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Visitor trails Italian Renaissance, Painting

Paintings - Length: 1 hr 30 mins - Tour days: Monday Wednesday Thursday Friday Saturday Sunday

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La Joconde (détail)
La Joconde (détail)

© Musée du Louvre/A. Dequier

00Introduction

While the great European powers battled for control of Italy, Italian fifteenth- and sixteenth-century artists broadened the field of Western painting.

The arts developed in a specific political context. Italy was not a united country, and each prince or each family that governed a town wanted to display their splendor and might. The works and vast building sites - all involving commissions - served to demonstrate the magnificence of their patrons. Though Tuscan artists were used as models, from the fourteenth century onwards, each artistic center had its own specialty, and pronounced regional differences persisted throughout the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries: Florentine painting gave priority to draftsmanship; Venetian painting valued color above all; while, in the early sixteenth century, papal and princely patronage made Rome an increasingly important artistic hub. The presence of Italian artists at Fontainebleau turned the French sovereign's castle into a hotbed of forms and a European crossroads for the spread of Italian art. The Renaissance artist was an all-round artist, frequently a painter and goldsmith, sculptor and architect, theorist and poet, in the manner of Leonardo da Vinci, Verrocchio and Michelangelo. The artist was also a scholar, who wrote or applied theoretical treatises, understood the rules of perspective, and schooled himself in human anatomy by undertaking dissections, observing and experimenting. In the course of the fifteenth century, as the intellectual purport of the works created was recognized to the same degree as their manual dimension, the artist's status in society evolved. Painting entered the ranks of the Liberal Arts.


How to get to the next stop:
Starting from the Pyramid, head toward the Denon wing. Turn left and go through the pre-Classical Greek gallery, then head toward the Daru staircase (with the Winged Victory at the top). Turn right on the landing, go through Rooms 1 and 2 and into the Salon Carré (Room 3). Giotto's altarpiece stands to the right of the entrance, facing that of his master Cimabue.

Saint Francis of Assisi Receiving the Stigmata
Saint Francis of Assisi Receiving the Stigmata

© 2007 Musée du Louvre / Angèle Dequier

01St. Francis of Assisi Receiving the Stigmata

The theme of this altarpiece, painted in 1300 for a church in Pisa, is a well-known episode from the life of St. Francis of Assisi related by his companions: the miracle of the stigmata on Mount La Verna. Giotto's vision was in harmony with Franciscan spirituality, and having to appeal to the greatest number of believers, he set the main scene in a landscape of trees and rocks. St. Francis was shown first as a man whose face and body are modeled by light and shade, and whose features clearly express the fear he felt on experiencing the miracle. His pose and gestures are those of prayer and worship. The scenes on the predella are indicative of the artist's explorative attempts at representing space. In The Dream of Pope Innocent III, interior and exterior spaces are juxtaposed. Inside the papal palace, the figures are painted on three different planes. Outside, there is a depiction of a church. In the center of the predella, depicting The Presentation of the Franciscan Order to Pope Honorius III, the structure of the box-like room represented is emphasized by thin red lines, which act as visual points of reference for the spectator. The group of Franciscan monks is compact; only those in the foreground are visible.
Giotto's exploration of how to paint figures within space was to influence subsequent generations of artists.

How to get to the next stop:
Remain in the Square Room and look at the wall opposite the entrance.

