Guardi as a Figure Painter

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  • Guardi as a Figure PainterAuthor(s): G. FioccoSource: The Burlington Magazine for Connoisseurs, Vol. 46, No. 266 (May, 1925), pp. 224-225+228-230Published by: The Burlington Magazine Publications Ltd.Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/862493 .Accessed: 09/12/2014 11:45

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  • duced on our adjoining PLATE are of a more fashionable and also more traditional type. They carry us over into the latter half of the twelfth century, when the Chin (or Nii Chen Tartars) had replaced the Sung in Northern China, a period which seems to have been prolific in wooden sculptures. Characteristic of them both is the somewhat swinging posture; the figure is turning slightly on the hips with the breast thrown out, the head back, and one arm lifted, the outer contour of the whole figure forming a long, well unified curve. This is particularly noticeable in the smaller statue (height 4 ft. 5 in.) with the long scarf which is draped in three successive curves over the dhoti, while the upper part of the body is bare [PLATE III, H]. It is one of a pair of Bod- hisattvas (the companion figure is now in Paris) which must have stood at the sides of a central Buddha, thus supporting each other as well as the middle figure by the strong and unified rhythm of their movements and draperies. The decorative effect is excellent, particularly in the admirably carved draperies, it is only to be regretted that the new hands have been made too prominent with their restlessly gesticulating fingers, which detract something from the serenity and beauty of the figure.

    The other Bodhisattva [PLATE III, G], which is more than a foot taller and somewhat stiffer in its posture, offers the additional interest of a

    well preserved surface effect. The figure is entirely coated with plaster, a coating which at certain places, such as the lips and the eye- lids, is thick enough for actual modelling. The colouring on the plaster is quite thin at the face and the chest, but thicker on the garments, and the very fine flowery ornaments are here worked out with contours in relief. The pictorial effect of these parts is quite charming, reminding more of dry lacquer figures than of wooden sculptures. It should also be noticed that the figure is hollow inside (and of very light weight), thus executed in a kind of technique which approaches the " Chia Ch'u," or dry lacquer on wood. Such figures are known to have been made already before the T'ang dynasty, but the present one is hardly earlier than the middle of the twelfth century. The very full and soft type is not unlike that of the seated Kuanyin, reproduced in Plate 587 of Chinese Sculpture, and dated I 68. The historical interest of this statue is thus considerable, and in order to appreciate it westhetically one must again abstract from the disturbing posterior, arms and hands, and see the figure placed in a fairly high position, which helps to explain the exaggerations in its elongated proportions.

    All the other wooden statues now on exhibi- tion at the same place are of later date and, no doubt, enjoyable to Western observers without any further historical comments.

    GUARDI AS A FIGURE PAINTER BY G. FIOCCO

    NE might say that the question of Francesco Guardi as a figure painter has been open ever since Bernard Berenson and Gustavo Frizzoni, quite independently of

    any present-day influence and purely for reasons of technique and style, attributed to that artist the Parlatorio and the Ridotto in the Museo Correr in Venice. To-day my theory is warmly debated by critics and students of art, who seem to amuse themselves by attributing the Guardi paintings first to Francesco and then to his elder brother Gianantonio, only recently re- discovered through a study published by Gino Fogolari. But these critics do not seem to understand that, by admitting the pictures to be by either one or the other artist, they are admitting practically all. That is to say, that between Francesco and his academic brother there is such a striking resemblance as can only be found between master and pupil; and this is precisely what forms the basis of my studies,

    which cannot be weakened by the passing off of some uncertain work of Francesco for that of his brother Gianantonio, or vice versa. These pictures reveal the same system of family art- education, the same habits of plagiarism, the same carelessness of execution and all the attendant miseries of collaboration. All this, of course, is the absolute negation of the Canaletto descent, unanimously accepted before, and is an approach to the Riccesca school of Marco Ricci and his direct predecessor, Alessandro Magnasco, which seems to be like passing from one pole to the other.

