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Sylvia Ferino-Pagden and Lynn Federle Orr, edd., "Masters of Venice: Renaissance Painters of Passion and Power ",
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This review is from: Masters of Venice: Renaissance Painters of Passion and Power (Hardcover)
This is the catalogue for the exhibition at San Francisco's de Young Museum from October 2011 to March 2012. It is complementary to, but not really comparable with, the two other Venetian Renaissance exhibitions and catalogues of recent years, the "Bellini, Giorgione, Titian" at the National Gallery in Washington in 2006 and the "Titian, Tintoretto, Veronese" at Boston's Museum of Fine Arts in 2009 (see my review on this website). Although the same themes and painters (and sometimes paintings and contributors) recur in these volumes, the current book is more restricted than the others. For one thing, all the paintings are "from the Kunsthistorisches Museum in Vienna" (which is actually the continuation of the subtitle that was too long to be printed above), and for another, they are all from the Habsburg collections: the curators did not have as wide a selection of works available to them, and so the result is less comprehensive than the other collections. Nevertheless, the major figures are all here; there is a section each for Mantegna, Giorgione, Titian, Tintoretto, Bassano and Veronese, and a catch-all of other Veneto painters like Palma Vecchio, Pordenone and Barone. Most of the paintings reproduced are quite representative and some are among the superstars like Titian's "Portrait of Isabella d'Este," Tintoretto's "Susanna and the Elders," and Veronese's "The Anointing of David." The reproductions themselves are somewhat uneven in quality; most of them are quite good, but there are a few cases where broad expanses of flesh have a slight greenish cast--not so jarring perhaps with Susanna in her garden, but Tintoretto's "St. Jerome" acquires an almost cadaverous appearance.
Sylvia Ferino-Pagden, who is the director of the paintings collection at the Vienna Museum, has contributed a brief essay on the Venetian Renaissance collection at the Museum as well as a serviceable general introduction to the subject with specific reference to the painters represented. Elke Oberthaler, also from the Museum staff, has a very interesting and informative essay on the implications and possibilities of the relatively recent adoption of canvas as the preferred support medium of these painters. Each painter's collection is prefaced by a brief essay--these are by various hands and of varying quality, but mostly general and quite competent. They suffer greatly, though, from one of the book's major failings: while the general essays are well illustrated, none of the articles in the catalogue section has any accompanying comparison illustrations, and that makes for some very dissatisfying and frustrating reading as we try to follow the commentator's verbal descriptions. In sum: this is not as challenging or as comprehensive as the other recent catalogues, but it is as rewarding as a walk through the amazing galleries of the Kunsthistorisches Museum itself. It's rather mind-boggling to realize that all these paintings are gathered in one place, and I recommend adding this volume to the others on the shelf.