The Coronation of the Virgin
The Coronation of the Virgin

© 2007 Musée du Louvre / Angèle Dequier

02The Coronation of the Virgin

Painted before 1435 for the church of San Domenico in Fiesole, where Fra Angelico had taken his vows, the theme of this altarpiece was not drawn from the canonical Gospels, but from the Apocrypha. The scene occurs in Paradise, and the Virgin is crowned by Christ, surrounded by the heavenly host of angelic musicians, saints and martyrs.
Fra Angelico's vision of Paradise is a rational space, where the rules of perspective are respected, with a single vanishing point situated on the lid of the pot of ointment held by Mary Magdalene. The circular composition places the Virgin and Christ in the center, while the size of all the other figures diminishes as the eye moves up the image. In the foreground, the kneeling male and female saints become the intermediaries between the space of the onlooking worshipper and the picture space.
This celestial space is bathed in pure light, which intensifies the colors and is heightened by the abundant use of gold. Depicted on the predella are six scenes from the life of St. Dominic, with the Entombment of Christ in the center. Influenced by the innovations of Brunelleschi and Masaccio, these images show that Fra Angelico shared their preoccupation with the representation of space.

How to get to the next stop:
Stay in the Square Room, but walk around the wall on which Giotto's panel is hung.

The Battle of San Romano
The Battle of San Romano

© 1997 RMN / Jean-Gilles Berizzi

03The Battle of San Romano

Commissioned by the Salimbeni, a Florentine family, Paolo Uccello painted three panels on the theme of the Battle of San Romano, a skirmish between Florentine and Sienese mercenaries that took place in 1432. These three works were later hung in the Palazzo Medici, in Via Larga. Today they are divided between the Uffizi, Florence, the National Gallery, London, and the Louvre. The fundamental quality of the Louvre panel is the expression of movement. The lances indicate the direction of the fighting, from right to left; movement is broken down through the position of the legs of the four horses in the foreground and the fanlike treatment of their bodies; banners flap in the wind; the gold of the ornamental studs and the armor formerly covered in silver-leaf catch the light. Vasari wrote that Uccello was obsessed with problems of perspective; this is conveyed in his use of forms reduced to volumes, foreshortening and mazzocchi (the multi-faceted wooden hoops covered with cloth forming the headgear of the central figure here), a veritable virtuoso exercise for painters. This exploration of geometrical, almost abstract forms fascinated the Surrealists and Cubists.

How to get to the next stop:
Leave the Square Room and enter the Great Gallery (Room 5). Walk along a few paces until you come to the Mantegna.

Saint Sebastian
Saint Sebastian

© 2008 RMN / René-Gabriel Ojéda

04St. Sebastian

The martyrdom of St. Sebastian, the legendary saint invoked against the plague, was frequently depicted in the fifteenth century. The Gonzaga family, for whom the artist worked for forty years, commissioned the Louvre painting from Mantegna. Mantegna trained in Padua, home of a university that specialized in the study of antiquity and a basilica, the Santo, dedicated to St. Anthony, which attracted the greatest sculptors of the day, including Donatello. The sculptural handling of the body, the use of a system of proportions and slight contrapposto recall Greek statuary of the classical period. The idealized beauty of the body of a man who had faith in God contrasts with the particularly ugly faces of his torturers, seen in the lower right-hand corner, as if cropped by the frame. St. Sebastian is tied to a carefully depicted fluted column with a composite capital. The city that appears in the distance is comprised of ancient buildings set against a metaphorical landscape. Pierced by arrows, the saint has replaced the broken idol, of which only a foot remains. Growing near the base of the statue is a fig tree, a symbol of the Church according to St. Gregory.

How to get to the next stop:
Walk back to Rooms 1 and 2.

A Youth Being Presented by Venus? To the Seven Liberal Arts, also known as Youth Presented to the Liberal Arts
A Youth Being Presented by Venus? To the Seven Liberal Arts, also known as Youth Presented to the Liberal Arts

