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Tastes change

Tastes change. “The greater part of the sculptures of the Vatican are dead,” wrote Sacheverell Sitwell in the 1930s. Grand Tourists had once gasped at those sculpted nymphs, gods and emperors. They had sought to procure similar examples for the gardens and galleries of their country seats. How could it be, then, that they stirred so little response in the shingle-headed, Oxford-bagged swells of his own generation? But no. They were dead. “Dead, and it is impossible to see how they can ever come to life again.”

Something similar has happened now with High Baroque painting. “Caravaggio to Canaletto” is a great sweep of an exhibition just closed at the Museum of Fine Arts in Budapest. The title was artfully chosen because it names two artists in whom the public has a great deal of interest. And, unsurprisingly, the early rooms (with the nine Caravaggios on loan) and the last room (with the Canalettos) were full. Between the two, great halls were filled with works by scores of other artists, among them Guido Reni, Mattia Preti, Guercino, Carracci, Crespi. But the crowds were much thinner. Just imagine! Guido Reni was once, in the 19th century, one of the reasons why people went to Italy. “Second to nought observable in Rome” is how Browning described Reni’s Crucifixion above the high altar of San Lorenzo in Lucina. Nowadays I doubt many visitors notice that it’s there. It surely doesn’t make it into the Dorling Kindersley Top 10. Shelley was much struck by Guido Reni’s Beatrice Cenci and wrote his first play about the girl’s wretched fate. We’ve lost interest in Guido Reni now. But why does this happen?

The Romantic era, when Shelley was writing, was an age of great ‘sensibility’. Grown men did not think it ninnyish to write about daffodils. The Victorian era that followed was sentimental. A novelist could base his greatness on the creation of a character like Little Nell.

But these things all had their root in the Baroque.

Examine the painting at the top of this post. Mantegna’s Lamentation over the Dead Christ of c. 1480. In it, we see a dead body, presented without fuss (but with extraordinary technique), with Mary Magdalene’s little jar of embalming oil tucked away at the back and the only emotion coming from the half-shown faces of the three anguished mourners. The spice jar is not just some random touch. It is there to show that the mourners had no idea that Jesus’ body would not decay. They fully believed that they needed to embalm it. This was the end of his life. Their grief is sincere and comfortless and ugly.

Mantegna was a master and his influence on succeeding generations of painters was great. But the two imitators whose works are shown below imitate only the component parts of the scene. They fail utterly to capture its sober and honest spirit. Why? Because their canvases are soaked with stoked up emotion and become pieces of propaganda as a result.

The first one is by a very accomplished artist: Annibale Carracci. It was painted about a century later than the Mantegna. There are no mourners. The focus is on the gory result of a gruesome execution. The nails and crown of thorns are placed beside the corpse, the body itself is liberally spattered with blood. It is very Counter Reformation. The aim is to ramp up the horror, to appeal to people’s guts rather than their brains, to win them to faith through sensation.

The other version (Orazio Borgianni, 1615) is twee. The oil jar has come to the foreground as a show-off example of how well the artist can render glass. Carracci’s nails are retained. But those are not its main faults. The problem is with the mourners. No longer do they keep a respectful distance, half out of the frame, but they clutch intemperately at the body, lean right over it, giving self-indulgent vent to their tears. Emoting. Inviting us all to have a mass cry-in. They are also young and beautiful. A lovely young woman or beauteous boy will pluck at the heart strings much more effectively than a haggard crone. Anyone in the promo business knows that.

Neither Caravaggio nor Canaletto puts this kind of “spin” on their subjects. That is why we like them. I think we are ready to go back to the Vatican sculptures. Cold stone which lets us draw our own conclusions. The High Baroque is too manipulative—and we see enough advertising in our daily lives. Let art be something nobler.

'Art under Attack' at Tate Britain

Reviewers of this exhibition (Art under Attack: Histories of British Iconoclasm, running at Tate Britain until 5th January) have fretted about whether what it presents is or isn’t true ‘iconoclasm’. I don’t think it matters. The curators make it clear from the outset, on the wall caption that greets you before you even enter the first room: they know full well what true iconoclasm is: it was the fuss that began in 8th-century Constantinople when Leo III ordered the destruction of the icon of Christ which hung over the Bronze Gate. That is one thing. But today we use the word much more loosely, to mean simply ‘breaking the mould’. Of course this can be approached with a responsible intellectual purpose, to question and to elicit answers. Or it can be approached frivolously, for the sheer mischievous hell-raising fun of it, to give the poor old bourgeoisie a fit of the vapours. Iconoclasm can equally be used to mean just ‘not doing things the way they’ve always been done’. Refusing to serve Yorkshire pudding with roast beef might be enough to qualify a chef as an ‘iconoclast’. All these things form part of the exhibition's trail through the history of how works of art in Britain have been attacked, mutilated or otherwise tampered with, and the variety of motives behind it.

