Giovanni Francesco Caroto - Madonna and Child with Sts Francis and CatherineFrom Brescia we turn to Verona, where we again find many pictures of the beautiful subject. There are, in the churches of Verona, at least three notable works, by Gianfrancesco Caroto, in this style. One is in Sant' Anastasia, another is in San Giorgio, and the third—the artist's best existing work—is in San Fermo Maggiore, and shows the Virgin's mother, St. Anne, seated with her in the clouds.
Girolamo dai Libri was a few years younger than Caroto, and at one period was, to some extent, an imitator of the latter. Beginning as a miniaturist, he finally attained a high place among the Veronese artists of the first order. His characteristics can nowhere be seen to better advantage than in the Madonna of St. Andrew and St. Peter, in the Verona Gallery. The Virgin is in an oval glory, edged all around with small, fleecy clouds. She has a beautiful, matronly face, with abundant hair, smoothly brushed over her forehead. The two apostles, below, are fine, strong figures, full of virility.
Morando, or Cavazzola, was, doubtless, the most gifted of the older school of Verona, possessing some of the best qualities of the later master, Paolo Veronese. We should not leave the school, therefore, without mentioning a remarkable contribution he added to this class of pictures in his latest altar-piece. Here the upper air is filled with a sacred company, the Virgin and child are attended by St. Francis and St. Anthony, and surrounded by seven allegorical figures to represent the cardinal virtues. Below are six saints, specially honored in the Franciscan Order. The picture is called the finest production of the school in the first quarter of the sixteenth century.
In the Venetian school, Titian and Tintoretto both painted the subject of the Madonna in glory, but the pictures are not notable compared with many others from their hands.
From the North of Italy we naturally turn next to the South, to inquire what Raphael was doing at the same period in Rome. Occupied by many great works under the papal patronage, he still found time for his favorite subject of the Madonna, painting some pictures in the styles already mastered, and two for the first time in the style of the Madonna in the sky.
In the Sistine Madonna, Raphael carried this form of composition to the highest perfection. So simple and apparently unstudied is its beauty, that we do not realize the masterliness of its art. We seem to be standing before an altar, or, better still, before an open window, from which the curtains have been drawn aside, allowing us to look directly into the heaven of heavens. A cloud of cherub faces fills the air, from the midst of which, and advancing towards us, is the Virgin with her child. The downward force of gravity is perfectly counterbalanced by the vital energy of her progress forward. There is here no uncomfortable sense, on the part of the spectator, that natural law is disregarded. While the seated Madonna in glory seems often in danger of falling to earth, this full-length figure in motion avoids any such solidity of effect.
The figures on either side are also so posed as to arouse no surprise at their presence. We should have said beforehand that heavy pontifical robes would be absurdly incongruous in such a composition, but Raphael solves the problem so simply that few would suspect the difficulties. The final touch of beauty is added in the cherub heads below, recalling the naïve charm of the similar figures in the Umbrian picture we have considered.