© Musée du Louvre/A. Dequier - M. Bard

05The Allegory of the Liberal Arts

Sandro Botticelli received the commission to decorate the Villa Tornabuoni, home of a family allied to the Medici, in about 1483. The frescoes, which had been painted over with whitewash, were rediscovered in 1873. The Allegory of the Liberal Arts shows an initiation scene, in which a bare-footed girl leads a youth - possibly the young Lorenzo Tornabuoni - by the hand, apparently introducing him to a circle of female figures, each bearing an attribute associated with the Liberal Arts. Note that Music (the figure holding a portable organ) is regarded as a science on an equal footing with Arithmetic, Geometry and Astronomy, and that she enjoys a special relationship with Astronomy (the figure carrying a globe): earthly music was thought to be simply a weaker echo of celestial harmony. On the contrary, Painting is not represented. Late fifteenth-century and early sixteenth-century painters would prove their determination to see their craft elevated to the rank of Liberal Arts. Venus and the Graces, the companion piece to the Allegory of the Liberal Arts, may also have been an initiation scene, in which the gifts received by the young woman might be Grace, Love and Fertility. The graceful curves of the bodies clothed in light fabrics, the dancing silhouettes, and the elegance of the draftsmanship testify to Botticelli's search for beauty and grace, as explained in the treatise written by Alberti.

How to get to the next stop:
Go back along the Great Gallery, but this time, on leaving the Square Room, turn right into the Seven-Meter Room (Room 4). The portrait painted by Piero della Francesca is opposite you.

Sigismondo Pandolfo Malesta
Sigismondo Pandolfo Malesta

© 2011 Musée du Louvre / Martine Beck-Coppola

06Sigismondo Pandolfo Malatesta

Sigismondo Malatesta was prince of Rimini and a celebrated condottiere. He had a temple built in his honor and called upon the finest artists of the day to decorate it. Piero della Francesca painted a fresco depicting Malatesta protected by his patron saint. The Louvre portrait may have been a preliminary study for this fresco. The profile view in the Italian manner, set against a dark background, shows both highly individualized features (bulging eyes, broken nose, thin mouth) and stylized hair, neck and bust, which add an impressive strength to the figure. Although the eyes are painted in profile and so cannot meet our own, the force of his gaze is easy to imagine. The light coming from the left carves out the face and neck, while the entire profile is basically defined by volume. The rendering of the flesh colors that enliven the portrait and the treatment of the jacket embroidered with gold thread recall the Flemish manner of painting, in which Piero della Francesca was particularly interested - an influence that is also evident from the presence of oil in the binder. The numerous portraits of the condottiere all bear witness to Malatesta's inordinate pride, as well as to the emergence of Renaissance individualism. A new "genre" - the individual portrait - made its first appearance in the history of painting in 1420-50.

How to get to the next stop:
Return to the Great Gallery and a few steps from Mantegna's St. Sebastian, stop in front of the portrait of a man painted by Antonello da Messina.

Portrait of a Man, known as The Condottiere
Portrait of a Man, known as The Condottiere

© Musée du Louvre/A. Dequier - M. Bard

07Portrait of a man, known as Il Condottiero

Antonello da Messina's male portraits differed from conventional medallion-style profile views by setting three-quarter bust portraits against a dark background and behind a parapet. The face in the Louvre painting is highly individual; no detail has escaped the artist's attention: the rings under the eyes, the scar on the upper lip, the tension in the jaw. The imperious gaze meets the spectator's, as if seeking to detain him. The technique of oil painting used here, which Antonello had learnt in the court of Naples, enabled him to render the subtlety of the reflections in the irises, the hairstyle with the thick fringe that catches the light, the precision of the shadows on the right wing of the nose, the right cheekbone, and the chin. The face emerges out of the dark background and the black garment highlighted by a simple white edging. The Louvre portrait is signed "Antonellus messaneus me pinxit 1475" on the cartellino fixed to the stone parapet by two dots of red wax. At that time, the artist was in Venice. The technique he employed here spread northwards from Naples to Venice, and was soon used by his contemporaries. Antonello da Messina's male portraits were inspired by those of the Netherlandish painters Van Eyck and Campin, in which the frame was extremely tight. He must have been particularly struck by the way that the sitter's eyes addressed the spectator; this was, of course, impossible to reproduce in the profile view adopted in Italian portraits until then.

