Catholic Encyclopedia (1913)/Lorenzo Lotto

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Italian portrait painter, born at Venice, 1480; died at Loreto, 1556. This eminent artist was one of the best portrait painters who ever lived, and occupies an almost unique position, especially amongst Italian artists, for his extraordinary skill in detecting the peculiarities of personal character and his power of setting them forth in full accord with the temperament and mood of his sitters. He was a great colourist, and possessed of a passionate admiration for the beautiful, with a somewhat definite tendency towards the ecstatic and mystical, in religion. He appears to have been a man of strong personal faith, and had a sincere devotion to Loreto and its great relic, the Holy House, spending his final years in that city, and devoting himself very largely to its interests. His early works were painted at Treviso, and from that place he went to Recanati in 1508 to paint an important altar-piece. We do not know who was his master, but his work reveals affinity with that of Alvise Vivarini. He is believed to have painted some frescoes in the upper floor of the Vatican in 1509, but, whether or not these were executed, he evidently studied the work of Raphael when in Rome, as in his own paintings from 1512 to 1525 there are many Raphaelistic characteristics. He first reached Bergamo, the place with which his name is so closely connected, in 1513, spent some five years there, and, after a visit to Venice in 1523, returned again to the same place. In 1512 and in 1526 he was painting at Jesi, the two works executed in the latter year being of high importance. A wonderful picture is the great "Crucifixion", painted at Monte San Giusto in 1531. In the following year he was in Venice, and a couple of years afterwards again in Bergamo. Many of his finest pictures were painted for small rural towns, such as Cingoli, Mogliano, Trescorre, and Jesi. Fortunately most of his works are dated, and he left behind him an account book, which he commenced in 1539, and in which he records the names of his later pictures. This book he kept down to within a few months of his death. There are a few of his drawings in existence, notably at Chatsworth, Wilton House, the Uffizi, and Vienna. Almost all his latest productions are at Loreto, but during the last three years of his life, he appears to have laid aside his brush.

He has been the subject of a monumental book by BERNHARD BERENSON (London, 1901), an essay in constructive art criticism that is not only the standard work on Lotto, but is also a psychological romance evolved out of the minutest criticism, and is the representative and classic work for all followers of Morellian analysis. To this work and to the detached Essays of GRONAU and MARY LOGAN the student must be referred. For earlier information, see TASSI, Le Vite de' Pittori Bergamaschi (Bergamo, 1793); VASARI, Vite de' piu eccelenti pittori (Florence, 1550), ed. MILANESI (Florence, 1878-85).

GEORGE CHARLES WILLIAMSON.