At the beginning of this exhibition you are offered large altarpieces, already ambitious, with a certain rhythm that is not fluid, gradually getting more agitated and finally lucidly engaged and grand. You cannot draw your eyes away from the masterpieces of his maturity. Then there are his smaller devotional pieces, his allegories, some of them bewitching, and his celebrated penetrating portraits.
Lorenzo Lotto was born around 1480 in Venice and matured in the shadow of Giambellini, Giorgione, Antonello da Messina, Titian and other Venetian masters. He was 30 when he was called to Rome by Pope Julius II, where in the piazzas and alleys he ambled in the company of his elders, Raphael, Michelangelo and Bramante.
He was about to be commissioned to paint the great Vatican chambers, but somehow the enterprise fell through but why it did has never been specified and Raphael came to cover the walls with The School Of Athens and other frescos, the loosest, happiest and most airy of his whole career.
Lotto, already known for his bashful, diffident nature, retired to the provinces, never to return to the focal centres of the art of his time again. But this was also a blessing: in the Venetian hinterland, in the Marches and Lombardy, his patrons, churchmen and aristocrats, although knowledgeable enough, were less demanding and allowed him to circumvent the stricter rules of picture-making, while the winds of the time also fanned the flamboyance of his visions.
For Lotto was at the crossroads: there was his own naive streak of quirkiness, there was the end of the High Renaissance with its harmony and balance, and Mannerism was rising into full bloom, while the Baroque could already be glimpsed over the horizon. The classic cool was over. Bronzino, Rosso Fiorentino, Pontormo et al, mounted fervid extremely intricate work, with odd psychological, religious and political meanings we can no longer appreciate or decipher.
Their pictures were full of voluptuous fluttering drapery, contorted elongated limbs, exaggerated gesture and above all, there was an intensity of colour never seen before: metallic green, over-ripe quince yellow, the pinks and reds of stretched satin, lilac and the sweetest of lavenders, swollen cloud blue, everything saturated by an impossibly keen, artificial illumination. But in Lotto