We walk along the busy route that runs from the station to the Rialto and the San Marco. On the main route towards the Rialto, a busy promenade, we first pass the San Marcuola (Wikipedia) on the Canal Grande where you can take a boat. We first go to the little square in front of San Marcuola, where we can see the opposite Fondaco dei Turchi. We talked about this building in class. The facade format (a wide central section that is finished on each side with a small part) of this fondaco was a model for all later palazzi.
An early work by Tintoretto can be found in the St. Marcuola. The bench shows the year in which it was painted: August 27, 1547. The commissioning party was Isepo Morandello from the brotherhood of the Sacrament of the San Marcuola. Tintoretto has not yet fully developed his own style in the Last Supper in the San Marcuola.
The emphasis of this piece is placed on the announcement of the betrayal of Judas: the back figure in dark clothing with the hand on his back and the wallet with the thirty pieces of silver. The bread (body of Christ) is however brightly lit. Jacopo Robusti (Tintoretto) emphasises the Eucharist with this. The table is parallel to the image plane. Just like in the famous Last Supper by Leonardo in the Santa Maria della Grazie from 1498, the painting shows the moment Christ stated he will be betrayed. The grouping and the reactions of the apostles are based on Leonardo da Vinci.
The work of Jacopo Tintoretto shows clear elements and trends in line with what the polygraphs wrote. Polygraphs were professional writers who wrote for the common people. Their plays or books were written for the lower class and were full of popular humour, derision and peppered with folksy expressions. These writers of the people had to produce quickly and often, since they lived off their sales. A clear dichotomy in the painting can be seen in the first Last Supper by Jacopo Robusti, Tintoretto’s real name. Christ just spoke the words that one of them will betray him. John and Peter look at the hands of Christ. It’s like, contrary to the other apostles, the meaning of his words haven’t hit them yet. The central part with Christ, John and Peter is calm, while on the left and right spontaneous and excited figures can be seen as apostles.
Ruskin, a true defender of Tintoretto’s art, talked about his displeasure with this painting in the San Marcuola: it was ‘vulgar’ and ‘far below his level’. This type of criticism could have led to the addition of a classical background to the Last Supper around 1728. This addition was later removed during a restoration. We will see Tintoretto’s second Last Supper in the San Trovaso, in the chapel of the sacrament. This work is also strongly influenced by the polygraphs. Tintoretto would draw this design many more time, such as in the scuola Grande di San Rocco (Web Gallery of Art) which we visited earlier, but never again in the ‘traditional’ way. The day you go to the San Giorgio Maggiore, you can see a late work of Tintoretto with the same theme, the Last Supper, but very different from the painting from his youth in the S. Marcuola.
According to a persistent legend, the pastor of this church dared to preach about ghosts. This pastor said that ghosts don’t exist, explaining that ‘where the dead are, that’s where they remain’. This poor man had to pay the price. On a certain night – of course after his sermon – he was dragged from his bed and beat up by all dead bodies from underneath the floor.
The rich Cornaro family had a chapel built against the south side of this church. The suspected architect is Mauro Codussi. The outside, but especially the interior, shows that this chapel shows all characteristics of the Renaissance, with its square plan, the half spherical dome and the use of proper orders. The grave of Catharina Cornaro (Titian) was located in the Santi Apostoli, hence the name saint, who portrays Tiepolo, Catharina was the queen of Cyprus. Her tomb is now in the San Salvatore, but the graves of her father Marco and her brother Giorgio remained in sitù.
When going inside, we can see a painting by Tiepolo in the family chapel, ‘The Last Communion of St Lucy’, from 1748. In this painting with very bright colours, an important feature of the works of Tiepolo, our saint is kneeling to receive the communion. In front of her, a dish with her gouged out eyes. The bloody knife is on a cloth right next to the dish.
According to the legend, Lucy was condemned to a brothel, since she only wanted to marry as a Christian, so not with a pagan groom. She was punished for this. But unfortunately, even strong oxen couldn’t get Lucy into the brothel. So it was decided to burn her at the stake, but this earthly means also couldn’t kill her. In desperation, the executioner grabbed a sword and pierced her neck and they succeeded, she died. Lucy is often depicted with her eyes gouged out as a punishment for her obstinate Christian attitude.