'The Risen Christ' panel from Binham Priory. Figure of Christ painted c.1500; overlaid text c.1539.

 

The first rooms deal with iconoclasm in the original sense of the word: the destruction of religious images deemed idolatrous. The scope of the exhibition does not reach beyond Britain, so we begin with Henry VIII. Whatever one thinks about it—is it sacrilege? Is it unpardonable destruction of lovely works of human hand?—it is tempting to conclude from this display that the reformers carried out a principled operation. They wanted to make it impossible to adore the painted or graven visage, so they scratched out the faces and chopped off the heads. They wanted to replace the visual pictogram of God-as-icon with the appeal to the intellect of God-as-the-Word, newly available in English translation for all to understand. A panel from the famous rood screen from Binham Priory, Norfolk, illustrates this superbly: an image of the Risen Christ was whitewashed over and replaced with text from Cranmer’s Bible. Now the whitewash is flaking away and we can see the coloured icon underneath. But the reformers didn’t indulge in wanton destruction. By the time Cromwell comes on the scene, though, a thuggish element has emerged. We read stories of stained-glass windows being taken down for zealous prelates to trample to smithereens in public acts of toeing the new line. Politics have surged on stage and personal agendas are coming to the fore: the prelates want preferment; they want to curry favour with the new ruling elite. Not only is there a kind of glee behind the smashing and hacking, but a feeling of calculation.

 

This is one face of political iconoclasm. But in the next room we see another: iconoclasm as a form of mass protest. An equestrian statue of the monarch is daubed in spots to make it ridiculous and impossible to respect; a pillar with Nelson on top of it is blown to smithereens in Ireland. We’ve not seen this before. Up until now, icon-smashing has taken place by official diktat (as the iconoclasm of Communism was later to do); it has been iconoclasm as political repression, the smashing of other people’s totems as a form of intimidation and a symbol of who calls the shots. Now we see icon-smashing as a vehicle for the people’s voice.

 

What comes next is what the curators have termed ‘aesthetic iconoclasm’: tampering with works of art (or craftsmanship) in order to make a ‘statement’. Artists traditionally have striven to make coherence out of chaos: the avant garde practitioners whose (often paltry) efforts we are shown here seem to be doing their best to make chaos out of what had once been order: the burst-apart chair; the disembowelled piano. What does this say about the psyche of the 20th century? One thing it says is that these are personal affirmations. This kind of icon-breaking is carried out neither by governments nor by the masses but by individuals, who in some cases are simply mutilating things that they don’t happen to like. The display throws up plenty of questions for our pluralistic age. How are we to tolerate each other with no central control of what we believe in or approve of? Do we even have universally recognised icons any more? Is it OK to throw a can of paint over the result of someone else’s freedom of expression because personally we find it ‘offensive’? Do artists have a responsibility to society? And if so, what is it?

The exhibition doesn’t answer these questions. But they are valid questions to have asked. The best thing in the last part of the show is Douglas Gordon’s burned poster of Warhol’s screen prints of Queen Elizabeth II. For this is destruction of a twofold icon: a Warhol work of art and Her Majesty the Queen, a beautiful young monarch. And here the exhibition comes full circle. We are back to the Virgin Mary, to an image of a reverend figure insulted and abused. Gordon himself described his work as ‘homage to Warhol and an act of desecration’.

