Paris BordoneParis Bordone (or Bordon) was from Treviso on the Venetian mainland, where he was baptised on 5 July 1500. After the death of his father (a master saddler), he was taken at the age of eight by his mother to Venice. According to Vasari, he trained for a time with Titian, who is said to have treated him badly, and was then attracted by the style of Giorgione. By 1518, he was already an independent master. His earliest documented work, paid for in October 1521, was a fresco of the Story of Noah for the loggia of the Palazzo del Capitano at Vicenza. (The fresco, which was next to one of the Judgement of Solomon by Titian, is now lost.)
Vasari says that the commission for a high altarpiece for the church of San Niccolò ai Frari was awarded initially to the young Bordone, only to be withdrawn at the insistence of Titian, who subsequently took the commission for himself. Whether because of a continuing hostility by Titian towards his former pupil or because of competition from other artists, Bordone had difficulty securing major commissions in Venice and, though he continued to live mainly in the city, much of his work was done for patrons elsewhere. His two earliest altarpieces (one now in the Brera and the other in the Accademia Tadini at Lovere) were painted around the mid-1520s for churches in Crema, towards the western borders of Venetian territory. He later painted several altarpieces and two extensive fresco cycles for churches in or around Belluno, to the north. He enjoyed international esteem, visiting the French court at Fontainebleau (1538? and/or 1559?), working at Augsburg in Bavaria (1540?) and at Milan (about 1548-50/1?), and sending pictures to Poland, Flanders and Spain. From the late 1550s, he produced in his workshop in Venice a considerable number of altarpieces for churches in Treviso. He died of a fever in Venice on 19 January 1571 at the age of seventy.
Bordone’s early works, chiefly scenes of the Holy Family seated with saints in a picturesque landscape, show strongly the influence of Titian and Giorgione. His later style is more Mannerist and highly individual. Paintings of mythological and allegorical subjects became an important part of his repertoire; these were probably influenced by the Mantuan works of Giulio Romano and by the School of Fontainebleau, and are often overtly erotic. His works are carefully planned and drawn and meticulously painted, with no attempt to emulate the free brushwork of Titian and Tintoretto. He favours strong, contrasting colours, such as deep crimson and indigo-blue, and the texture and lustre of rich fabrics is sensuously conveyed. His numerous courtesans and goddesses tend to a type – sensuous yet cold, with glowing skin and braided hair and gorgeous costumes of satin and velvet. His men, typically, are muscular nudes, often shown in self-consciously heroic or contorted poses. Some of his paintings (including the famous Fisherman giving the Ring to the Doge in the Venice Accademia and the Sybil appearing to Augustus in Moscow) have extraordinarily elaborate architectural settings, inspired probably by Sebastiano Serlio’s architectural designs.
Bordone was also a highly successful portrait painter. His sitters included Venetian and Milanese nobles and wealthy German merchants and their wives. He also, like Palma Vecchio, painted many ‘Belle Donne’ portraits, which could represent courtesans, mistresses or generalised images of female beauty or sexuality. His last works – chiefly religious paintings for churches in Treviso – tend to be routine and repetitious, and sometimes show signs of his dotage.
A good many of Bordone’s paintings are signed and, as his style is distinctive and he does not appear to have had a substantial studio, problems of attribution are comparatively few. However, only a small proportion of works, other than portraits, are either dated or reliably datable. His reuse of figure studies, sometimes over intervals of many years, can make dating additionally difficult.
Madonna and Sleeping Child. Canvas, 70 x 84.
The theme of the Christ Child sleeping in the Virgin’s lap, popular in Venice in the fifteenth century, is usually supposed to prefigure Christ’s death. Paintings by Bordone of the Madonna and Child, without saints, are rare. This appears to be a work of the artist’s late maturity. Previously in a private collection in London, it was bequeathed to the Rikjsmuseum in 1941 by the Dutch sugar magnate J. W. Edwin vom Rath.
Auckland. Art Gallery.
Madonna and Child with St Sebastian. Wood, 27 x 27.
