Family Business (Part II)

Following up on Sunday’s post, here are five more artistic families from the 15th century:

The Vivarini Clan

Moving back to Italy, in Venice we meet the Vivarini family, that is brothers Bartolomeo (c. 1432-c. 1499) and Antonio (c. 1440-1480), plus Antonio’s son Alvise (died c. 1505). The clan is completed by Antonio’s brother-in-law and frequent collaborator, the painter Giovanni d’Alemagna (died 1450). It even seems that the two of them ran a workshop together. This actually makes a lot of sense since Giovanni appears to have been a foreigner (his name translating as “John from Germany”), and marrying into a family of painters often was the only possibility for aliens to open shop in their new hometown.

Antonio Vivarini & Giovanni d’Alemagna, Virgin and Child Enthroned with Saints, 1446, Venice, Galleria dell’Accademia

The Bellini Clan

The “first family” of painters in 15th century Venice however weren’t the Vivarinis but the Bellinis: Like the first generation of the Vivarini, Jacopo Bellini (c. 1400-c. 1470) was very much steeped in the International Gothic style, but over the years introduced more and more Renaissance elements into his work. It was his sons, Gentile (c. 1429-1507) and Giovanni (c. 1430-1516) who became the true champions of Renaissance painting in Venice, and together they pretty much dominated the city’s art scene in the second half of the 15th century. And, as is well-known, in 1453 their sister Nicolosia married Andrea Mantegna (c. 1431-1506) of Padua, perhaps the only painter of his generation in Northern Italy who can be said to have been the Bellini brothers’ equal. Oh, and lest I forget, there also was a cousin, Leonardo Bellini (active c. 1443-1490), who was one of Venice’s leading artists in the field of manuscript illumination. If I remember correctly, he too received his training from Jacopo, but I’m not 100% sure of that…

Giovanni Bellini, Presentation of Jesus at the Temple, c. 1460-1465, Venice, Pinacoteca Querini Stampalia

Andrea Mantegna, Presentation of Jesus at the Temple, c. 1464/65, Berlin, Gemäldegalerie

Filippo & Filippino Lippi

This has to be my favourite artistic ‘family’: Fra Filippo Lippi (c. 1406-1469) was one of the key figures in the development of early Renaissance painting in Florence, and his son Filippino (1457-1504), having been trained in his father’s workshop, went on to become one of that city’s leading artists of the subsequent generation. But, as you may have noticed, technically Filippo Lippi never should have had a son, because that Fra before his name indicates that he was a monk and therefore bound to celibacy. As these things go, however, in 1456 he was commissioned with a painting for a nunnery in Prato and on that occasion he fell in love with one of the  young women in that convent (though it’s not quite clear whether she actually was a nun or simply a girl left in the care of the nuns by her family), the two of them eloped and nine months later a great painter-to-be was born…

Fra Filippo Lippi, Dance of Salome, 1452–1457, Prato, Cathedral (It has been suggested that this might be a crypto-portrait of Filippino Lippi’s mother, Lucrezia Buti. Alas, there is no evidence for this identification, so I’m afraid it’s just a piece of romantic fiction – but the dancing Salome is a great figure from a great cycle of frescoes, so I decided to include her here anyway…)

Michael & Friedrich Pacher

This is a tricky one. Michael Pacher was undoubtedly one of the most important Northern Renaissance artists and probably the first ‘northern’ painter to take inspiration from Italian Renaissance painting (especially from the aforementioned Andrea Mantegna). He is first mentioned as a master in the town of Bruneck (in the Southern Tyrol/Alto Adige) in 1459 and died in 1498 in Salzburg where he was working on the altarpiece for the high altar of the parish church. Friedrich Pacher seems to have been slightly younger, being first mentioned as a master in Bruneck in 1474, and having died in 1508. Friedrich’s style indicates that he received his training in Michael’s workshop, and it appears that he helped out Michael with some of the latter’s larger commissions even after opening his own workshop. Taking all of this into consideration, it is highly likely that the two were related, and there is something of a consensus among art historians that most likely Friedrich was Michael’s younger brother. Strictly speaking, though, there is no documentary evidence to prove that this is actually true and I only include them in this list of artistic families with a certain caveat. But come to think of it, Michael’s son Hans became a painter as well, so the Pachers definitely belong in this list – although, unfortunately, no surviving works can be attributed to Hans Pacher with any kind of certainty…

Michael (and Friedrich?) Pacher, Raising of Lazarus, 1471-1481, St. Wolfgang, Parish Church

Giovanni & Raphael Sanzio

Giovanni Sanzio (c. 1435-1494) was court painter to the Duke of Urbino in the second half of the 15th century. A figure of some local prominence, he never really became a major league artist and is mostly remembered today not so much for his own work but in relation to other artists: First, he is the author of a poem about the most skilled artists of his time, which is one of the first known documents of a painter actually reflecting on his art in written form. The poem is notable for the breadth of Giovanni’s knowledge and taste (presumably mirroring that of his patron, Duke Federico III of Montefeltre) which includes not only the usual suspects from Florence but also the Venetian and the Netherlandish schools (naming Antonello da Messina, Giovanni & Gentile Bellini, Jan van Eyck and Rogier van der Weyden). Second, and most importantly, Giovanni Sanzio was the father of Raphael – yes, the Raphael – whose fame would eventually outshine that of all of the painters listed in his father’s poem…

Giovanni Sanzio, Saint Peter, St. Francis & an Angel (Detail from: The Virgin Enthroned with Saints), 1492, Cagli, San Domenico, Cappella Tiranni (The angel is said to be a crypto-portrait of the painter’s then nine-year-old son, Raphael, but again this is presumably just a piece of romantic fiction rather than historical fact…)


All images in this post from Wikimedia Commons

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