 

The exhibition itself, in a way, leads us from order into chaos. It functions as a microcosm of what iconoclasm does when it takes a hammer to a work of art. The clarity of the narrative begins to waver after the first rooms, with their impeccable presentation of historical iconoclasm, through the turmoil of the political rooms to the utter muddle of the aesthetic rooms—but we live in a muddled age, so the progression works. It mirrors humanity’s own progression from a world of centrally-imposed certainties to one of democratically enhanced confusion. In the room that deals with the suffragettes’ attacks on works of art, we learn all about Mary Richardson and her butchery of the Rokeby Venus: she swung her knife at a beautiful painted woman in protest at the way Emmeline Pankhurst, ‘a beautiful living woman’, was being treated in prison. There is a lovely irony in this. Because of course the Rokeby Venus presents us with the ultimate iconodule or worshipper of icons: Venus gazes at herself in a looking glass: this is a goddess adoring her own image. Mary Richardson may not have thought of that. Wyndham Lewis’s response in Blast, which the exhibition is careful to remind us of, was patronising, perhaps, but apt: ‘Leave art alone, brave Comrades! In destruction, as in other things, stick to what you understand.’

The Rokeby Venus: iconodule.

Renaissance art from Florence to Paris and back

Self-portrait by Nélie Jacquemart

by Alta Macadam

A small but very choice exhibition has come to Florence from the Jacquemart-André Museum in Paris (runs until 31st December). It is housed in the Villa Bardini, one of the city's most recent exhibition spaces, home also to a museum of the huge collection that was put together by the art dealer Stefano Bardini in the 1870s and 1880s.

From the entrance you make your way through the villa garden, designed around a central staircase flanked by beds where the plants are changed according to the season, and box hedges. The grottoes and wall fountains produce a pleasing sound of water which melts into the peaceful tones of birdsong. The garden is in the very heart of Florence and the truly magnificent, unique close-up view of the city is its most spectacular feature.

It is particularly fitting that the exhibition from the Jacquemart-André should be exhibited here since Edouard André and Nélie Jacquemart both knew and corresponded with Stefano Bardini and purchased some Renaissance works from him in the 1880s. Edouard died in 1894 and it was Nélie who created the famous Italian Renaissance section of their renowned Parisian museum (she herself was a skilled painter, and her self-portrait from 1880 is also on display here).

All the paintings in the exhibition are of very high quality (and nearly all of them are in very fine frames, mostly original). The portrait of a lute-player by Francesco Salviati could be taken at first glance for a Pontormo: it is a magnficent painting, memorable too for the prettily striped cloth in the foreground. Mantegna’s Ecce Homo (c. 1500) is one of the treasures of the collection. Cima da Conegliano’s Madonna and Child includes a lovely landscape, and the Madonna is dressed in a magnificent red, blue and golden cloak. The loveliest of three works attributed to Botticelli is the smallest, a Madonna and Child which, although damaged, reveals the master’s skill in the delicate rendering of the Madonna’s hair, veil and halo. Another famous work is Paolo Uccello’s St George and the Dragon: the thin beast is full of character, though it is perhaps the walled garden in the background which is the most interesting part of the work.

Other paintings by less well-known artists, but all of extreme interest, include a tiny Narcissus (by an early 15th-century Umbrian artist); a portrait of a man in profile, one of the best works by the Dalmatian artist Giorgio Culinovic known as Schiavone, dated 1504; a crowded processional scene attributed to Verrocchio and his workshop; and a tiny painting of Christ of the Apocalypse by Zanobi Strozzi (unfortunately damaged). A charming scene of a birth by Scheggia is set in a pink and grey house and shows a group of six men approaching the bedside bearing gifts (mostly welcome food!). This was clearly a desco da parto, a circular ‘tray’ presented to a mother after childbirth (and traditionally used for her first meal). Many such deschi have survived, some of them painted by the best artists of the day.

Interspersed amongst the paintings are some exquisite small sculptures, including a small bronze Hercules and the Centaur by Giambologna, a tiny bronze plaque of Judith and the Head of Holofernes by Riccio, and a rectangular relief in bronze of the Martyrdom of St Sebastian by Donatello (especially interesting for its unusual iconography).

This exhibition is well worth visiting, both for its superb works as well as for the setting of the villa itself on its garden hillside in the very centre of Florence. And you can leave by the door on Costa San Giorgio and walk a few metres up that lovely old walled lane to the Forte di Belvedere, which has recently been reopened to the public after many years of closure. It provides another celebrated viewpoint of the city.

