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Rome fetes Lorenzo Lotto

Veneto painter enjoying renaissance

04 March, 16:25
Rome fetes Lorenzo Lotto (ANSA) - Rome, March 4 - The Italian capital is hosting an exhibition of masterpieces by 16th-century artist Lorenzo Lotto, whose distinctive paintings have enjoyed an upsurge in popularity over recent decades.

The Scuderie del Quirinale in the heart of Rome is displaying 56 paintings by Lotto (1480-1556), under a special agreement signed with the regional government of Marche, where the Venice-born artist produced some of his greatest works.

At an earlier presentation in Ancona, curator Giovanni Federico Villa said the exhibit marked the conclusion of a trilogy of exhibits exploring the significance of Veneto painters on the European art scene, following on from shows on Antonello da Messina in 2006 and Giovanni Bellini in 2008.

"Antonella da Messina was the first great portrait painter able to convey the psychology of his model, while Bellini invented the modern, unified-space altarpiece," said Villa.

"Lotto represents the synthesis of these two, successfully exploring humankind and nature in their entirety and reaching a level of naturalism and realism that would set an example for all future painters".

The exhibit is divided into two sections. The first floor hosts around 13 or 14 altarpieces, four of which from Lombardy and four from the Marche.

The second section on the upper floor features a selection of Lotto's portraits and depictions of religious figures, such as his famous Susanna and the Elders (1517), on loan from the Uffizi in Florence.

Other works have come from Veneto, where Lotto spent his early years, Lombardy, where he spent 12 years in Bergamo, and top museums around the world, including Vienna, Paris, Madrid, Moscow, New York, London and Washington.

Restoration efforts for the exhibit, worth 700,000 euros were required to salvage major portraits and monumental altarpieces on show from a dramatic state of decay, said Mario De Simoni, managing director of exhibit organizer Azienda Speciale Palaexpo.

Restorers revitalized the faded pigments, but deeper study revealed sources of original splendour that can no longer be achieved.

"We analyzed the pigments. They were those used by glass makers. They were extremely luminous, especially the reds, which have turned into brown tones. No matter what one does, we will never see them again as they were".

Lotto was born in Venice, where he trained as an artist. Although usually classified as a Veneto artist, he enjoyed little success in his native city, where he was competing against established giants such as Titian.

He moved first to Treviso, where he won the patronage of a bishop and began painting altarpieces, then to Rome for two years, followed by a first stint in the Marche. Here he produced several well-known frescos and altarpieces, working in Jesi and Recanati.

His most productive period was in Bergamo, where he lived from 1513 to 1525, receiving extensive commissions and developing his skill at technically accurate portraiture that succeeded in capturing the psychological quirks of the sitters.

Lotto then returned to his native Venice for seven years, where he set up a workshop that produced his five greatest altarpieces for churches in the Marche.

This time in Venice was followed by several years on the move, travelling from town to town, including longer periods in Treviso, Venice, Ancona and Macerata.

However, by the late 1540s, interest in Lotto's work dwindled sharply and, disillusioned, entered a religious order where he spent the final years of his life.

His work was almost forgotten in the centuries that followed, which some critics have attributed to his constant travels and stays in smaller towns, meaning no one place has a significant collection of his work.

Other art historians have pointed to his unique style, particularly in his portraiture, which often involved eccentric, slightly unnerving poses that were not easy to categorize.

He was rediscovered at the end of the 19th century but has only attracted a particular following since the 1950s.

The exhibition runs until June 12 at the Scuderie opposite the presidential Quirinale palace.

photo: San Bernardino altarpiece (1521)