Bellini, Giorgione, Titian, and the Renaissance of Venetian Painting
Yale University Press, $130 hb, 336 pp
Some years ago, Robert Hughes bemoaned the capitulation of art museums and galleries to ‘the whole masterpiece-and-treasure syndrome’. Although made in the 1980s, Hughes’s point may still be valid, especially if the number of recent exhibitions with the word ‘master’ in their titles is anything to go by. A quick check reveals that, in Australia, the National Gallery of Victoria is particularly fond of the word. In Melbourne last year, we had ‘Dutch Masters from the Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam’ and ‘Albrecht Dürer: Master of the Renaissance’. In 2004 the NGV put on ‘The Impressionists: Masterpieces from the Musée d’Orsay’.
The ‘blockbuster’ is obviously still with us, but it is increasingly showing signs of having evolved. Bellini, Giorgione, Titian, and the Renaissance of Venetian Painting, jointly organised by the National Gallery of Art, Washington and the Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna, joins a number of important recent exhibitions of Renaissance painting which have managed to be both popular and scholarly successes (such as the superb Raphael: From Urbino to Rome at the National Gallery in London, 2004). A surprisingly large number of these exhibitions have focused on Venetian rather than Florentine or central Italian Renaissance painting. Since 2000 there have been significant exhibitions of the work of Giorgione (Venice, 2003 and Vienna, 2004), Titian (London and Madrid, 2003) and Venetian Renaissance art in general (Edinburgh, 2004).