Alta Macadam is the author of many Italian Blue Guides, including Blue Guide Florence

International Gothic at the Uffizi

International Gothic in Florence, 1375–1440 (and Paolo Uccello’s “Battle of San Romano” restored). Alta Macadam reports on an exhibition at the Galleria degli Uffizi, open until 4th November

This large exhibition is a sequel to one held in 2008 entitled “The Legacy of Giotto. Art in Florence, 1340–75” and, given the longer time span that it covers, is perhaps rather less coherent than the previous show. Many artists have been included in an attempt to bring together different strands of artistic development in the city, and at times the sequence is rather confusing. The greatest artists usually connected to the movement known as International Gothic—Lorenzo Monaco and Gentile da Fabriano—are represented with only one work each. However, the exhibition has provided the opportunity for some important loans from abroad and it also gives prominence to many works in Florence and its environs little known to the general public, or not generally on view.

The earliest works include a Madonna and Child by Niccolò di Pietro Gerini from the lovely church of San Martino a Mensola (a few hundred metres below Villa I Tatti), which is displayed with its original side panels of four saints from the nearby church of San Lorenzo beside the castle of Vincigliata (the Italian state purchased them for the Uffizi last year). In the same room are two delightful wooden reliquary busts dating from the 1380s, one of St Andrew, also from the church of San Martino a Mensola (but up until now not on view there) and the other of a companion of St Ursula from the (little-visited) Museo di Santa Maria Novella. Another early piece of sculpture from the same period is a charming little sitting lion inpietra forte which was once just one of some twenty lions in the Loggia della Signoria, but for years has been hidden away in the over-crowded rooms of the Museo di Firenze Antica in the convent of San Marco. Another piece of early sculpture which has never before been prominently displayed is the very fine statuette of a prophet made for the Duomo by Lorenzo di Giovanni and which now belongs to the Bargello. Lorenzo’s father, Giovanni d’Ambrogio, is also well represented by two statues of the Annunciation made for the tympanum of the Porta della Mandorla of the Duomo (uncovered just a few months ago after many years of restoration). The virile classical head of the Madonna is particularly striking, showing the influence of Humanism. Also in a transitional style from the Gothic is the fine Annunciation from the Galleria dell’Accademia by the Master of the Straus Madonna (here tentatively identified with Ambrogio di Baldese). It has an unusual background with an open door as well as an interesting frame.

In the largest room in the exhibition no fewer than three of the huge original statues from the exterior of Orsanmichele are displayed. The curators had the good idea to add to the explanatory panel here that these are normally on show, together with all the other original statues from the exterior tabernacles, in the Museo di Orsanmichele (open every Monday), since this remains unjustly one of Florence’s least visited museums. The Orsanmichele statues chosen for the exhibition include the St Peter made for the guild of butchers, which has represented one of the most puzzling problems of attribution for generations of art historians. On this occasion both Ciuffagni and Donatello have been discarded in favour of a tentative suggestion that Brunelleschi’s hand may be detected, but in the end it has simply been attributed to an anonymous master called the “Maestro di San Pietro di Orsanmichele”. Also for some reason displayed in this room is one of the most lovely paintings in the entire exhibition, the littleAnnunciation from the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford. Formerly thought to be by the Sienese artist Pietro di Giovanni d’Ambrogio, it is here firmly attributed to Paolo Uccello. Gothic in spirit with a gold ground, this is a fascinating work, with the Madonna elegantly dressed in a robe matching the bright blue colour of the loggia. Another beautiful painting here, which is much better known, is Lorenzo Monaco’s Adoration of the Magi from the Uffizi. The exquisite fresco from Empoli of Christ in Pietà by Masolino is very well chosen, and this very important artist is also represented in a later room in the exhibition with his splendid painting of St Julian, dressed in crimson, from the Museo Diocesano di Santo Stefano a Ponte in Florence (a marvellous opportunity to see this work, as the museum is almost always closed).

A small room is devoted to the desert fathers known as the Thebaids (they lived in the desert around Thebes in Egypt), a subject which fascinated the painters of the time. Here the nine fragments from the Kunsthaus in Zurich by a Camaldolese monk called Giuliano Amadei are particularly interesting. However, the better known painting from the Uffizi collection of the lives of these early ascetics is displayed here without an author, and indeed the suggestion that it could even have been painted as late as the 18th century.

In the section entitled “The Sumptuary Arts”, there is a remarkable reliquary from the Badia di San Salvatore a Settimo, on the banks of the Arno west of Florence. Also from outside Florence, and little known to the general public, there is a very beautiful Madonna and Child enthroned with six Angels, dating from around 1424 by Arcangelo di Cola da Camerino (from the church of Santi Ippolito e Donato in Bibbiena in the Casentino).

