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The Golden Age of Venetian Painting 1475–1576 / ​The Portrait

The century between the advent of Antonello da Messina in 1475 and the death of Titian in 1576 is considered the Golden Age of Venetian painting. What had been a minor regional school achieved international prominence and influenced the future of European art in general for centuries. Central to this achievement was the genius of a succession of painters from Giovanni Bellini and his brother Gentile, Carpaccio, Giorgione, to the great Titian and his younger contemporaries Tintoretto and Veronese. These painters worked in a city undergoing crisis and change: the decline of its maritime empire, the reduction of its monopoly of trade with the East, its near destruction as a state in the early sixteenth century, and the religious turmoil engendered by the Reformation and the reaction of the Roman Church to it. Governed by an oligarchy of merchant nobles who elected a Doge, Venice remained politically stable throughout this turbulent period and continued to flourish economically. The state, the lay confraternities (called scuole) and private individuals provided sufficient patronage and support for a brilliant school of painting to develop in both secular and religious art. The cultural context and history of this school will be studied in eight lectures, followed by a full-day visit to the National Gallery to consider first-hand its outstanding collection of Venetian renaissance paintings.

There was less of an emphasis on individual identity and personal expression in Venice than in contemporary Florence but an important school of portraiture did emerge here in this period. Antonello da Messina again proved an important stimulus, painting in oil and in the Netherlandish manner. Giovanni Bellini continued to supply restrained, small-scale images of the ruling class. By the early 1500s however a less impersonal, more romantic style of portraiture had been forged in the circle of Giorgione. His pupil Titian was to mint a type of grand portrait that he then exported first to northern Italian princelings and then to the Habsburg rulers of much of the known world: this in turn was to become the basis of European court portraiture through to Van Dyck. This kind of portrait was very different in character from the more idiosyncratic renderings by Lorenzo Lotto of his less exalted sitters.


Dr Michael Douglas-Scott | talks


Date and Time:

23 October 2014 at 10:45 am


Half Day



The University Women's Club
2 Audley Square

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