    In this field of shadows there are many rays of light, but it is useless either to affirm or deny. One must first destroy the fundamental values, such as the Correr designs, the documented indications, the signed pictures like that of Von Nemes, or be silent--and that, unfortunately, is what so few seem to understand. Neither time nor space will permit me to answer my controversialists here, but for those who are

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  • A-Madonna, by Francesco Guardi. Canvas, 44 cm. by 36 cm. Signed. (Dr. Antonio Tecchio, Vicenza)

    B-Madonna, by Francesco Guardi. Canvas, 38 cm. by 29 cm. (Herr Haberstock, Berlin)

    Plate I. Guardi as a Figure Painter

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  • 2

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    C--Pieta") by Francesco Guardi. Drawing. (Mluseo Civico, Vlenice) D-Pietd, here identified as by Francesco Guardi. (Count A. Brandis)

    Plate II. Guardi as a Figure Painter

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  • interested in the subject, I will give an account of what I know' to be absolutely positive after long and careful study. I was still working at this delicate question, already too long neglected, when, thanks to the kindness of Dr. Luigi Coletti, I chanced to hear of a Madonnina [PLATE I, A] attributed to Guardi and signed, I was told, on the back of the canvas, according to the custom of the settecentists. It had once belonged to the Favretto Collection, and that well-known artist had treasured and studied it. He bequeathed Tt to Dr. Marcon, director of the Banca Nazionale di Credito in Vicenza. Afterwards it passed into the posses- sion of Dr. Antonio Tecchio, of the same city, who a few months ago permitted me to see it. It had been freshly lined, but on tearing off the lining there appeared the much-desired signature of Francesco Guardi, here repro- duced. The lettering is somewhat faded by

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    re-lining and by the passage of time, but beyond doubt authentic, being absolutely identical with the one found by me in the Kupferstich Kabinett in Berlin. The picture in question is quite small and without any landscape motive, not even as an accessory, and yet it bears the stamp of Guardi's authorship perfectly clearly. This is apparent on account of the type, some. what Tiepolesque, but painted with vigor- ous brush-strokes and with pigment that :s liquid and dense like lacquer, perhaps more suited to the grace of the bauta than to the humility of the Virgin. The technique is care- less and abrupt like the soapy, insipid work of Gianantonio, but invigorated and strengthened. A blue mantle covers the pink dress of the Virgin; round ithe neck appears a little of the white under-garment, while the darkish flesh tints are warmed by the high-coloured cheeks and bright scarlet lips. In fact, the picture is a Macchietta on a large scale, just as his real Macchiette are figure paintings on a small scale. It has the same reddish under-painting, visible in the background, with which the painter always began even his sunniest landscapes, and which gives to them that intimacy and warmth and that characteristic tone always apparent in an authentic Guardi, be it large or small.

    After such important and irrefutable evi- dence, what doubt can there be that the

    Madonna belonging to the antiquarian Haber- stock in Berlin [PLATE I, B] and the similar one belonging to Count Cicogna, exhibited in Milan in 1921, are by the same master, and that that is as true of the Annunciation, taken from Titian's prototype in San Salvatore, which I saw again quite recently for sale in Vienna ?2

    The master, always weak in form, redeems himself everywhere by the beauty of his colour- ing, which at times has the tenderness of the pearl and the delicacy of the rose. In this respect his works are very different from

    .those of his

    brother, which are always poor in colour and destitute of all vivacity.3 In the little Lalou picture, where landscape predominates, the characteristics of Guardi are even more notice- able. Like all his paintings, it loses in repro- duction on account of the irridescent and opalescent tints. This work was studied by me in Paris only a few months ago, and not by me only, but also by my equally convinced opponent, Count Carlo Gamba.'