Such small devotional panels by Bordone are rare; there is another, even smaller and representing Christ the Redeemer, in the Bob Jones Museum at Greeneville (South Carolina). Sold at Christie’s in 1886 and then with Agnew’s. It was taken to New Zealand by a W. B. Coltart and presented to the gallery in 1960 by Norman Berridge Spencer. It has been attributed to Paris Bordone since the early twentieth century.
Portrait of a Young Woman with a Squirrel. Canvas, 102 x 81.
The young woman, dressed in shimmering red damask, stands boldly with her right hand on her hip and darts a glance to her left. A little pet squirrel climbs up her left arm. The interior setting – a column with a relief of acanthus leaves on the left and a small window in the right – is typical of Bordone’s female portraits. A mature work, probably dating from the 1540s or 1550s. Once in the collection of the Prince of Schaumburg-Lippe at Büakenburg. Bequeathed to the museum by Karl and Magdalene Haberstock.
Baltimore. Walters Art Gallery.
Bathsheba. Canvas, 114 x 145.
King David (barely visible at a window above the background loggia) spies on Bathsheba as she bathes, attended by an African servant, at a fountain. The fantastic architectural background is remarkably similar to that in Bordone’s Annunciation at Caen. The picture may date from the 1540s. Given to the museum in 1956 by Mrs Donald B. Hebb of Baltimore. Discoloured varnish and repaint were removed in a 1982 restoration. There are other versions by Bordone of this subject at Cologne (in which Bathsheba is shown with two attendants) and Hamburg (dated 1552 and much smaller).
Madonna and Child with Two Saints. Canvas, 191 x 114.
The Virgin, enthroned at the top of a flight of marble steps, looks down towards St Anthony of Padua, who wears a brown Franciscan habit and holds a lily and book. The Child leans from his mother's arms to turn the pages of a book held by St Enrico (an English-born, twelfth-century bishop of Uppsala in Finland). Signed on the base of the pillar to the right. An altarpiece from the cathedral at Bari, where it hung in the last chapel on the left of the nave. The chapel, dedicated to St Enrico and St Anthony, was under the patronage of the Tanzi family, whose coat-of-arms (probably added in the eighteenth century) is on the curtain behind the Virgin’s throne. Transferred to the museum in 1929. Once dated very early, but now considered a mature work (early 1550s).
Bergamo. Accademia Carrara.
Two Harvest Scenes. Wood, each 44 x 61.
One panel shows men on ladders picking grapes and putting them in a large vat. The other panel shows two young boys in a landscape with a basket of grapes. Bequeathed to the Accademia in 1859 with the Lochis collection.
Christ with the Virgin and St Catherine of Siena. Canvas, 78 x 70.
The nun, presented to Christ by the Virgin Mary, was previously identified as St Teresa of Avila. As she kneels in adoration on the bank of cloud, a child angel places the crown of thorns on her head and another angel flies towards her with a golden crown. Signed, bottom centre, on the tree trunk. Late (towards 1560). From the Lochis collection.
Christ Blessing. Canvas, 88 x 70.
A weaker version of the picture in the National Gallery, London. Bequeathed in 1908 with the collection of the Contessa Maria Ricotti Caleppio.
Madonna and Child enthroned with Saints. Canvas, 296 x 179.
The Virgin is seated on a high throne under an arch. St Roch (in usual pilgrim's garb) and St Catherine of Alexandria (with martyr's palm and a fragment of her wheel) kneel beside her. St Fabian stands on the left, with martyr’s palm and papal tiara at his feet, and St Sebastian is bound to a column. On the plinth of the throne, two boy angels play a tambourine. An altarpiece from the church of Santa Maria dei Battuti at Belluno. The presence of the plague saints Roch and Sebastian suggests that the commission could have been occasioned by the epidemic in Belluno of 1528-30. The altarpiece remained in the church until Napoleonic times, when it came into the hands of the Bellunese collector Marino Pagani. After failing to interest the Venice Accademia in the picture, Pagani sold it to the English merchant Edward Solly, whose vast collection of Italian pictures was sold to the King of Prussia in 1821. (Another altarpiece by Bordone from Belluno was acquired at the same time; it is now at Warsaw.) Restored in 2005-7.
