Exposición: Lorenzo Lotto. Retratos

Exposición: Lorenzo Lotto. Retratos


Lorenzo Lotto was one of the most unique and fascinating painters of the Italian Cinquecento and one of the great portraitists in history. He was born in Venice in 1480
and died in Loreto aged 76 or 77. He was a nomadic painter who principally worked in his native Venice, returning there various times, and in important cities
on the Venetian terra firma, the Marches. He also had a brief episode in Rome
where he succeeded in working for the Vatican. If Lotto occupies a place of honour in the history of portraiture it is because for Bernard Berenson, the art historian who rediscovered him in the late 19th century, he was the first painter concerned to reflect his sitters’ states of mind. He understood that a portrait is something more
than the physical depiction of an individual, something more than representing their social status,
and he aimed to reach the most concealed and expressive part of their personality. As such, Berenson considered him
the first modern portraitist, an opinion that is still accepted day. His book on Lotto dates from 1895, almost contemporary with Sigmund Freud and the theories of psychoanalysis. This was a period when European and world society
was increasingly interested in investigating individual psychology. Berenson proposed the idea of a painter who had delved,
as it were, into the minds of his models. He was a portraitist who differed from all the others
for various reasons. Firstly for the variety of typologies he employed; some portraits appear for the first time
in Italian with him, such as the marriage portrait which locates
the man and wife in a single pictorial space. He was also important for the overt
or concealed symbolism of many of his compositions and also for the importance of the objects in them. In general because, in a way, he moved away
from the principal trends in Italian portraiture of the day and offered an alternative that was particularly popular with an upper middle-class looking for different forms of expression and representation. We find many different types of portraits: in his early years he evoked
what had been the myth of Antonello da Messina, the Sicilian painter who had worked
in Venice in the 1470s. Although Lotto was born a few years later,
the myth of Antonello da Messina remained alive in the late 15th century
when he started to paint. From there he began to assimilate
and discover other great portraitists. We can clearly see the influence of Albrecht Dürer,
the great German painter, but also how, when he was in Rome, he discovered
the models created by Raphael and Leonardo. Also the influence of contemporaries
such as Cariani and Savoldo, and by the 1540s
that of the greatest portraitist of the day: Titian. All these influences
combined in Lotto, like a pictorial melting pot, but none of them dominated. In other words, they are all elements
used to construct a language that is absolutely unique and absolutely unrepeatable:
that of Lorenzo Lotto as a portraitist. The exhibition includes a series of religious works
that include both portraits of donors and crypto-portraits, meaning individuals
who had themselves portrayed as religious figures. There are also other individual crypto-portraits,
for example of Dominican monks who had themselves painted with the attributes of saints
whom they particularly venerated. We also have portraits of women,
probably Venetian patricians, who had themselves portrayed as Lucretia,
the Roman heroine and symbol of marital chastity, undoubtedly to transmit a clear message in a matrimonial context. These are portraits in which the objects have a significant value, objects that are in some cases symbolic
and in others simply examples of material culture of the day. One of the innovations in this exhibition is in fact the way it includes objects
similar to those in the paintings. Lotto was a modest collector of objects and a person who collects objects develops a special awareness of them: he was interested in their textures,
how the light reflects on them and he would convey all this in his portraits. Finally, the exhibition includes a series of drawings attributed to Lorenzo Lotto
and associated with his portraits which have never previously been displayed
alongside the painted ones. These drawings are varied in type. There are works loaned from all the great
European and American museums: the National Gallery in London, the British Museum, from Berlin, Vienna, the Musée du Louvre, the Metropolitan, almost every museum that has works by Lotto, all of them fully aware of his importance
in the history of art. With regard to Italy I would like to single out
the generosity of some ecclesiastical institutions which have lent altarpieces to the exhibition, works that people habitually pray in front of, making these loans particularly meaningful. The result as a whole offers us an invitation to enter the fascinating world
of Lotto’s portraits for the first time, given that the exhibition
is the first in Spain and in the world devoted to this facet of the artist.