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: A Modello by Andrea Vicentino


Terence Mullaly



Institution Minneapolis Institute of Arts
Among the most important commissions received by Andrea Micheli, called Andrea Vincentino, was the order to execute four large paintings for the Sala del Maggior Consiglio of the Palazzo Ducale, in Venice. It is for one of these vast canvases that the picture recently acquired by The Minneapolis Institute of Arts is the Modello.1 The painting in the Palazzo Ducale is on the side of the Sala del Maggior Consiglio overlooking the Bacino and, beginning from the end wall bearing Tintoretto’s Paradiso, is the third of the paintings hanging between the windows. The upright canvases on this wall overlooking the Bacino illustrate events connected with the Fourth Crusade and the subject of the Andrea Vincentino painting in question is Alexius Comnenus Appearing Before the Doge.In 1577 the original decoration of this room, the most splendid in the Palazzo Ducale, and indeed in Venice, was destroyed by fire. As a result Jacopo Tintoretto, Leandro Bassano, Benedetto and Carletto Caliari, Giulio dal Moro, Gambarato, Palma Giovane, Paolo Veronese, Andrea Vincentino, Frederico Zuccaro, and others were commissioned to execute the paintings we see today.2At this time Andrea Vincentino, who was born circa 1539, was coming to maturity and was at the height of his powers. His Alexius Comnenus Appearing Before the Doge is a typical work (fig. 2). It is full of echoes of Tintoretto, Jacopo Bassano, and less obviously, of Veronese and Palma Giovane. Mannerist formulae, of which the most evident is the contrapposto of several of the main figures, are also marked. Yet the whole picture clearly bears the imprint of Andrea Vincentino’s personal, and perfectly distinguishable, style.3The Institute of Arts modello for it is of importance for two reasons. First, because, although today paintings by Andrea Vincentino are still preserved in Venice, in several parts of the Palazzo Ducale, in various churches, including two of the city’s greatest (the Frari and SS. Giovanni e Paolo), in the Accademia and the Museo Correr, and elsewhere, few of them have left Venice and the terra firma. Works outside Italy that do at once invite comparison are the two modelli, one in the Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool, and the other at the time of writing on the London art market, for the painting hanging in the left transept of the Frari and representing The Court of Heaven.4The second reason why the Institute’s modello is of special interest is because it is crucial for an appreciation of Andrea Vicento, showing him as it does at his most congenial. The finished picture, despite the excellence of its execution is unoriginal in design, confused, and overladen with detail. A comparison of it and the modello (fig. 1) reveals that no major alteration has been made and many of the main figures are virtually identical. Yet the modello is much more effective. The two protagonists stand out more clearly; the relationship between them is dramatically emphasized, and they are effectively isolated by the sweeping circular movement of the figures about them. This is lost in the finished picture, and while in the modello nothing else is allowed to detract from the figures of the Doge and Alexius Comnenus, in the completed work the eye is continually distracted. Nor can the main alteration that has taken place between the modello and the picture in the Palazzo Ducale be regarded as an improvement. In the former the distant building, which curiously anticipates the Salute, closes in the design and adds an element of drama. In the finished work the eye wanders off to the pictorially irrelevant. Lastly, in the modello, although there is no color, the flickering highlights executed with brushwork of telling bravura, contribute towards creating an impression of tension. It is in his few surviving works like this that one prefers to recall Andrea Vicentino.Endnotes
  1. Oil on canvas, 36 1/4” x 27 1/4”. Sotheby Sale, April 28, 1965, Cat. No. 31.
  2. It is worth noting that none of these paintings has been cleaned and this makes it more difficult to define the individual styles of the artists concerned.
  3. This I have attempted to define. (See The Burlington Magazine, CVI [Nov., 1964], 508-509). It has been well characterized by Ivanoff. (See La Revue du Louvre, XII [1962], 30).
  4. See Terence Mullaly, The Burlington Magazine, op. cit., 507-509.
Referenced Works of Art
  1. Andrea Vincentino
    Sketch for the Painting in the Palazzo Ducale, Venice
    Alexius Comnenus Appearing Before the Doge
    Oil on canvas, 36 1/4” x 27 1/4”
    The John R. Van Derlip Fund, 65.45.
  2. Andrea Vicentino
    Italian (c. 1539-?)
    Alexuis Comnenus Appearing Before the Doge
    Oil on canvas
    Sala del Maggior Consiglio, Palazzo Ducale, Venice.
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Source: Terence Mullaly, "A Modello by Andrea Vicentino," <i>The Minneapolis Institute of Arts Bulletin</i> 54 (1965): 32-34.
Rights: ©MIA
Added to Site: March 10, 2009