    Still another proof is a drawing [PLATE II, c] which, although not belonging to the thoroughly authenticated Guardis in the Correr Collection, was once in the possession of Giacomo Guardi, son and servile imitator of Francesco. For the last thirty years it has formed part of the Venetian Civic Collection. On the back of the paper is carelessly written "Guido Reno" (sic !), and underneath the words " Piuttosto Francesco Guardi," written by the Abate Nicoletti, then Director of the Correr Museum. Another very important proof as regards the drawing, undeniably by the same hand as those published by me, and more par- ticularly the Berlin one referred to here, is the unexpected discovery of a :little picture [PLATE II, D], the property of Count A. Brandis, which is literally derived from the drawing, although with the omission of the figure of St. Joseph.

    After the paintings, let us now examine the papers. In my volume on Guardi I referred to a painting that at one time existed in the Church of S. Cristoforo della Pace," and which was recognized also by P. Molmenti and Mantovani to be a Guardi. We find another in the journal of the Venetian Galleries, 1832,

    1 Compare with G. Fiocco's Francesco Guardi, published by Battistelli. Florence, 1923.

    2 Loc. cit., P1. VI, Fig. io. Being uncertain, it is still assigned to Gianantonio Guardi here.

    3 Loc. cit., P1. XXX, Fig. 40, and Plate XXI, Fig. 41. Compare this painting with the one signed by Gianantonio Guardi, P1. I, Fig. 1, and with other works of this master, for example, P1. IV, V, VI, Fig. 9, etc., especially in the detail, Fig. 41.

    4 Loc. cit., P1. XLV, Fig. 55. Here again there is some uncertainty, so it is said Francesco Guardi collaborated.

    5 Museo Civico Correr, Venice. Drawing No. 125. On paper, pen and wash, 36.4 cm. by 27.7 cm.

    6 Molmenti-Mantovani, Le isole della Laguna. Bergamo. 1910. p. 88.

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  • entitled " Stato consegnativo dei quadri di ammortizzazione." Under No. 124 appears " Convento di S. Pietro Martire di Murano," octangular canvas, 5 ft. Io in. by 8 ft. 6 in. (equal to 2.05 m. By 2.98 m.), " Veduta della chiesa di S. Pietro Martire: Guardi "; and immediately after, under No. 125, is mentioned a rectangular canvas, 6 ft. by 6 ft. II in. (equal

    to 2.xo m. by 2.43 m.), " Un Miracolo; idem," that is, Guardi-the same Guardi as the Veduta, therefore Francesco.

    What doubt can ,there be after three such excellent and varied proofs-paintings, draw- ings, and documents-all decidedly in favour of my theory, and I have faith that the number will now increase.

    THE MASTER OF S. MINIATO BY J. H. H. KESSLER

    OTTICELLI was once considered to be the only important pupil of Fra Filippo Lippi; Don Diamenti was known merely as a friendly imitator. Mr. Berenson, as every.

    body knows, added " Amico di Sandro." There is, however, another artist who seems to have issued directly from Filippo's school and later to have been influenced by Botticelli. So far I have come across five works which without a doubt represent one personality.

    The starting point was a large altar in S. Miniato al Tedesco, the ancient castle town of Frederic II. In St. Dominic's Church there hangs, in the first chapel to the right of the choir, a large Madonna and Child, surrounded by St. Sebastian, St. John the Baptist, St. Nicholas (?), and St. Roch [PLATE I, A]. In the foreground kneel in miniature the founder and his wife and daughter. Under it the pre- della, consisting of three parts, displays six representations from the Life of St. John the Baptist, viz., the birth, departure to the desert, John preaching, Baptism of Christ, John before Herod, and Salome's dance. The colouring is rich and varied (the Baptist's cloak shot with blue-green-red; St. Nicholas's cloak strawberry colour; St. Roch's tunic yellowish green, cloak grey-blue; the Madonna's dress garnet red, cloak deep dark blue, hair ash-coloured; the Child's hair straw-coloured), and the whole is flooded with a warm amber light. We are at once struck by the long, distin- guished line of the Madonna's cloak, hanging down from the shoulders, and by the uncertain and inaccurate drawing of the curve of the breast, by a slightly sentimental stare of the Mother past Christ as well as by an over- done melancholy in the expression of the Child's face. All the saints betray a more or less similar frame of mind, which is emphasized here and there by a feature of discontent. The much smaller figures of the founders as well as those in the predella point to the tradition of Pesellino and produce a somewhat old-fashioned impres- sion as compared with the larger figures, though the dancing Salome seems to be a rather awk-

    ward copy of the same figure in the cathedral fresco at Prato.