How to get to the next stop:
Keep walking along the Great Gallery.

Saint Jean Baptiste
Saint Jean Baptiste

© Musée du Louvre/A. Dequier - M. Bard

08St. John the Baptist

St. John the Baptist, the Herald, the Forerunner of Christ was also "He who came to the Light." Leonardo da Vinci conveyed this theme through the gesture of the index finger pointing heavenward and the spiraling body emerging into the light. The "right distribution of light" is what gives the figure its sculptural volume, and what expresses the imperceptible transitions between background and form. Here is a masterful demonstration of sfumato "which blurs the contours in a light mist." Owing to the way in which light is used, the body seems to "turn" and the painter thus holds his own against any sculptor. Color is scarcely used at all: on the contrary, the work reaches even greater heights of perfection by avoiding the artifice of hues. The face of St. John the Baptist with its gentle smile is androgynous, in accordance with a doctrine identifying the Forerunner as the New Adam, who was created with a dual nature. Leonardo's search for ideal beauty is also shown in his use of light. Since Plato, through the writings of St. Augustine, light had always been in the service of Beauty and Good. Marsilio Ficino drew his ideas from both Plato and St. Augustine, and Leonardo da Vinci sought to translate them in his paintings.

How to get to the next stop:
Now turn right into the Mona Lisa room (Room 6).

<i>Portrait of Lisa Gherardini</i>, wife of Francesco del Giocondo, known as the <i>Mona Lisa</i> (the <i>Joconde</i> in French)
<i>Portrait of Lisa Gherardini</i>, wife of Francesco del Giocondo, known as the <i>Mona Lisa</i> (the <i>Joconde</i> in French)

© 2007 Musée du Louvre / Angèle Dequier

09Portrait of Lisa Gherardini, wife of Francesco del Giocondo

The world's most celebrated painting has lost none of its mystery. Should it be regarded as a portrait of Mona Lisa, wife of Francesco del Giocondo, painted in Florence between 1503 and 1507, or as a representation of ideal beauty? The face is seen in front view, the bust in three-quarter view, with the sitter's hands crossed on an armrest. This manner of depiction is in keeping with Northern European portrait tradition, and would be borrowed by Leonardo's contemporaries. He nevertheless infused his model with an essential quality: he brought her to life. The life-sized scale, the nearness of the figure whose hands are in the foreground, and the treatment of the gaze turned towards the spectator all contribute to this sense of vitality. The famous smile, which Vasari described as "divine," invites the onlooker to meditate upon Platonic theories, according to which the smile on a graceful face is a reflection of the beauty of the soul. Could this smile lighting up her face simply be an onomastic reference that confirms La Gioconda's identity ("giocondo" in Italian meaning "light-hearted")? This impression of lifelikeness is also produced by Leonardo's use of sfumato, a technique that replaced firm outlines with hazy transitions from light to dark. It was the "right distribution of light" that gave rise to volume and suggested distance. The landscape behind the figure is bathed in a "light mist," and the mountains in the background are swathed in the atmospheric envelope.

How to get to the next stop:
Go back to the Great Gallery, walk along it until the Tribune (Room 12).

Portrait of Baldassare Castiglione (1478–1529)
Portrait of Baldassare Castiglione (1478–1529)

© 2007 Musée du Louvre / Angèle Dequier

10Portrait of Baldassare Castiglione (1478-1529)

