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

Inspired by earlier northern European models, Venetian artists of the sixteenth century approached portraiture with a new naturalism. Portraits of individuals were commissioned to document physical likeness as well as social status, often conveyed through opulent clothing and lavish settings. Initially, most sitters were portrayed in strict profile, much like the depictions on ancient coins. Later, evocative three-quarter or frontal views dominated, inviting a more direct and intimate relationship with the viewer. In Venice and northern Italy, group portraits became fashionable. The artist Palma Giovane, for example, produced numerous quick sketches of his large family and wide circle of friends. Through the work of such artists as Carpaccio, Titian, Veronese, and Tintoretto, Venice established a remarkable portraiture tradition.