The High Renaissance




Lorenzo Lotto



Lorenzo Lotto

born c. 1480, Venice
died 1556, Loreto, Papal States

late Renaissance Italian painter known for his perceptive portraits and mystical paintings of religious subjects. In the earlier years of his life he lived at Treviso, and, although he was influenced by the Venetians Giovanni Bellini and Antonello da Messina, he always remained somewhat apart from the main Venetian tradition. His earliest dated pictures, the “Madonna and St. Peter Martyr” (1503) and the “Portrait of Bishop Bernardo de' Rossi” (1505), both in Naples, have unmistakable Quattrocento traits in the treatment of the drapery and landscape and in the cool tonality.

Between 1508 and 1512, Lotto was in Rome, where he was influenced by Raphael, who was painting the Stanza della Segnatura in the Vatican palace. In the “Entombment” (1512) at Jesi and the “Transfiguration” (c. 1513) at Recanati, Lotto abandoned the dryness and cool colour of his earlier style and adopted a fluid method and a blond, joyful colouring.

After 1513 Lotto lived primarily in Bergamo, where his style matured. His most successful works of this period are the altarpieces in S. Bernardino and S. Spirito, which show a new inventiveness, a greater competence in rendering light and shade, and a preference for opulent colours. The compositions of his Bergamo works are more self-assured, and the “Susanna and the Elders” (1517; Contini Bonacossi Collection, Florence) exhibits his growing faculty for narrative painting.

In 1526 or 1527 Lotto returned to Venice, where he was briefly influenced by the glowing palette and grand compositional schemes of Titian. This is best seen in his “St. Nicholas of Bari in Glory” (1529; Church of the Carmini, Venice). But Lotto's main interest was in the forceful depiction of emotions and psychological insights. This is evident in his many portraits and especially in the “Annunciation” (c. 1527; Sta. Maria sopra Mercanti Recanati), with its agitated figures, swirling drapery, dramatic lighting, and neglect of perspective.

In Venice, Lotto had been snubbed by the circle of Titian, and in 1529 he moved to the Marches, where he could paint without censure. In this period his work became even more emotional, and many works, such as the “Madonna of the Rosary” (1539; Cingoli) and the “Crucifixion” (1531; Monte San Giusto), exhibit a highly charged mysticism in their nervous, crowded compositions and lurid colouring. His numerous portraits of this period are among his most incisively descriptive of the sitter's character; and the “Madonna Enthroned with Four Saints” (c. 1540; Sta. Maria della Piazza, Ancona) shows Lotto at the height of his narrative power.

Lotto was back in Venice in 1540, and his “St. Antonino Giving Alms” (1542; SS. Giovanni e Paolo, Venice) shows a renewed interest in Titian. But in 1549 he returned to the Marches, and his life became increasingly unsettled. He had a nervous, irritable temperament and seemed unable to stay long in one place or to sustain permanent relationships. In his old age he was destitute and was forced to paint number son hospital beds to earn a living. In 1554, partially blind, he entered the Santa Casa in Loreto as an oblate member to escape his critics and his debts. There he began one of his most sensitive masterpieces, the “Presentation in the Temple,” which remained unfinished at his death.



Head of a Young Man

c. 1505
Oil on wood, 28 x 23 cm
Galleria degli Uffizi, Florence


Bishop Bernardo de' Rossi

Oil on wood, 54 x 41 cm
Museo Nazionale di Capodimonte, Naples


Allegory of Chastity


of Virtue and Vice
Oil on wood, 56,5 x 43,2 cm
National Gallery of Art, Washington


Madonna and Child with Sts Peter, Christine, Liberale, and Jerome

Oil on wood, 177 x 162 cm (lunetta: 90 x 179 cm)
Church of Santa Cristina, Treviso


Madonna and Child with Saints

c. 1506
Oil on wood, 83 x 105 cm
National Gallery of Scotland, Edinburgh

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