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

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Benedetto Bordone (1460–1531)
Isolario (Book of Islands)
Printed by Nicolò Zappino in Venice, 1528
Opening: Map of Vinegia (Venice)
Gift of Lydia L. Redmond, in memory of her mother and stepfather, Mr. and Mrs. William M. Clearwater, 1996; PML 125859

Originally intended as a guide for sailors, Bordone's Isolario describes the important islands and ports throughout the Mediterranean and in other parts of the world, also touching on their culture and history. Some of the illustrations are among the earliest printed maps of the regions depicted. The book also includes new discoveries, such as the connection between North and South America. The polymath Bordone—a miniaturist, astrologer, engraver, and cartographer—helped to establish island books as a popular new genre in Italy, and many were produced in Venice.

This marvelously detailed map of Venice (Vinegia) provides an excellent perspective of the lagoon and surrounding islands, detailing the major canals and landmarks in and around the city.

Paris Bordone (1500–1571)
Standing Man Playing a Viola da Gamba (Violoncello), late 1530s
Black and white chalk
7 3/8 x 3 1/8 inches (188 x 83 mm.)
Purchased by Pierpont Morgan, 1909; I, 75

The present figure is inspired by a similar portrayal of a musician in a pen-and-ink drawing of a pastoral concert by Titian, to whom Bordone was briefly apprenticed.

Whereas Titian's figure is using the bow to point in the general direction of the area circumscribed by the legs of his seated female companion, Bordone's more autonomous figure is playing the instrument. The composition anticipates the poetic depictions of mythological subjects that became popular in the mid-sixteenth century.

Paris Bordone (1500–1571)
Head of a Bearded Sleeping Man, early 1530s
Black and white chalk on blue paper faded to green gray
Inscribed at lower left, in pen and brown ink, Tiziano.
7 5/16 x 5 1/2 inches (185 x 133 mm.)
Gift of Janos Scholz, 1981; 1981.90

In comparison to Bordone's more forcefully drawn Standing Man Playing a Viola da Gamba, here the emphasis is on the shimmering surface of the subject's skin. The artist was strongly influenced by the chalk style of Titian, to whom the present sheet was once ascribed. The candid naturalism of this intimate study of a sleeping man suggests it was done from life.

Of the several paintings and frescoes by Bordone that feature similar sleeping figures, the artist's Last Supper in San Giovanni in Bragora, Venice, in which St. John rests his head on Christ's shoulder, relates most closely to this drawing.

Giulio Campagnola (ca. 1482–after 1515)
Buildings in a Rocky Landscape
Pen and brown ink
6 x 7 3/4 inches (153 x 196 mm.)
Purchased by Pierpont Morgan, 1909; I, 59

Engraver and draftsman Giulio Campagnola arrived in Venice in 1507, where he worked in the entourage of Giorgione. Campagnola and his adopted son, Domenico, introduced a new specialty into Venetian art—the pure, narrative-free landscape. Their large, panoramic landscapes created with flowing rhythmic strokes informed succeeding generations, including Pieter Bruegel, Goltzius, and Rubens, and were much sought after by cultivated collectors.

The dense cross-hatching and extreme delicacy with which the artist rendered the picturesque cluster of buildings suggest the influence of both Albrecht Dürer and Giorgione.

Vittore Carpaccio (1460/66–1525/26)
Sacra Conversazione
Pen and brown ink, brown wash, over red chalk; brown ink border at left, top and right; left, top and right edges marked off for transfer
Gift of the Thaw Collection, 2006; 2006.46

This drawing is a late compositional study for Carpaccio's panel painting of the Virgin and Child with Four Saints in the Musée du Petit Palais, Avignon. The Virgin and Christ Child with Saint John the Baptist and two female saints are set against a complex landscape background inhabited by three hermit saints. At center left, Augustine speaks to the small child; Jerome stands on the rocky arch; and Anthony Abbot sits just inside a small hut surmounted by a cross.

Vittore Carpaccio (ca. 1460/66–1525/26)
Head of Bearded Man Wearing a Cap, in Profile to the Left, 1495–1500
Black chalk, brown wash, heightened with white gouache
10 3/8 x 7 1/4 inches (265 x 185 mm.)
Purchased by Pierpont Morgan, 1909; I, 54

Carpaccio's large narrative scenes made for Venetian scuole—lay confraternities run by merchants and citizens excluded from politics because they were not of noble blood—often included likenesses of the institution's dignitaries. This drawing has been associated with the artist's Life of Saint Ursula cycle (Accademia, Venice), although no equivalent figure appears in those paintings.

The typically Venetian technique of brush drawing on blue paper became highly advanced in the hands of Gentile Bellini and Carpaccio.

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