Artibus et Historiae no. 81 (XLI)

2020, ISSN 0391-9064

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PHILIP SOHM - Venetian Finger Painting after Titian (pp. 173–194)

Palma Giovane was the first Renaissance painter to openly and proudly declare himself to be a finger painter. He did so in his Self-portrait Painting the Resurrection, c. 1585 where he shows himself dragging his index finger through the yellow light of the ‘Resurrection’. Titian’s death in 1576, much like Michelangelo’s in 1564, occasioned speculation about who would be the new Renaissance Apelles. Who would be the new Titian? Palma nominated himself by applying his fingers to canvas, thus adopting Titian’s technique made famous by Marco Boschini, Palma’s pupil and author of La Carta del navegar pitoresco. Palma performs the resurrection of painting by painting the Resurrection of Christ. This self-promoting self-portrait is read here as an art-theoretical statement about the Venetian technique of drawing with paint (un’accademia alla veneziana), about the transubstantiation of pigments and how Incarnation and carnation are entwined. Palma also performs a miracle of revivifying the inanimate when his meta-painting of the Resurrection seems to respond to the touch of his brush and finger: the soldier doubles over as if stabbed launching Christ from his grave. Venetians including Francesco Bassano and Giulio Carpioni and fans of Titian including Velázquez also painted self-portraits that suggest finger painting.

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