The Triumph of the City


The High Renaissance



(Renaissance  Art Map)


Gaudenzio Ferrari

See collections:

Bernardino Luini

Lorenzo Lotto




Northern Italy in the Age of Titian

During the first two decades of the 16th century, Milan and other northern Italian city-states were subject to severe dynastic strife. Having reconquered Milan from the Sforza's in 1515. the French king Francis I ruled the duchy until 1521, when he lost it to his great rival, the Hapsburg emperor Charles V, During this time, the Milanese art scene was dominated by Bramantino and the young Bernardino Luini (1480/85-1532). Bramantino's painting and architecture synthesized classicism into a sense of intimacy and pathos, while Luini combined the example of Leonardo with new ideas picked tip from his direct contact with Raphael's work. As a result, Luini is the most "Roman" of Lombard Renaissance artists, as can be seen from his frescos of the sanctuary of Saronno. In Venice, Titian succeeded Giorgione following his early death in 1510, and it is thought that he completed a number of the former's unfinished works. Exploiting colour to the full. Titian created powerful compositions, skilfully distributing figures according to colour contrasts in the skin and clothes, as seen in Sacred and Profane Love (c. 1515)-One of his first public commissions, the Assumption of the Virgin for the church of Santa Maria Gloriosa dei Frari, established his reputation as a colourist. In this, the traditional design of an altarpiece was superseded by a vast and dramatic arrangement of figures rendered in rich colours and bathed in light. Contact between Venice and Rome was kept alive by Sebastiano del Piombo, one of Michelangelo's most skilful collaborators. Sebastiano was one of the main exponents of a style that united Venetian colourism with the sculptural character of Roman painting, and was called to Rome by Agostino Chigi to participate in the decoration of the Villa Farnesina. The work of another Venetian painter. Lorenzo Lotto (c.1480-1556), reveals links between Lombardy and the Marches, where he painted, and northern cultures. As a young man, Lotto had had contact with Raphael and the master's painting of the Stanza della Segnatura. An almost theatrical style illuminated the work of Lotto, as can be seen in the scenes in the Oratory of Suardi and in the altarpiece of the church of San Bernardino. Across northern Italy, there-was a move towards a clearer and more emotive representation of Catholicism, creating a bastion of Catholic iconography against the onslaught of Lutheranism. One of the most interesting examples is the site of Sacro Monte at Varallo, where architecture, sculpture, and painting were all combined to re-create the holy places of Jerusalem in a series of chapels on the hill. Greatly influenced by Franciscan culture, which encouraged total immersion in Catholic ideology, the leading artist was Gaudenzio Ferrari (c.14781-1546), who used a highly theatrical form of representation to depict the episodes from the life of Christ. In both frescos and sculptures, his crowded scenes had great expressive impact. A similar example can be found in the decoration of Cremona Cathedral, where artists of different extractions worked between 1515 and 1520. As a result, there are a number of different styles, varying from the restrained, late 15th-century compositions of Boccaccio Boccaccino, through important contributions by Altobello Melone and Gerolamo Romanino (c.1484-1560), to the almost barbaric and anticlassical drama of Pordenone (1483/4-1539). Pordedone's work was remarkable for the immediacy of his figures, recalling those of Michelangelo in the Sistine Chapel. In Parma, the originality of Renaissance painting owes much to the merging of Lombard and Venetian styles. The youthful work of Correggio (c. 1489-1534) was significant, but after 1518, when he moved to Parma and absorbed other influences (Raphael's Sistine Madonna, c.1512-15, was in nearby Piacenza) he developed an ingenious personal style. In the dome of San Giovanni Evangelista at Parma and the abbess' room in the convent of San Paolo (1518), the artistes illusionistic compositions soften the narrative.



The work of Gaudenzio Ferrari is probably the best reflection of the spiritual art favoured by the religious culture of the time, especially in the Alpine areas marking the border between Catholicism and Protestantism. The activity of this Piedmontese painter began at that mountain shrine of Sacro Monte at Varallo, which was begun in 1486 by Franciscan monks and continued in the 17th century with the addition of many other chapels. Gaudenzio's decoration of the chapel dedicated to the Crucifixion gives a dramatically visual backdrop to the setting and the statues that animate it. At Morbegno, Gaudenzio painted a wooden altarpiece carved by Giovan Angelo del Maino. The statue of the Virgin Mary is part of a scheme depicting the episodes of her life. The setting is more restricted than that at Varallo, but the narrative richness and spiritual aura are the same.




Gaudenzio Ferrari

(b Valduggia, nr Vercelli, 1475–80; d Milan, 3 Jan 1546).

Italian painter and sculptor. He probably received his training at Varallo at the beginning of the 1490s, a lively period in the town’s artistic life, when extensive works were being carried out at the sacromonte. His master was Gian Stefano Scotto ( fl 1508), none of whose works has as yet been identified but who, judging from the early work of his pupil, may have been influenced by Lombard artists. Gaudenzio’s early works, such as a painting on panel of the Crucifixion (Varallo, Mus. Civ. Pietro Calderini), were influenced by the poetic art of Bramantino and by the northern Italian classicizing style of the Milanese painter Bernardo Zenale. His early, but self-assured, Angel of the Annunciation (c. 1500; Vercelli, Mus. Civ. Borgogna), painted for the Convento delle Grazie, Vercelli, suggests that these sources were soon enriched by his response to the tender Renaissance style of Pietro Perugino (active at the Certosa di Pavia, 1496–9). Gaudenzio is also recorded at Vercelli in the first known documentary reference to him, the contract for a polyptych commissioned by the Confraternita di Sant’ Anna in 1508, with Eusebio Ferrari acting as guarantor. There remain four paintings of scenes from the Life of St Anne and God the Father (Turin, Gal. Sabauda) and two of the Annunciation (London, N.G.). In these works Gaudenzio’s style is more controlled, possibly as a result of a journey to central Italy in c. 1505.



S. Maria delle Grazie, Varallo Sesia



S. Gaudenzio, Novara



St Anne Consoled by a Woman

Fresco transferred to canvas, 190 x 65 cm
Pinacoteca di Brera, Milan

The Annunciation to Joachim and Anna

Detached fresco transferred to canvas, 190 x 135 cm
Pinacoteca di Brera, Milan




St Cecile with the Donator and St Marguerite

Oil on wood, 121 x 52 and 120 x 49 cm, respectively
Pushkin Museum, Moscow




The Annunciation
Gemäldegalerie, Berlin



Christ rising from the Tomb



Saint Andrew


The Annunciation



The Holy Family with a Donor
c. 1520



Vertreibung Joachims aus dem Tempel

See collections:

Bernardino Luini

Lorenzo Lotto



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