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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.

Jan van Scorel in Venice

Jan van Scorel, an artist born in the Netherlands around 1495, traveled to Venice to study around 1520, only ten years after the death of Giorgione. Scholars speculate that during his stay he became familiar with the work of Giorgione and Titian. He certainly could have seen the famous frescoes at the Fondaco dei Tedeschi, as well as Titian’s Assunta in the Frari.

Jan van Scorel
Madonna with Wild Roses (Rest on the flight into Egypt)#
c. 1530, Utrecht, Central Museum

Morto da Feltre: Painter of Grotesques

In his brief life of Lorenzo Luzzo, commonly known as Morto da Feltre, Giorgio Vasari wrote that Morto worked with Giorgione on the Fondaco dei Tedeschi in 1507-8. Morto was from Feltre in the Veneto, not too far from Giorgione’s hometown of Castelfranco. Although born about the same time as Giorgione, their lives took different paths before they met up again in Venice.  Giorgione went to Venice as a young man but Morto wound up in Rome. Vasari says that he arrived there when “Pinturicchio was painting the papal chambers for Alexander VI.”

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