This church is typical of the Renaissance. The plan has the shape of a Greek cross with an inscribed circle, so a dome. The architect is Mauro Codussi, and the church was built between 1479 and 1504. We will look at two paintings and a relief in this church.
After entering, you can see a painting by Giovanni Bellini on the right, behind the side altar. Bellini’s altarpiece was painted for Giorgio Dilette and he determined which saints were displayed on it. The late word is signed and dated in 1513, three years before the death of the commissioner in 1516 (Wikipedia).
After depositing some coins in the tithing box, we will discuss this work. It is based on Psalm 13, 2 and can be read on the back side of the frame:
Giovanni Bellini ‘Saints Christopher, Jerome and Ludwig of Toulouse’ 1513
How long, Lord? Will you forget me forever?
How long will you hide your face from me?
How long must I wrestle with my thoughts
and day after day have sorrow in my heart?
How long will my enemy triumph over me?
Look on me and answer, Lord my God.
Give light to my eyes, or I will sleep in death,
and my enemy will say, “I have overcome him,”
and my foes will rejoice when I fall.
But I trust in your unfailing love;
my heart rejoices in your salvation.
I will sing the Lord’s praise,
for he has been good to me.
But I trust in your unfailing love;
my heart rejoices in your salvation.
for he has been good to me.
I will sing the Lord’s praise.
In this work, just like in the one by Sebastiono del Piombo (on the main altar), three saints are depicted, with a church father in the middle. The puzzle was partially solved twenty years before his death, but not completely. St. Louis has the main piece of the other church father Augustine in his hands, with the title Civitate Dei. Is this man Augustine? No, because the inscription, Civitate Dei, stems from later times. Also, the title on the back of the book is not completely clear. This is something the very accurate Bellini would never do, so he did portray St. Louis.
Under this arch (a symbol of the church) the two saints of the active lives are found, while St. Jerome is reading and meditating on a high rock. The text from Psalm 14 on the arch is written in Greek. The choice of this language can partially be explained by the fact that this is a church for the Greek. The Psalms are written in Hebrew (O.T.).
Lines from Psalm 14 can be read from the arch in Greek, which translated are as follows:
Lattanzi interpreted this altarpiece in 1981 as follows:
Jerome, a hermit and educated church father, represents the highest point of religiosity. There seems to be no connection between the rock and the space in front of the railing where the other two saints are standing, as it were on the same level as the viewer. The three saints represent three different features: Christopher for humility and modesty, and Toulouse for docility, the church and liturgy. Jerome stands for contemplative life, the other two for active life. At the end of his life, Jerome was involved with the relationship between the contemplative and the active life, which is actually a very classic debate.
The active life is placed on our level, the earthly level, and the contemplative life stands above and outside our society. The examples Toulouse and Christopher portray can be followed and strived for by everyone, but only few can do what Jerome did. But both the active and the contemplative life play a major role in the liberation. You had to be satisfied with your role, so almost always the active life. Especially in those years, a fierce debate took place about the relation between the contemplative and active life. This piece takes a clear position in this debate: the contemplative ranks higher, but both belong to each other and both lead to salvation. Don’t forget that Bellini was involved with the scholars of his time and must have experienced this debate himself.
The active versus contemplative debate played a major role in Venice. Two patricians, Vicenzo Querini and Tomaso Giustinian left the city in the lagoon and retired as hermits. They still wrote their friends in Venice, including the future cardinal Gasparo Contarini. The two ‘refugees’ Vicenzo and Querini chose the superior contemplative life. Gasparo Contarini saw this completely different. He called on the two to follow the active life, the world in which we live needed this. We just assume that Diletti identified with St. Christopher and that Ludovico Talenti, the priest of this church, identified with the spiritual and namesake Ludovico, or Louis of Toulouse.
There is another altarpiece next to Bellini’s altarpiece, located behind the main altar, by painter Sebastiano del Piombo.
