Why for centuries the extravagant genius of the Renaissance was not recognized in the Motherland: “Another Venetian” Lorenzo Lotto
In a series of great Italian Renaissance artists, a special place is occupied by Lorenzo Lotto. More recently, this painter was in the shadow of his famous contemporaries and countrymen, for centuries remaining unrecognized, even at home. Meanwhile, the creative and life path of this misanthrope and nonconformist of the times of Titian, as well as the fate of some of his canvases, deserve attention, study, and often – admiration.
Lorenzo Lotto was born in 1480. Italian art in those days entered the era of the High Renaissance. The main direction in painting was determined by Venetian artists, and the inhabitants of mainland Italy sought to this city in order to adopt the manner of famous artists and find expression and recognition for their talent.
Despite the fact that Lotto was fortunate enough to spend his childhood and youth in Venice, having received an artistic education there, he did not become a Venetian artist in a sense.
The style of painting Lotto, already at the beginning of his career, distinguished by originality, was influenced by already recognized masters, such as Bellini and later – Giorgione. Directly the teacher of Lotto is considered to be Alvise Vivarini, in the history of painting occupying a rather modest place. But much more impact on the work of the young artist had the work of Albrecht Dürer, as well as personal acquaintance with him.
Lotto received his first big order at the age of twenty-three in Treviso, where he went to complete the portrait of Bishop Bernardo di Rossi. To the portrait, the artist created a second canvas, the “cover”, in which he portrayed “Allegory of virtue and vice”. At first glance, containing an abstract plot, the composition was directly related to the portrait customer: for example, the destroyed tree symbolized the de Rossi family, at the time on the verge of extinction and torn apart by contradictions between its individual branches.
Not far from Treviso, in Tiveron, Lotto created the altar of the small church of St. Cristina. The most successful and fruitful period is the period of the artist’s life in the Marche region in Central Italy – the one where the cities of Ancona, Recanati, Jesi, Loreto are located. At present, Lotto’s works can be found in many churches in this area – while in large museums of the world their number is very small. The master also visited Rome, where in 1509, by request of Pope Julius II, he painted the interiors of the Vatican Palace. Many paintings Lotto created in Bergamo, where he painted portraits of wealthy citizens.
Continuing to travel to different provinces of Italy, Lotto often took up the fulfillment of orders – both the decoration of the interiors of temples and the creation of portraits. Out of the usual canons of painting at the time, Lorenzo Lotto did not enjoy the unconditional recognition that other Venetians, and especially Titian, acquired. In addition, work in Venice demanded from the artist qualities that contradicted the nature of Lotto: the ability to achieve the patronage of wealthy patrons, to please eminent masters, to comply with certain standards of painting.
Focusing on the philosophy and landmarks of ancient art, Venetian painters created idealized, sublime images. Lotto, being a deeply religious man, anxious, emotional, emphasized the human nature of the characters in his works, involved the audience and the viewer on the canvas, sometimes, contrary to the canons, turning the views of the saints to him, as in the picture bearing the name “Madonna with four saints”.
Portraits by Lorenzo Lotto differ in special depth, contain a reflection of the inner world of the character. The master does not flatter the model, but conveys – with the help of facial expression, gaze, background, attributes, to which the artist always approached with great care – the true psychological image of a person, and often his personal attitude.
Almost all the works Lotto found the landscape, which paid considerable attention. In the painting “The Mystical Commitment of St. Catherine” behind the image of a parapet with a carpet thrown over it, a large rectangular space is smeared with dark paint. These are traces of old vandalism. In 1527, a certain French soldier, impressed by the beauty of Sinai’s look in the picture, cut out a piece of canvas.