Another room displays a very rare miniature portable altar from a private collection. In the form of a little shrine, it is simply decorated outside with green and white geometrical forms which recall the exterior of the Baptistery and San Miniato al Monte, and inside has paintings in watercolour on paper of the Madonna and Child with angels and (on the doors) the two patron saints of travellers (St Nicholas and St Julian). Given its size and fragility, it is extraordinary that it has survived for nearly six hundred years. It is attributed to the Master of the Sherman Predella, an anonymous master named from a small panel in the Boston Museum of Fine Arts which is fittingly displayed here beside it. This exquisite work is not in fact a predella but a panel with three scenes (the Martyrdom of St Agnes, the Flagellation of Christ with the Virgin swooning, and the penitent St Jerome) against a particularly remarkable background of dunes with a rough sea beyond, beneath a night sky. It includes a loggia which has decorations similar to the green lozenges painted on the exterior of the little portable altar.

The exhibition continues in the opposite wing of the Uffizi. The paintings here include a curious very small portrait of a young man from the Alana collection in New York attributed doubtfully to Masaccio, and two panels from the Quaratesi polyptch of St Nicholas in the Vatican by Gentile da Fabriano who is, perhaps surprisingly, not otherwise present in the exhibition. A fresco by the little-known painter Francesco d’Antonio di Bartolomeo from the church of San Niccolò Oltrarno representing St Ansanus is particularly delightful. An unusual painting which used to serve as the front of a wedding-chest representing an allegory of the Seven Liberal Arts by Giovanni del Ponte has been lent by the Prado in Madrid. There is also a Madonna and Child with saints and angels by the same artist from the little-visited church of San Salvatore al Monte, in its original frame. Numerous illuminated liturgical and devotional books, including a missal from Milan illustrated by Fra Angelico, accompany the paintings and sculptures. Two wooden Crucifixes are displayed opposite each other, one by Donatello from the convent of Bosco ai Frati in the Mugello and the other by Michelozzo from the church of San Niccolò Oltrarno.

The glorious conclusion of the exhibition is the Uffizi’s Battle of San Romano by Paolo Uccello, just restored. Now called The Unhorsing of Bernardino Ubaldini della Carda, Commander of the Sienese Troops (and illustrated at the top of this piece), it was the central one of the three famous panels commissioned by Ludovico Bartolini Salimbeni to commemorate the battle fought in the lower Valdarno in 1432 in which the Florentines were victorious over the Sienese (the other two panels are in the National Gallery of London and the Louvre). Lorenzo the Magnificent confiscated all three paintings from Salimbeni’s sons in 1484 so that he could enjoy them in his bedroom in Palazzo Medici. The original colours, with oranges and reds dominating, have been restored and the entire painting is now much more legible in all its extraordinary details. Multi-media supports and a video explain all its intricacies and the play of perspective used by Uccello, who was one of the last great painters in the Gothic style but whose works also show that he fully understood the significance of the arrival of the new Renaissance spirit in painting.

Luca Signorelli on exhibition in Umbria

Luca Signorelli (c.1441–1523) was born in Cortona, Tuscany, close to the Umbrian border. It is with Umbria that he is always associated, for his masterpiece in the cathedral of Orvieto and for the fact that the town of Città di Castello proclaimed him a citizen in 1488. This year his work is being celebrated in no less than three venues in Umbria (Perugia, Orvieto and Città di Castello), until 26 August (the last retrospective exhibition dedicated to this major central Italian artist was in 1953).

Perugia: The exhibition in Perugia (at the Galleria Nazionale dell’Umbria) has a very large number of works, collected together for the first time from museums all over the world, as well as a superb selection of Signorelli’s graphic output (many from the British Museum and the Louvre), which shows that he was also an outstanding draughtsman.

The show opens with one of the greatest works by Signorelli’s master, Piero della Francesca, the Madonna di Senigalliafrom the Galleria Nazionale delle Marche in Urbino. Visitors can also see another masterpiece by Piero just a few rooms away in the same gallery, the Sant’Antonio polpytych (particularly memorable for the top panel of the Annunciation).