Author of the hugely successful Book of the Courtier, the diplomat Baldassare Castiglione was also Raphael's friend. The amicable relationship binding the painter to his model is conveyed in the intensity of the gaze that lights up the latter's face, shown frontally, while the bust is painted in a three-quarter view. In the foreground, the clasped hands are somewhat reminiscent of the Mona Lisa's, as is the general posture of the figure. The rapport between the painter and his model is like that between two people engaged in an informal conversation. The various shades of gray used for the black velvet doublet, warmly enhanced by the gray squirrel fur sleeves, the hat comprising a hairnet and a beret which encircles the face, the white patch of shirt, and the background against which the figure is set serve to embolden the flesh colors and highlight Baldassare's blue eyes. The very thin canvas on which this portrait is executed contributes to the magnificence of the sitter, because it helps the paint catch the light. Raphael seems to have used this new texture as a modulator. In the late quattrocento, wooden supports began to be replaced by canvas, which was to become increasingly widespread. Baldassare Castiglione was one of the great Renaissance humanists and, in his search for elegance, generosity and sobriety, Raphael was the perfect reflection of the ideals expressed in the book written by his friend.

How to get to the next stop:
Remain in the Tribune, but turn around.

Saint Michel terrassant le démon, dit Le Grand Saint Michel
Saint Michel terrassant le démon, dit Le Grand Saint Michel

© Musée du Louvre/A. Dequier - M. Bard

11St. Michael Slaying the Devil

This immense painting, commissioned by Pope Leo X (originally Giovanni de' Medici) for the French sovereign, Francis I, was one of the diplomatic gifts sent in 1518 to strengthen the ties between France and the papacy. The handsome signature (RAPHAEL URBINAS MD XVIII) on the border of the tunic dates this work to the artist's Roman period, when he was inundated with commissions. The archangel's Apollonian beauty and victory over the hideous monster, which represents the enemies of the Church, is a homage to the king who won of the Battle of Marignan and conquered Milan - especially since Francis I was also the grand master of the Order of St. Michael. The vast landscape that forms a backdrop to the captain of the heavenly host may possibly be an allusion to the order's motto: "Immensi tremor oceani." This huge work was immediately acclaimed for the extraordinary inventiveness of the motif, the archangel's superb pose in mid-flight, the outspread wings, the drapery flapping in the air, the powerful gesture, and the facial expression of calm serenity. Engravings of it were made shortly after its completion. Early records reveal that it occupied a distinguished space at Fontainebleau, was hung in the King's Cabinet at the Louvre, adorned the Tuileries Palace, and was then transferred to Versailles, where it was placed in the King's Bedchamber. The great St. Michael had become a symbol of royal authority.

How to get to the next stop:
Retrace your steps and go back into the Mona Lisa room (Room 6) — the rest of the trail is in this room. You will see The Pastoral Concert on the wall behind the Mona Lisa, together with portraits by Titian.

The Pastoral Concert
The Pastoral Concert

© 2007 Musée du Louvre / Angèle Dequier

12The Pastoral Concert

Formerly attributed to his master Giorgione, this painting is now regarded as a youthful work by Titian, still bearing his master's influence. From the pastoral, elegiac atmosphere and the sensuality of the bodies caressed by the light to the absence of biblical or mythological references, everything recalls Giorgionesque themes. Two young people, obviously from two different social classes, are engaged in conversation. One, clad in magnificent garments, plays the lute. The other, modestly dressed, turns his head towards his companion. Both of them ignore the two naked young women in the foreground, who are probably not human beings, but rather nymphs, allegories or deities. The one standing on the left seems to be dipping the vase she holds in her hand into the well, while the other, seated on the right and seen from the back, is a flute-player. Could the theme of the painting lie in this confrontation between the two musicians? Could it be an initiation scene in which the young shepherd is depicted the moment he abandons the woman playing the flute - the instrument associated with Dionysos, said to arouse human passions - in order to turn towards the man playing the lute, an Apollonian instrument that elevates the spirit? Giorgione was himself a lute player, and a familiar figure at the court of Catherine Cornaro in Asolo, where music and poetry were so important. The "poems" were transposed into paintings that combined love, music and pastoral verse, but had no story.

How to get to the next stop:
Go back and stand in front of the Mona Lisa. Another painting by Titian, The Entombment of Christ, is on the wall to your right.