Sebastiano del Piombo ‘St. Chrysostom with St. John the Evangelist, John the Baptist St. Theodore and St. Catharine, St. Mary Magdalen and St. Lucy’ oil on canvas, 200 x 165 cm altarpiece San Giovanni Crisostomo” width=”599″ height=”689″
This painter painted this work shortly before his departure to Rome, where he became a celebrated artist of the portrait. St. Chrysostom is portrayed in the centre. He is one of the four Oriental church fathers the church is named after. This altarpiece is considered a masterpiece by Piombo. The subject is strongly influenced by religious doctrine. Like Bellini’s altarpiece that was painted later in this church, it is clear theological statement, and definitely not just private, but mainly a public ‘statement’ in paint. We will see how beautifully Piombo managed to process the assignment for this painting in a natural way.
Another marble relief can be found on the far left on the west side, called ‘Coronation of the Virgin’, by Tullio Lombardo from 1500 in the Barnabo chapel. The clothing of the spectators at the coronation are clearly not from Lombardo’s time, but all’antica, Roman robes. Lombardo applies relieve schiacciato, or low relief at the top op the large altarpiece, which is an invention by Donatello. This technique is very difficult, even for very skilled sculptors. Lombordo convincingly shows this in the marble altarpiece.
As the Apostles gaze upon them, Christ places a crown on Mary’s head while she kneels. The Father observes from above, and right beneath Him, the Holy Spirit descends upon the scene. This particular element brings to mind the iconography of the Transfiguration and the Baptism of Christ. Among the group of Apostles, we can discern a few individuals. Positioned directly to the right of Christ, the only beardless young figure would represent St. John the Evangelist. Adjacent to St. John on his left, St. Peter confidently holds his keys. To the right of Peter stands a man with a long beard and a cross, likely representing St. Philip, as he is often associated with this symbol. Continuing to the right, another figure holds a book adorned with a saltire cross on its cover, indicating that this is St. Andrew, as the saltire cross is commonly associated with him.
This church is also special because of its architecture. Mauro Codussi is the architect, who lived during the Renaissance. It is extremely difficult to distinguish the individual contribution of the different sculptors from Lombardy and Bergamo in the 15th century by the buildings in La Serenissima. They worked as groups in large workshops. They started the new style, the Renaissance. They used the all’antica parts as pure decorations, often naïvely. This is comparable to the use of single words without a grammatical structure. Not until the 19th century, Paoletti studied all sources and discovered the architect Mauro Codussi. Codussi was born around 1440 in Bergamo and died in Venice in 1504. Mauro was already completely forgotten by 1581. Contrary to the rest of Italy, the anonymity of artists during the Renaissance persisted for a long time in Venice.
It is now established that Codussi built churches like the San Michele in Isola, the Santa Maria Formosa, the San Giovanni Crisostomo, the slim Campanile at San Pietro di Castello, the steps at the Scuola San Marco and the San Giovanni Evangelista. The achievements of Codussi are very remarkable, knowing that he has seen few really large classic building. He’s never been to Rome. Codussi however created the most serene classic buildings of the Renaissance. Codussi’s architecture doesn’t just consist of using classical details or elements, but he perfectly applies the classic principles of architecture you were taught in class. On the spot I will elaborate again on the Vitruvian notion of ‘symmetria’, the core of classical architecture. Symmetria doesn’t mean the usual symmetry in this case, but balanced proportions, or in the words of Vitruvius, around 50 years before Christ: “Thus symmetry is a harmonious consensus of the parts of a work and specifically a rational proportion of the parts to each other and always to the whole figure. Just as the quality of eurhythmics in the human body results from forearm, foot, hand, finger and the other symmetrical component parts, it emerges in perfected works of art.” Translated from: Vitruvius, Handboek Bouwkunde, Book I Athenaeum-Polak&Van Gennep, Amsterdam, 1997 p. 16
Codussi makes minimal use of various classical elements, such as capitals and frames. Decoration does not have top priority, as usual in La Serenissima (Palazzo Dario and Ca’d’Oro), but simplicity and fine proportions do.
We walk towards the Rialto. The San Salvador is located a bit further than the market, to the east of it.