Signorelli’s early period, showing the strong influence of Piero, is documented by a number of works—some of them of doubtful attribution, although the lovely Madonna and Child with three angels from Christ Church, Oxford, seems to reveal the artist’s own hand. The single predella panel from the Louvre, of the Birth and Naming of St John the Baptist, is an exquisite work. The two small panels from the (dismembered) Bichi altarpiece with superbly painted male nudes from Toledo, Ohio, are particularly fascinating and unusual. A number of Signorelli’s famous tondi of the Madonna and Child are included, the best perhaps being those from the Uffizi and Pitti in Florence. There is a tiny portrait of a boy from Philadelphia, which is particularly intriguing even though it seems to have been rather over-restored. The four predella panels of the Life of the Virgin formerly beneath the superb Annunciation from the Pinacoteca in Volterra (also on show) have been reunited for this occasion: two are from a private collection in Scotland; one from Richmond, Virginia; and the last from the National Gallery of Washington. The men just killed by the dragon in the foreground of the St George from the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam recall the male nudes in the Cappella Nova in Orvieto. The Madonna and Child on a decorative gold ground from the Metropolitan Museum in New York is particularly poignant, as we know that Signorelli gave it to his daughter Gabriella in 1507.

Orvieto: The exhibition here is understandably much smaller since of course the great attraction is the Last Judgementcycle of frescoes in the Cappella Nova in the cathedral, which has been given longer opening hours for this occasion (the extraordinary video with details of Signorelli’s wonderful frescoes can only be viewed at the Perugia exhibition). His monumental Mary Magdalene, which belongs to the Museo dell’Opera del Duomo, is the most important work on exhibition there, but it is also particularly interesting to be able to visit the newly restored Albèri library with its very unusual frescoed decorations carried out around the same time that Signorelli was at work next door in the cathedral. Here is displayed a controversial double portrait (including a self-portrait) frescoed on a terracotta tile (its attribution to Signorelli has been under discussion for decades but recent research carried out for this exhibition suggests it is, indeed, an autograph work).

Città di Castello: Later works are exhibited here, and in particular the two masterpieces owned by the Pinacoteca Comunale: a processional banner and the Martyrdom of St Sebastian. The visit also provides the opportunity to explore the lovely villages in the upper Tiber valley and the little oratory just outside Morra which was in part frescoed by Signorelli.

The Perugia exhibition in particular is well worth travelling from afar to see as it provides a remarkably complete documentation of this great artist’s ouput, an artist who so often seems to be well ahead of his contemporaries in his exploration of the human figure and whose work always contains an element of intriguing eccentricity.

Reviewed by Alta Macadam, author of Blue Guide Central Italy, Blue Guide Tuscany, Blue Guide Rome, Blue Guide Concise Rome, Blue Guide Florence, Blue Guide Venice.

The 54th Venice Biennale stars Tintoretto

4th June–27th November 2011 www.labiennale.org

The Biennale, the world’s leading modern art exhibition, is upon us once again. ‘An exuberant invitation to take part in growth and change’ (Rev John-Henry Bowden, former Chaplain of St George’s, Venice)? Or the emperor’s new clothes?

Well, Jackie Wullschlager , the Financial Times’ influential art critic and no enemy of the new, really doesn’t like British artist Mike Nelson’s installation: it is ‘fatuous, self-regarding art’ and ‘the most vapid show the British pavilion has ever sponsored’.  But among the things she does like are the three Tintorettos. Sorry, Tintorettos? Not by any chance by Jacopo Robusti, known as Tintoretto because of his father’s trade of cloth dyeing, with the not very modern dates of 1519–94?

Indeed, the very same. Two of the three paintings are from the Accademia (the Creation of the Animals and the Transport of the Body of St Mark), the third is a Last Supper from the Church of San Giorgio Maggiore ‘painted in the last year of his [Tintoretto’s] life … the last of numerous paintings he produced on this subject, one which had fascinated him all his life … what is memorable above all is the disquieting presence of ethereal spirits and angels which emerge from the dark background, perhaps harbingers of the death of this deeply religious painter’ (quoted from Alta Macadam’s Blue Guide Venice).

But the Biennale’s Chairman, Paolo Baratta, has a simple explanation: the show hasn’t lost faith in the new, Tintoretto’s works are exhibited in the Central Pavilion in the Giardini ‘as a warning to living artists to not indulge in conventions!’ (the exclamation mark is from his press release). And while Curator Bice Curiger maybe protests a little much she is surely right when she says, ‘These paintings by Tintoretto, one of the most experimental artists in the history of Italian art, exert a special appeal today with their almost febrile, ecstatic lighting and a near reckless approach to composition that overturns the well-defined, classical order of the Renaissance. The works will play a prominent role in establishing an artistic, historical and emotional relationship to the local context.’

