Domenico Veneziano

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Domenico Veneziano

The major contribution of the Italian painter Domenico Veneziano (1410 c.-1461) to early Renaissance painting was his subtle observation of the reaction of colors to conditions of natural light.

Domenico Veneziano whose real name was Domenico di Bartolomeo da Venezia, was originally from Venice, but he worked in Florence for most of his life. His date of birth is uncertain but can be approximated through stylistic comparisons with his better-documented contemporaries, such as Fra Filippo Lippi and Andrea del Castagno.

Much uncertainty remains among scholars about the beginnings and the chronology of Domenico's art. In 1438 he wrote a letter to Piero de' Medici asking for work and mentioning Fra Angelico and Filippo Lippi. This shows that Domenico was well versed in Florentine artistic affairs and leads to the assumption that he might have been in Florence before 1439, when he settled there. Only minute fragments remain of the important series of frescoes he painted intermittently from 1439 to 1445 for the church of S. Egidio in Florence, in which he was assisted by Piero della Francesca. In the surviving fragment of the fresco from the so-called Carnesecchi Tabernacle one sees traces of Domenico's Venetian background in the construction and ornamentation of the marble throne on which the Madonna sits. This fragment also demonstrates Domenico's awareness of the art of his Florentine contemporaries Fra Angelico, Masolino, and Lorenzo Ghiberti, as well as the principles of linear perspective only recently discovered by the architect Filippo Brunelleschi and applied in relief sculpture by Donatello and in painting by Masaccio.

Dated about 1445 is Domenico's well-preserved altarpiece from the church of S. Lucia dei Magnoli in Florence and the five fragments of its predella. The elaborate architectural settings in bright, light greens, pinks, and grays, as well as the simulated marble inlay patterns, are reminiscent of the colors of Giotto's bell tower of the Florence Cathedral and the ornamentation found in Tuscan proto-Renaissance buildings, such as the 12th-century Baptistery in Florence. The figures, well rendered with a sense of weight and volume, are plausibly situated in space. This is made especially eloquent through Domenico's strict observance of the natural flow of light and of the shadows cast by objects.

Other examples of Domenico's art are the fine Madonna against a Rose Hedge in Washington and the exquisite Madonna and Child in Florence (Berenson Collection). In his large tondo Adoration of the Magi there is a sumptuous display of ornament, and the figures clothed in fanciful garments are placed in a deeply receding and realistic landscape.

Further Reading

In English there is a fine article on Domenico Veneziano by Luciano Berti in the Encyclopedia of World Art, vol. 4 (1961). See also Lionello Venturi and Rosabianca Skira-Venturi, Italian Painting: The Creators of the Renaissance (1950), and Frederick Hartt, History of Italian Renaissance Art (1970). □