Artibus et Historiae no. 70 (XXXV)

2014, ISSN 0391-9064

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ROSELLA LAUBER - «Gran forza et gran vivacità». Understanding Antonello da Messina in Venetian Collecting of the Renaissance through the Papers of Marcantonio Michiel (pp. 171–196)

One of the earliest sources for Antonello da Messina’s paintings is the valuable manuscript written by Marcantonio Michiel and entitled Notizia d’opere di disegno (Venice, Biblioteca Nazionale Marciana). Beginning in 1521, Michiel took over twenty years to add to his opus magnum. The manuscript shows evidence of many layers and kinds of writing and employs different types of ink, indicating that the material was continually updated and amended. An examination of the document leads to new insights, especially concerning Michiel’s description of Antonello’s Saint Jerome in his study (London, The National Gallery) and two of the artist’s portraits dated 1475 once in the home of Antonio Pasqualini, a wealthy Venetian merchant.

Archival research together with an investigation of literary sources encourages new readings of Antonello’s paintings and their Venetian patrons and owners. Analyzing and comparing the cartellini and labels on these works calls for new interpretations. Such is the case for example of the Portrait of a Young Man (Berlin, Staatliche Museen) formerly in the Widmann and Vitturi collections in Venice whereby a new proposal can be suggested by identifying the source of the moralizing inscription at the bottom edge of the panel. New research also sanctions the correction and integration of previously known information on the basis of the valuable Manoscritti Francesconi.

This essay also discusses unpublished documents and analyzes letters and auction catalogues in order to enrich our understanding of Antonello’s critical fortunes in Venice over time. Among this material is a new transcription of the letter sent by Pietro Summonte to Michiel in 1524, inventories of Bartolomeo dalla Nave’s paintings, lists of works of art bought in Venice by John Strange, letters written by Alexander Hamilton, unpublished notes by Jacopo Morelli and, finally, wills and inventories of members of the Cornaro and Mocenigo families.

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