All excellent, and we at the Blue Guides look forward with enthusiasm to a creeping juxtaposition of great, historical Venetian art alongside the thoroughly modern in the pavilions of the Giardini and halls of the Arsenale at future Biennales.

Reviewed by Thomas Howells

Venice is covered in a number of Blue Guides: there is the main Blue Guide Venice 8th edition, by Alta Macadam, as well as a Blue Guide Literary Companion Venice.  And just out, The Venice Lido by Robin Saikia, in the new Blue Guides Travel Monograph series.

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Five major London museums
Napoleon and Paris: Dreams of a capital
Whither Tate Britain?
The many lives of Nasreddin Hoca
Lesley Blanch: On the Wilder Shores of Love
The Middle Ages on the Road
Hellenistic bronzes in Florence
Europe by rail - an introduction
Frescoes in a convent of a closed order of nuns
Michelin starred Paris
A Michelangelo discovery?
Jan Morris: Ciao, Carpaccio: An Infatuation
The Venus de Milo fights back
Winter in Florence: a new look at Donatello
Tea (or coffee) with the Sultan
Artwork of the Month: January. Medieval stained glass
Which? ranks Blue Guides #2
Giacomo Leopardi: A poet in film
Sassoferrato and the Aion Mosaic
The Aventine and Turner in Rome
Artwork of the Month: December
Rendez-vous with Art
Rembrandt and the Dutch Golden Age
Giovanni Battista Moroni
London The Information Capital
Changes to European rail services for 2015
Comments on Blue Guide London
Egypt, Greece, & Rome
The Medici Villas of Tuscany and Tourism
Artwork of the Month: November. Reason, Unreason and the...
The first collectors of 'Primitives'
From Pompeii: The Afterlife of a Roman Town
Artwork of the Month: October. The Arch of Constantine
Sorting out the Uffizi
Waging war with a view
Dull London? Surely a mistake
Artwork of the month: September. Watercolour of the Great...
Italian Venice: A History
A tale of three museums
Rissëu
All Aboard the Cheese Train
National Gallery London to allow photography
Artwork of the Month: August. Bust of Augustus Caesar from...
Sacred Splendours: reliquaries of Florence's pious grand...
Book Review. Helena Attlee: The Land where Lemons Grow
Holiday reading
Artwork of the Month: July. The Phaistos Disc
Budapest to Vienna and Salzburg by Railjet
Marvellous and Macabre: the art of Jacopo Ligozzi
David Esterly - The Lost Carving: A Journey to the Heart of...
Artwork of the month: June, Pordenone's Noli me Tangere
Budapest to Serbia by EuroCity Avala
Saving the Great Bear: Trieste's floating crane
News from Florence
Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
Baccio Bandinelli: a rehabilitation
Artwork of the month: May. "Flora", Pompeii
Travelling around Britain in style
In praise of plague cakes
Princesses from the Trabzon Empire
Artwork of the month: April. The Seuso Silver
Uffizi selfies come to Budapest
Florentine Mannerists at Palazzo Strozzi
Rome: seasonal stations
Sustainable living in Bolzano
Artwork of the month: March. Murillo's Flower Girl
Tastes change
Francesco Laurana's serene beauty
Being Mithridates
Florence and Buda: two cities of learning
Thoughts on Rome
Copyrighting Heritage
Food is the new Florence
A Grumpy Visit to Westminster Abbey
The Honey Of Hybla
So what is the Turkish Van?
The Pike: by Lucy Hughes-Hallett
Smoothly off the buffers
Under Another Sky
'Art under Attack' at Tate Britain
Comments on Smoothly from Harrow
Renaissance art from Florence to Paris and back
Comments on Blue Guide Venice
Hepworth's "Winged Figure": 50th anniversary
Tying the Knot in Urfa
Venice and the Politcs of Washing
Comments on Staten Island: A Blue Guide Travel Monograph
Comments on Short Guide to London 1953
Turin restored and rejuvenated
A palatial art museum in Trieste
The cloisters of Santa Maria Novella
The wonderful Palazzo Grimani, Venice
Pope Benedict: an unorthodox farewell
Obscure St Valentine and his famous Feast Day
Burano in February
The St Agnes lambs
Leonardo’s “Adoration of the Magi” in restoration
Cathedral picks: Exeter
