphael, AHT merely notes that it may have been inspired by comparisons between the armour on Raphael’s early St George panels in the Louvre and Washington and the high quality reflections on the London soldier. It can be seen here. Obviously in early art history, Raphael’s pre-Roman works stimulated comparisons with the Venetian school, not Rome, as in later scholarship- an interesting shift.
Costanza Barbieri, “The Competition between Raphael and Michelangelo and Sebastiano’s Role in It”, in The Cambridge Guide to Raphael (ed) Marcia Hall, (2005).
Patricia Fortini Brown, Venice and Antiquity: The Venetian Sense of the Past, (1996).
Graeme Cameron, The Secrets of Leonardo da Vinci Vol. 1 (2011).
Fabio Chigi, History of the Chigi Family (1618, rev. 1626-30).
Hubert Damisch, Le Jugement de Paris: Iconologie analytique 1, (Paris, 1992); translated as The Judgement of Paris (trans John Goodman), (Chicago, 1996).
Cecil Gould, “Raphael versus Giulio Romano: The Swing Back”, The Burlington Magazine , Vol. 124, No. 953. (Aug., 1982), pp. 479-485+487.
Marcia Hall, Colour and Meaning: Practice and Theory in Renaissance Painting (1994).
Paul Joannides, Titian to 1518: The Assumption of Genius, (2001).
Paul Joannides, “Titian, Giorgione and the Mysteries of Paris”, Artibus et historiae, no. 61 (XXI), 2010, 99-114.
Denis Mahon, The Late Show, Thinker, Painter, Scholar, Spy, BBC, 1994.
Konrad Oberhuber, Poussin: The Origins of French Classicism in Rome, exhibition catalogue, Fort Worth (1984).
Konrad Oberhuber, Raphael: The Paintings, (1999).
Pedretti, Carlo, Raphael : his life and work in the splendours of the Italian Renaissance, with new documents and an unpublished essay by Vincenzo Golzio, (1989).
Various, Raphael: From Urbino to Rome, exhibition catalogue, London, NG, (2004).
Zampetti, Giorgione, 1477-1511, the complete paintings of Giorgione / introduction by Cecil Gould, (1970).