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Doni Tondo: Jesus, Mary, and Joseph*

Michelangelo’s Doni Tondo is one of the greatest masterpieces of the High Renaissance. It is his only surviving panel painting and now hangs in the Uffizi in its original frame. Most scholars date it somewhere between Michelangelo’s completion of the David in 1504 and his departure from Florence to Rome in 1506. Like many of the masterpieces of this era, it has elicited many different interpretations. At first glance it appears to be simply a traditional rendering of the Holy Family but, on closer inspection, a number of questions arise.

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Rona Goffen and the Venetian Renaissance

The late Rona Goffen passed away on September 8, 2004 at the age of 60. By that time she had become one of the leading scholars in the field of the Venetian Renaissance. She was one of the few art historians who saw the importance of understanding the religious and cultural background of Venetian artists and their patrons.

Goffen wrote many books and articles on the Italian Renaissance but, in my opinion, Piety and Patronage in Renaissance Venice remains as the single best introduction to the art of the Venetian Renaissance. Subtitled “Bellini, Titian and the Franciscans,” she discussed the theological and devotional background of the magnificent paintings by Bellini and Titian in the Frari, the Franciscan center in Venice. *

As a prelude to viewing the paintings she discussed the writings of prominent clerics like St. Bernardino of Siena, a patron saint of Venice, and Lorenzo Giustiniani, the saintly first Patriarch of Venice, especially when it came to depictions of the Madonna. She pointed out the importance, but also the difficulty, of seeing things through their eyes.

Gerard David: Rest on the Flight into Egypt

Versions of the biblical episode on the flight into Egypt were very popular during the Renaissance. Although mentioned only briefly in the Bible, apocryphal legends were popular and formed the basis for most of the depictions, especially of the so-called Rest on the Flight into Egypt. Netherlandish masters like Memlinc and Gerard David led the way, and their versions could even be found in the homes of Venetian patricians. they also made their way to the New World.

Gerard David (c. 1460-1523)
The Rest on the Flight into Egypt, c. 1510.
Oil on panel, National Gallery, Washington

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