The real Patrick Leigh Fermor?
The joy of Giambattista Tiepolo
Leonardo’s “Battle of Anghiari”
In praise of Venice’s water transport system
The Red Rooms at the Uffizi
The Blue Rooms at the Uffizi
A trip to the Port of Trajan, outside Rome
Pour l’honneur de la France
An early-morning visit to Sant’Andrea delle Fratte, Rome
Church of SS Luca e Martina reopens above Roman Forum
How the tide turned at the Milvian Bridge
A compelling reason to visit Trapani province
St Augustine and his mother at Ostia
Visiting St Paul’s in London
Hadrian, Antinoüs and the Christian Fathers
Earliest-known image of a martyrdom
Can’t face the Vatican crowds? Try San Lorenzo
Turin, Pisa and mathematics
Ideal cities are all around us. It’s simply a matter of...
On Canaletto and Guardi and Venetian Light
Mithraism: a Roman Mystery Religion
Random Musings on Pontormo and Vermeer
The Amphitheatre of Londinium
Edward Lear and Crete
A handful of favourite things to see in Sicily
The mystery of the veiled virgins
Venice without the crowds
Cividale del Friuli and the Lombards
The Trouble with Snake Goddesses
The tragedy of Maximilian, Emperor of Mexico
Oranges, lemons and relic cults: an escape from the queues...
City Picks: Verona
Hitherto unknown language discovered in east Anatolia
Painting of the Day
Museo Barracco: a little-visited gem
Santo Stefano Rotondo in Rome
Staten Island: Upcoming Exhibition …
International Gothic at the Uffizi
Celebrating Santa Rosalia, patron of Palermo
Delhi Ghost Trail
Comments on Pilgrim's Rome: A Blue Guide Travel Monograph
The Roman Villa at Balácapuszta (Baláca, Nemesvámos,...
The Bard of….Messina? Was Shakespeare Sicilian?
Rereading Ruskin
Sicily’s emblem: the Trinacria
Luca Signorelli on exhibition in Umbria
The Tribuna of the Uffizi reopens
The Venice equivalent of the anonymous Tweet?
Comments on Blue Guide Sicily
Sicilian Holiday Reading
Attila the Hun and the Foundation of Venice
Death in Venice cocktail a hit
The Gentry: Stories of the English
381 years ago this June
Brooklyn Bridge: a New York landmark
A Venetian Update
Sixth-century church to reopen
Roman Aquileia
Springtime in Friuli
Northern Italy dining and accommodation recommendations
Al Dente: Madness, Beauty & the Food of Rome
A celebration of Lucca
Romantic music in a Baroque setting
Blue Guide India Delhi Launch
Nikolaus Pevsner: The Life
The Man of Numbers: Fibonacci’s Arithmetic Revolution
Comments on Blue Guide India
The Roman Forum
Whispering City: Rome and its Histories
The 15th-century Health Museum at Edirne
City of Fortune, How Venice Won and Lost a Naval Empire
Books about Istanbul
Comments on Blue Guide Istanbul
Comments on Blue Guide Florence
Constantine: Unconquered Emperor, Christian Victor
Comments on The Venice Lido: a Blue Guide Travel Monograph
Comments on Blue Guide Literary Companions: Rome, London,...
Comments on Blue Guide Italy Food Companion
The 54th Venice Biennale stars Tintoretto
Holy Bones, Holy Dust
RECOMMENDED PLACES TO STAY AND EAT ON CRETE
Delhi: Adventures in a Megacity
Full Circle: How the Classical World Came Back to Us
Comments on Blue Guide Turkey
Comments on Blue Guide Rome
Comments on Blue Guide Hay-on-Wye
Comments on Blue Guide Greece the Aegean Islands
Comments on Blue Guide Crete
Comments on Sites of Antiquity: from Ancient Egypt to the...
Comments on Blue Guide Tuscany
Familiar face
Comments on Blue Guide Concise Italy
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Blue Guide Northern Italy
Comments on Blue Guide The Marche & San Marino
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A day trip to Ostia Antica from Rome - highly recommended
Comments on Blue Guide Southern Italy
Comments on Blue Guide Concise Rome
A day trip from Venice up the Brenta Canal
A day trip to Murano from Venice
Pietrasanta, Pisa: in search of Stagi
Reading list for Venice
Reading list for Florence and Tuscany
The Best Credit / Debit Card for Travel
Ruskin on Venice
Reading list for Rome
Comments on Blue Guide Greece the Mainland

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