    A second work, at one time in the possession of a Florentine dealer, represents the Madonna and Child and two angels against an azure sky [PLATE I, c]. Here again one is struck by that same garnet red of the Madonna's dress as is used in the S. Miniato picture, and by the amber tone which dominates the whole. The heavy expression on the face of the Child, here more suggestive of Fra Filippo, as well as the more stringy treatment of the hair, also reminding us of that artist, point to an earlier origin.

    In the Museo Bandini at Fiesole is another Madonna and Child [PLATE I, B], which must be by the same hand. Here the Madonna holds Christ on the left, not on the right arm as in the examples already discussed. She is seated in a niche, which just above the halo is broken off by an unexpected segmentary enclosure, in which is found Christ crucified between St. Francis and St. Jerome, in a wide landscape. The lower part of this panel is coated with a resinous substance which renders judgment of it impossible. Christ here has a somewhat more childlike expression. His hair reveals the cotton. wool-like treatment of the S. Miniato altar, and the Mother likewise gazes with a somewhat dis- contented look past her Son. Her dress has again the garnet red colour and, just as in the S. Miniato altar, the curve of the breast is wrongly drawn. A predilection for a marble background is very manifest here (cf. S. Miniato altar). The reproduction, unfortunately, is not very satisfactory.

    In a Florentine art repository I saw a year ago a painting representing the Madonna ador- ing the Child, in a landscape, which in my opinion must also be attributed to our master. As, however, I cannot produce a photograph, and my memory of it is no longer very clear, I must pass over this work with a mere mention.

    A fifth and the most accomplished work of this painter is, I consider, the Madonna and Child in the Rijksmuseum ascribed with a note of interrogation to Pierfrancesco Fiorentino [PLATE II, D]. The long line of the cloak, the

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    Article Contentsp. 224p. [225]p. [228]p. 229p. 230

    Issue Table of ContentsThe Burlington Magazine for Connoisseurs, Vol. 46, No. 266 (May, 1925), pp. i-xxxviii+i-iv+206-256+xxxix-xlivFront Matter [pp. i-xl]Exhibitions [p. ii]Sales during May [p. ii]Canaletto and Bellotto in Rome-I [pp. 207-209+212-214]An Exhibition of Chinese Sculptures [pp. 216-219+222-224]Guardi as a Figure Painter [pp. 224-225+228-230]The Master of S. Miniato [pp. 230-231+234-235]A Virgin Enthroned by Hans Memling [pp. 206+235-236]Titian at Hertford House [pp. 236-237+239-240]Notes on Various Works of ArtA Claude Landscape [pp. 240-241]A Rembrandt Landscape in the Hermitage [pp. 241+245]An English Alabaster Figure in Leningrad [pp. 244-245]A Chinese Sculpture for Chicago [pp. 244-245]Sargent [pp. 245-246]Exhibition of Oriental Art in Paris [p. 246]

    Correction: A Newly Discovered Botticelli [p. 246]The Literature of ArtReview: A Great Work on Ceramics [pp. 246+248-249]Review: Early English Painting [pp. 249-250]Review: Romanesque Sculpture [p. 251]Review: untitled [pp. 251-252]Review: untitled [pp. 252-253]Review: untitled [p. 253]Review: untitled [pp. 253-254]Review: untitled [p. 254]Review: untitled [pp. 254-255]Review: untitled [pp. 255-256]Review: untitled [p. 256]Review: untitled [p. 256]Review: untitled [p. 256]

    Auctions [p. xli]Gallery and Museum Acquisitions [pp. xli-xlii]Publications Received [p. xlii]Back Matter [pp. xliii-xliv]