The Entombment of Christ
The Entombment of Christ

© 2009 RMN / Stéphane Maréchalle

13The Entombment of Christ

Known as The Entombment, this canvas showing the body of Christ being carried is one of Titian's mature works dating to 1520-30. In this classical period, when frieze-like compositions were the norm, works were often dramatic. In The Entombment, the arrangement of the figures around Christ forms a tympanum, outlined by the stooped backs of Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus, on either side of John who gazes heavenward. The body of Jesus, placed in the shroud, lies in an inverted circular arc, forming an almond-shaped group of four central figures. Outside of, yet accompanying this group, the Virgin and Mary Magdalene, contemplating the body of Jesus being carried to his burial place, form a quarter-circle; the curve of one's back being extended by the other's head. Acting as backdrop to these figures is a landscape with a low horizon lit by a glowing red sun. The low-angled light effects create a doleful chiaroscuro that places Christ's bust and face in shadow - a prefiguration of the darkness of the tomb. Color assumes a tragic dimension here. The deathly pallor of Christ's body is accentuated by the creamy whiteness of the linen shroud on which he is laid, as well as by the russet-toned hair, and green and red clothes of the men carrying him. Joseph of Arimathea's strong, amber-colored arms holding Christ's legs form a striking contrast between life and death.

How to get to the next stop:
Our tour of Venetian painters continues with Veronese and his famous Wedding Feast at Cana, hanging opposite the Mona Lisa.

The Wedding Feast at Cana
The Wedding Feast at Cana

© 2010 Musée du Louvre / Angèle Dequier

14The Wedding Feast at Cana

Painted by Veronese between 1562 and 1563, this immense canvas once adorned the refectory wall of the Benedictine monastery of San Giorgio Maggiore, Venice. The theme of the Marriage at Cana, drawn from the Gospel of St. John, lent itself magnificently to the room. Instead of following the biblical text faithfully, Veronese based his work on Arentino's version of St. John and transformed the scene into a lavish banquet, recalling a sumptuous Venetian lifestyle. And yet the work remains profoundly religious, as can be seen from the composition. The central vertical cuts through the body of Christ; the central horizontal lies on the balustrade: above Christ, the theme of the Eucharist is evoked by the butchering of the lamb; below Christ, the hourglass on the table and the dog chewing a bone, the symbol of death, evoke the destiny of mankind.
At the same time, the splendor of Venice is recalled through the beauty of the women, all dressed superbly and bedecked in jewels, and through the exoticism of certain figures wearing turbans. The sumptuous palette also pays tribute to Venice. The requirements concerning the pigments to be used imposed by Veronese's patrons here remind us how important color was for Venetian artists. This vast painting, which arrived at the Louvre in 1798, became a reference for young artists such as Delacroix. In his Salon reviews, Baudelaire also sang the praises of Veronese's "magical, heavenly, afternoon colors."

How to get to the next stop:
Another famous painting by Veronese – the portrait of a Venetian woman known as The Beautiful Nani – is on the wall to the left of The Wedding Feast at Cana.

Portrait of a Venetian woman known as The Beautiful Nani
Portrait of a Venetian woman known as The Beautiful Nani

© 2007 Musée du Louvre / Angèle Dequier

15Portrait of a Venetian woman known as The Beautiful Nani

The Venetian lady played a specific role in public life: she served as a foil. The splendor of her garments and the costliness of her jewelry were not only signs of her personal wealth, but also a symbol of the city's power. Indeed, women served to adorn the town. The Nani family was foremost in Venetian society, and this young woman may have been one of its members. The use of the word "Bella" in the title leads us to think that this was not an individual portrait, but a representation of ideal beauty. The figure is in fact a depiction of all the criteria of beauty sought after in Venice at the time: blond hair, a pearly complexion and radiance, as well as sweetness of character, reserve, or the quasi-shyness appropriate to any married woman. The wedding ring she wears ostentatiously on her left hand is amply indicative of this. A full blue velvet dress falling in thick folds, the fineness of the transparent white muslin overgarment, the sumptuosity of the decoration on the shoulders and the heaviness of the belt around the edge of the pointed bodice with its enormous golden clasp studded with precious stones transform this gentle-looking young woman into a Venetian aristocrat. Comparisons between the Bella Nani and the bride in the Marriage at Cana are somewhat disturbing. They were probably both very close to Veronese's ideal of feminine beauty.

