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Renaissance Venice: Drawings from the Morgan
May 18 through September 23, 2012

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Battista Agnese (ca. 1500–1564)
Portolan Atlas, on vellum, 1536–64
Opening: Map of the World with Magellan's Route
Purchased by Pierpont Morgan, 1912; MS M.507

Between 1536 and 1564, the heyday of Italian mapmaking, the cartographer Battista Agnese produced in Venice a number of remarkably accurate and beautifully decorated nautical or "portolan" atlases. About seventy copies are known to exist today. A luxury item, the atlas was unlikely to have been used in practical navigation and was reserved for rich merchants and high-ranking officials.

The map with twelve wind cherubs traces Ferdinand Magellan's sea route for his near circumnavigation of the world (he died before completing it) in 1519–22 along with a route from Spain to Peru. The oval depiction of the world represented a new type of map introduced by Benedetto Bordone's Isolario (Book of Islands).

Anonymous Italian artist
Portrait of a Woman with a Hairnet
Black and white chalk
8 13/16 x 7 1/4 inches (223 x 185 mm.)
Gift of H. P. Kraus, 1961; 1961.61

The artist who drew this sensitive portrait remains unknown. It probably was made during the first quarter of the sixteenth century by an individual from the Veneto or Lombardy working in the circle of Giovanni Bellini, Francesco Bonsignori, or Bartolomeo Veneto.

The sitter's headdress derives from Leonardo's Portrait of a Woman, known as La Belle Ferronière (Louvre, Paris). Painted in the 1490s, that work was much studied during the early years of the sixteenth century.

Opera (Works)
Printed on vellum by Andrea Torresanus and Bartolomeo de Blavis in Venice, 1483
Opening, Volume 2: Group of Philosophers Disputing by Girolamo da Cremona
Purchased in 1919; PML 21194-95

The text of Aristotle's Metaphysics is embellished by a group of disputing philosophers, including at far left a Dominican (probably Thomas Aquinas) and again Averroes (third from left).

Opera (Works)
Printed on vellum by Andrea Torresanus and Bartolomeo de Blavis in Venice, 1483
Opening, Volume 1: Aristotle and Averroes Disputing by Girolamo da Cremona
Purchased in 1919; PML 21194-95

This luxurious two-volume edition of the works of Aristotle was called by Henry Yates Thompson "the most magnificent book in the world." The trompe-l'oeil tendencies already evident in Girolamo da Cremona's Augustine of 1475 have been developed even further in the two frontispieces of this copy. In the first volume, the vellum of the page appears to have been torn away to reveal Aristotle conversing with a turbaned figure, possibly the Cordovan commentator Averroës (1126–1190). Beneath is a richly decorated architectural façade set into a landscape populated with satyrs, putti, and deer. A Latin inscription on the façade states that one Petrus Ulmer "brought this Aristotle to the world." Some scholars have identified this figure with Peter Ugelheimer, a Frankfurt bookseller resident in Venice who sold to Torresanus the punches of the celebrated printer Nicolas Jenson.

St. Augustine
De civitate dei
Venice: Nicolas Jenson, 2 October 1475
Purchased by Pierpont Morgan with the library of Theodore Irwin, 1900
PML 310

Many magnificent books were printed in Venice. This copy of De civitate Dei left the printing press without initials and decorative borders, which were added by hand—probably by Girolamo da Cremona. The lavish frontispiece depicts St. Augustine standing to the side of his scholarly study before a distant landscape. The Heavenly City of his vision, with angelic guardians standing at the gates, floats in the distance.

Clearly a luxury item, this book was printed on vellum. Set unobtrusively, near the center of the page, is the blue-and-white coat of arms of the Mocenigo family. Pietro Mocenigo was doge of Venice from 1474 to 1476; the volume probably once belonged to him.

Jacopo Bassano (1516/19–1592)
Head of an Old Man Turned to the Left, 1541–42
Black, red, and white chalk
5 7/16 x 5 1/16 inches (137 x 128 mm)
Gift of Lore Heinemann in memory of her husband, Dr. Rudolf J. Heinemann, 1998; 1998.3

Although Jacopo and his sons were based in his native Bassano del Grappa in the Veneto, the artist attracted numerous patrons from Venice for his vivid biblical scenes in rural settings.

This drawing is a study for the head of St. Joseph in Jacopo's painting The Flight into Egypt, now in the Toledo Museum of Art, Ohio. The painting is dated to the early 1540s on stylistic grounds. The drawing is one of the earliest examples of the artist's highly personal use of black, red, and white chalk on blue paper that was to become the hallmark of his style.

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The programs of The Morgan Library & Museum are made possible with public funds from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council, and by the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of Governor Andrew Cuomo and the New York State Legislature.

Background images: Photography by Todd Eberle unless otherwise noted. © 2006 Todd Eberle.