The Museo Thyssen Bornemisza is hosting Renaissance Venice

The Museo Thyssen Bornemisza is hosting Renaissance Venice

14 August, 2017 | Share Article

Thyssen-Bornemisza Hosts Exhibition Devoted To Venetian Art of the 16th Century

Jacopo Bassano (Jacopo da Ponte), Pastoral Scene, circa 1568. Oil on cancas. 99, 5 x 137,5 cm. Szépmüvészeti Múzeum.


The Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza is hosting Renaissance Venice. The Triumph of Beauty and the Destruction of Painting, an exhibition devoted to Venetian art of the sixteenth century – its first zenith – and featuring nearly 100 works by artists such as Titian, Tintoretto, Veronese, Bassano, Giorgione and Lotto. It sets out to show how the specific devices of Venetian painting, from the use of chiaroscuro and colour as the bases for representing figures and space to a closer attention to nature than was advocated by the classical tradition, more idealistic in its conception, embodied a fully Renaissance idea of beauty that was on a par with, and sometimes superior to, the art then being produced in Rome, Parma and Florence.

Curated by Fernando Checa Cremades, professor of Art History at the Universidad Complutense, the show examines this hub of art production, which is essential to understanding the history of painting, through a careful selection of the subjects depicted by the masters who earned it universal fame rather than from a chronological or stylistic approach. It features an outstanding group of paintings and a few sculptures, prints and books from private collections and museums such as the Galleria dell´Accademia in Venice, the Fondazione Accademia Carrara in Bergamo, the Palazzo Pitti in Florence, the Kunsthistorisches Museum in Vienna, the Galeria Degli Uffizi in Florencia, the Musée du Louvre in Paris and the National Gallery in London.

The triumph of beauty

After centuries of looking to the East, even China (Marco Polo’s famous voyages), the fall of Constantinople into Turkish hands in 1453, the defeat of the Serenissima Repubblica by Louis XII of France’s armies at Agnadello in 1509 and the shift in the trade routes following the discovery of America in 1492 changed Europe’s political, economic and commercial geography. Venice was in danger of being left on the fringes.

It was then, however, that an artistic awakening began, especially in painting and architecture, placing the city at the centre of a debate that started in Italy and spread to Europe in the late 1500s and above all the 1600s. Venice began to shape its own idea of beauty and became the main alternative to the aesthetic paradigms of Florence and Rome embodied by Raphael and Michelangelo. Whereas the classical or Tuscan-Roman approach attached greater importance to the intellectual aspect through drawing (disegno), previously conceived in the mind (idea), the artists of the Venetian school were more skilled at handling colour and the visual and sensual aspects of painting.

The destruction of painting

As in other parts of Italy, classicism did not remain in vogue for long. The late works of Titian, Tintoretto, Veronese and Bassano show how, in varying degrees and highly diverse ways, each of these artists adopted a more “open”, loose brushwork – often described as patches or smudges – which not only questioned the values of disegno as one of the essential parts of painting but even the Renaissance idea of beauty based on idealising reality.

This was not only a formal issue: the technique also imbued figures, landscapes and nature with greater expressiveness and life, a characteristic typical of the Baroque. From there it was a short step to heightening the dramatic elements of the image, which was very common practice in the paintings produced in the 1560s and 1570s by Bassano, Tintoretto and above all Titian, such as the Christ on the Cross (c. 1565). This matchless example of the dramatic qualities of the master’s final period draws the exhibition to a close.

Renaissance Venice. The Triumph of Beauty and the Destruction of Painting is structured into eight theme-based sections.

Between East and West: The most beautiful city in the world

The medieval splendour of the city of Venice captivated visitors throughout the 16th century. In 1500, a symbolic year, Jacopo de’ Barbari produced his View of Venice, the first realistic bird’s-eye view of a city. This extraordinary picture is shown in this room alongside portraits of Venetian authorities such as the Doge Mocenigo (Gentile Bellini), the procurators Gritti and Soranzo and a senator (works by Tintoretto), and a famous painting by Veronese in which two figures in Oriental dress illustrate the city’s cosmopolitan nature as a frontier between two worlds, East and West.