How to get to the next stop:
The next stage of the trail introduces another famous Venetian painter: Tintoretto. His Coronation of the Virgin is on the wall opposite The Beautiful Nani.

The Coronation of the Virgin, known as Paradise
The Coronation of the Virgin, known as Paradise

© 2006 RMN / Jean-Gilles Berizzi

16Coronation of the Virgin

In 1577, a fire broke out in the Hall of Great Council at the Doge's Palace in Venice, destroying works by the Bellini brothers, Carpaccio and Titian. A competition was held to choose the artist who would paint a vast canvas (7 x 2.20 m) to cover the whole width of the wall behind the Tribunal. The commission was awarded to Veronese, but his death shortly thereafter prevented him from completing the project; the task was then entrusted to Tintoretto. This vision of Paradise is coupled with the theme of the Coronation of the Virgin, surrounded by the heavenly host. The Virgin - a metaphor for Venice - kneels at Christ's feet at the top of the hierarchy of angels, arranged in a series of elliptical rows that give the composition its swirling rhythm. The circles represent divine perfection, as described in Dante's Paradiso. The angelic choir, composed of string and wind instruments, recalls the importance of music in Venice in the composer Palestrina's day.
This fiery, dynamic, preparatory study draws its inspiration from Michelangelo's Last Judgement in the Sistine Chapel, which Tintoretto had seen on a visit to Rome in 1547. His powerful, spectacular, almost convulsive style owes much to his admiration of Michelangelo. These grandiose stage effects would be seen again in the Scuola San Rocco cycle, executed between 1564 and 1587.

How to get to the next stop:
This introduction to Italian Renaissance painting ends with another Venetian painter: Lorenzo Lotto. To see his painting entitled Christ Carrying the Cross, go to the far end of the room and look at the left-hand wall.

Le Portement de croix
Le Portement de croix

© R.M.N./R.G. Ojeda

17Christ Carrying the Cross

The Venetian Lorenzo Lotto was an artist on the fringe of official trends, most of his career being spent outside Venice. His interpretation of Christ Carrying the Cross at the Louvre is a deeply religious work. Painted in Venice, it is dated 1526. The signature on the wood of the cross, which appears upside down to the spectator, is exceptional. The theme was highly popular in painting from Northern Italy, Lombardy in particular. This private devotional picture served as an aid to prayer; it was intended to shock the believer and generate emotion. The very tight frame and the specific imagery focus attention on Christ's suffering. Eyes clouded with tears, his face is turned towards the worshipper. He is surrounded by the gaping, screaming mouths of his tormentors. Their clenched fists, strained blue with effort, are pointed not only at Jesus, but also at the spectator. One of the soldiers pulls Christ's hair brutally. The extreme violence of this gesture can again be found in Christ and the Woman taken in Adultery, also in the Louvre. Lorenzo Lotto rejected Titian's influence and is thought to have been familiar with Northern European painting. Can parallels be drawn between the deformed faces of his torturers and the paintings of Hieronymus Bosch, then in Venetian collections? Lorenzo Lotto's work concludes our visit. Stylistically, this disconcerting painting belongs to the following period, which, in the eighteenth century, was called Mannerism.

How to get to the next stop:
The Italian Renaissance trail ends here. To go back to the Hall Napoléon, leave the Mona Lisa room and take an elevator in Room 76. Why not follow another trail on the theme of painting?


Author(s) :

Brigitte Koroleff, conférencière R.M.N