Portrait of a Lady with a picture of Lucretia
: Courtesy Réunion des Musées Nationaux
Re-discovery of a
PARIS, 9 January 1999 - The Portrait
of a Lady with a picture of Lucretia, one of the most beautiful
works of the Italian Renaissance is by the little-known Venitian
artist Lorenzo Lotto.
Painted around 1533, the picture shows
the artist's rare psychological understanding of its subject, well in
advance of the time. A woman is portrayed holding a drawing of the
Italian heroine, Lucretia committing suicide and there is an unfolded
piece of paper on a table next to her on which we see the words, "
Nec ulla impudica Lucretiae exemplo vivet ", (No woman survives
dishonour, Lucretia sets the example ". The message is clear ; it
is a mute appeal for justice.
The gravity and insistence in
the girl's gaze, plus the disconcerting perspective in diagonal, again
unusual for the sixteenth century, unsettle the observer now as it did
Strange and unorthodox, Lorenzo Lotto's paintings
disturbed. Barely tolerated by his contemporaries, Lotto was, and
remained an outsider, defiantly dating and signing most of his works
before it became the custom to do so. Fortunately for us all he did,
for any unsigned canvases which were not lost were simply accredited
to other painters.
Non-conformist, his paintings bear only a
superficial resemblance to those of Giorgione c.1477-1510, Raphael,
and to Titian c. 1488-1572, whose work dominated Venice.
Bohemian, Lotto meandered from place to place, perhaps more from
necessity than choice, painting in Trevise, Rome, and Bergamo where he
settled for over ten years in what was to be his most satisfying and
productive period. This is where the Dominican monks commissioned Retable
Martinengo, a work which at last brought him a certain notoriety
among the local families. and where he painted one of his great
masterpieces, The portrait of Lucina Brembati around 1518.
spent quite some time in front of this incredibly imaginative and "
modern " work , fascinated by the symbolism in Lucina's
jewellery. If the ring on her index finger bears the coat-of-arms of
her illustrious family, the gleaming crescent moon is adorned with a "
c " and an " i ", thus suggesting her Christian name,
Lu " ci " na. But even without these unique touches, the
portrait itself, a form of art at which he excelled, is remarkable.
Double portrait of a man and his wife, created a few years
later shows Lotto at the summit of his art, but in spite of his
growing success, he moved house yet again, returning to Venice where
he painted the Pieta in 1545 for the derisory sum of sixteen
ducats . This religious painting was acknowledged as one of his more
important works, but the portrayal of a Virgin Mary who had fainted
Doubtless inspired by Michelangelo, this
pious, but dark and sombre picture, reflecting his inner turmoil
marked his downhill skid, and his final years were spent fighting
illness and poverty.
Unjustly forgotten for almost five
hundred years, Lotto's work, brought to the notice of Venetians by
Pietro Zampetti in 1953, has now begun to attract a wider public. This
current exhibition of fifty-one works of art, previously shown in
Washington and Bergamo, is the first retrospective of the Renaissance
genius' work in France.
Exhibition organised by the Réunion
des Musées Nationaux, Paris, the National Gallery of Art,
Washington, and l'Accademia Carrara di Belli Arti, Bergamo.
Galeries Nationales du Grand Palais