Wednesday, November 19, 2014

173. Ricketts on Moroni

The Royal Academy honours Giovanni Battista Moroni as 'the unsung genius of Renaissance portraiture'. His portrait of a tailor, especially, is seen as the work of an artist whose subject 'prefigured even as far forwards as the nineteenth century avant-garde' (curator Arturio Galansino in an interview).

Would Charles Ricketts have appreciated these accolades for Moroni? In his book on Titian, Ricketts mentions the artist three times.

Ricketts discusses a portrait of Cristoforo Madruzzo, that he does not consider to be a Titian picture:

Documented and dated, this last affects me (in reproduction: the original is unknown to me) as a late picture by Moroni; it is at once gauche in drawing (note the clumsy short thumbs) and design.
(Titian, 1910, p. 100)

Titian, Cardinal Alessandro Farnese (Museo di Capodimonte)
Another portrait of a cardinal is also described unfavourably by Ricketts:

We may dismiss the 'Portrait of the Cardinal Alessandro Farnese' at Naples. This picture, with its cold greenish-grey tones and awkward curtain, seems by Moroni.
(Titian, 1910, p. 108) 

This painting was actually examined by Ricketts, as was the case with 'Lady in Rose' which he saw at Dresden:

An attractive picture, the 'Lady in Rose' at Dresden, which has passed, owing to general hesitation, as a possible Titian, is, in the opinion of the present writer, a good canvas by Moroni. The odd, sudden perspective of the table, the shape of the hands, the cold, greenish-grey of the background, and the mechanical rendering of the embroideries seem, to me at least, evidences of his literal and provincial workmanship.
(Titian, 1910, p. 122) 

Gauche, clumsy, cold - these terms do not give the impression of a great admiration for Moroni, who, of course, could not compare to Titian, the father of modern painting according to Ricketts. Ricketts and Shannon owned one drawing by Titian and nothing by Moroni.

However, as an adviser of the National Gallery of Canada, Ricketts proposed a portrait of a man by Moroni for the collection, and it was bought in 1924 for £3100. 

Giovanni Battista Moroni, Portrait of a Man (Ottawa, National Gallery of Canada)
Still, the most expensive painting he recommended was Titian's portrait of Daniele Barbaro in 1928.

Initially, this picture was thought to be from Titian's workshop as a copy of another portrait that belongs to the Prado in Madrid. Recent research, using x-rays, show that, actually, the Ottawa portrait is the original Titian. Titian struggled with certain elements in this version: the colour of the clothing, the collar height, and the representation of the nose. Ricketts would have been delighted to hear this.

Titian, Portrait of Daniele Barbaro (Ottawa, National Gallery of Canada)