At the National Gallery

Charles Hope

For centuries the reputation of Venetian Renaissance painters largely depended on the comments made about them in Giorgio Vasari’s Lives of the Artists. Vasari was in Venice for several months in 1542, but he was evidently unaware that Lorenzo Lotto, a generation older than him, was also living there and that they had acquaintances in common. During his visit he made notes about a couple of paintings by Lotto in the city, but recorded nothing about his life, so the account that he provided in the first edition of his book, published in 1550, was only a paragraph long. In the second edition, of 1568, there is a little more about Lotto’s paintings in Venice and a new section about those in the area of Ancona, on the Adriatic coast. Against this background it is not surprising that Lotto, most of whose works were produced outside Venice, was almost entirely forgotten for the next three centuries. It was only when art historians began systematically to survey the surviving paintings of the Renaissance in Italy that he emerged, around 1900, as an outstanding artist with an easily recognisable style.

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[*] Lorenzo Lotto Portraits edited by Miguel Falornir and Enrico Maria Dal Pozzolo (Thames and Hudson, 369 pp., £29.95, August, 978 0 500 97093 5).