In the Eremitani Museum in Padua the other day, I was struck (as so often) by some of the details in the paintings on display as much as by the overall effect of a particular composition. Take this clog (left), for example, cast off by St Jerome when he returned to his well-appointed cave after a bit of outdoor meditation. One can almost see him wiggling his toes as he settles down to another stretch of writing.
St Jerome, by Francesco Squarcione (Padua, c. 1394–1468).
Mooching round the Accademia in Venice today, I was drawn to many other such details, in the works of artists such as Cima da Conegliano, the Bellinis, Mansueto, and above all Vittore Carpaccio. By the later sixteenth century, foreground detail seems to have dropped out of favour as unnecessary decoration for decoration’s sake: Titian, Veronese and especially Tintoretto were far too urgent about conveying their narrative to worry about such things – though of course nobody could do the sensuous effect of silk or velvet clothing when required as well as Veronese. Out of dozens of photos, here are a few:
It was good to see again the three Hieronymus Bosch works in the Accademia that we had encountered in Den Bosch earlier in the year: they were displayed in a small exhibition showing the recent restoration works carried out on the various panels. (Of course, you could argue that Bosch’s genius lies precisely in the depiction and cumulation of hundreds of very small details.)
A transmogrified hamster (?) from Bosch’s ‘Hermit Saints’ triptych.
The robes of St Catherine and an attendant saint, from Veronese’s ‘Mystic Marriage of St Catherine’. PS: the estimable Dr G. has pointed out that the foot has six toes, and that polydactyly is common in Renaissance art. (Coincidentally, the gallery attendant in the Eremitani had taken great pride in pointing out a St Jerome with five fingers and a thumb.)
From Veronese’s ‘Annunciation’: the traditional ceramic vase of lilies is replaced by a transparent (‘pure’) glass container of thornless roses – ‘rosa sine spina’ being a frequent description of the Virgin’s innocence.
Gorgeous Venetian brocade velvet is used for a robe in this ‘Mystic Marriage of St Catherine’, by Boccaccio Boccaccino.
One of the Magi is wearing this lovely patterned silk in an ‘Adoration’ by Bonifacio de’ Pitati.
In ‘Supper at Emmaus’, by Marco Marziale, the stool on which one of the travellers is sitting, his boots, bag, staff and (anachronistic) rosary are all meticulously delineated.
Detail of the Virgin’s robe in a ‘Madonna and Child’ by the Maestro della Madonna del Parto, active around 1400. (I was disconcerted to hear a tour guide inform her French flock that this was an eighteenth-century painting.)
Two red-legged partridges at the bottom of Cima’s ‘Madonna of the Orange Tree’.
The open book held by Cima’s ‘Lion of St Mark’.
Cima’s very young Tobias, in his smart red boots, carrying the fish. The dog (below) is also unusually small.
‘Christ Washing the Disciples’ Feet’ with an Eastern bowl, by Giovanni Agostino di Lodi.
Another luxury ceramic, from Bernardo Strozzi’s ‘Feast in the House of Simeon’.
This bored-looking leopard was apparently the latest must-have accessory when Giovanni Mansueti painted the ‘Miraculous Healing’.
Where to start with Carpaccio? These fashionable gentlemen are bystanders at the ‘Miracle of the True Cross on the Rialto’.
Footwear of the bystanders in his ‘10,000 Martyrs of Mount Ararat’.
From the ‘St Ursula’ sequence: the prince’s outfit for his first meeting with St Ursula.
The dog on the gangplank, from the recent restored ‘Arrival of the Pilgrims in Cologne’.
The robes of the bishops in the Pope’s train.
This elegant dandy is about to fire an arrow into the heart of the innocent St Ursula.
And finally: a basket of eggs, from Titian’s ‘Presentation of the Virgin in the Temple’. The old market lady is looking around to see what all the fuss is about, not realising that the child Mary, full of composure and grace, and bathed in the light of heaven, is mounting the temple steps above her.