Mars and Venus surprised by Vulcan. Canvas, 168 x 198.
Vulcan, warned of the adultery of his wife Venus with Mars, catches the couple in flagrante and ensnares them in a magic net. The story is told both in Homer’s Odyssey and in Ovid’s Metamorphoses. Signed, lower left, on the tree trunk. One of two large canvases that Vasari says Bordone painted for the Milanese nobleman Carlo da Rho. The other (slightly larger) is the Bathsheba Bathing now in Cologne. Both pictures share the moral theme of the punishment of adultery. They probably date from around 1548, when Bordone is documented as witnessing a deed concerning da Rho. Early in the twentieth century, the Berlin picture was in private collections in Frankfurt and Berlin. It was acquired in 1941 for a projected museum in Linz.
The Chess Players. Canvas, 112 x 181.
The chess players, richly dressed in satin robes, turn to face the viewer. In the background, men converse under the portico of a villa, a group of men sit at a card table, and, at the right edge, a group of women sit on the grass. Signed below on the platform. A mature work (early 1550s?). Probably once in the collection of Thomas Howard, Earl of Arundel, whose Venetian pictures were mainly acquired on an Italian journey in 1613-15. By 1786, it was in the Royal Palace in Berlin (with an attribution to Titian).
Biancade (9 km east of Treviso). San Giovanni Battista.
‘Sacra Conversazione’. Canvas.
The picture still stands over the high altar of the parish church. The Virgin is seated on a high throne between St James (leaning on his pilgrim’s staff) and St Liberale (patron of Treviso, who holds a banner and miniature church). At the base of the throne is the child St John with his lamb and prophet’s scroll, while St Peter (with keys) and St Mark (with his Gospel) stand at the sides. A triangular panel of the Eternal Father is in the pediment of the frame. The attribution and dating of the altarpiece has been the subject of much discussion. The commission was initially given to two other painters, Ludovico Fiumicelli and Francesco Beccaruzzi, in an agreement signed on 16 August 1531. Bordone’s picture, undocumented but signed, was probably executed some years later. Restored in 1984.
Birmingham. Barber Institute.
Mythological Scene. Wood, 42 x 96.
A young woman places a wreath on the head of a young man playing a fiddle (viola da gamba). Other young women pick blossom from a tree and gather wild flowers. The subject – if there is one – has not been identified. To judge from its oblong shape, this attractive little painting was probably one of a series of panels, perhaps decorating furniture or panelling. It was once in the collection of Lord Brownlow, at Belton House in Lincolnshire, and later belonged to the historian William Harrison Woodward. Bought by the Barber Institute (from Knoedler's) in 1961 for £2,412.
Birmingham (Alabama). Museum of Art.
Mercury and Minerva arming Perseus. Canvas, 100 x 153.
Perseus, preparing to do battle with the Gorgon Medusa, is given by Mercury the helmet of Hades (to make him invisible) and by Minerva a polished shield (in which Medusa’s petrifying face could be safely mirrored). The picture could date from the 1540s or 1550s. The patron could have been the Marchese d’Astorgo of Milan, who (Vasari says) commissioned from Bordone a number of paintings of Ovid’s fables. The picture is not certainly recorded before the early nineteenth century, when it was owned by the London merchant and art dealer William Solly. From 1868 to 1948 it was in the famous Cook collection at Richmond. Acquired by Samuel H. Kress in 1949 (from Contini Bonacossi), and allotted to the Birmingham museum in 1959.
Boston. Gardner Museum.
Christ Disputing in the Temple. Canvas, 163 x 229.
The twelve-year-old Christ calmly argues from the high throne, surrounded by agitated temple elders, whose books and scrolls litter the floor. His worried parents enter through the doorway on the left. Signed, lower left. The picture could have been painted in the 1530s or 1540s. The composition bears some general resemblance to an early painting of this subject by Tintoretto (Museo del Duomo, Milan). Bought by Mrs Gardner in 1901 (through Berenson) from the art historian Jean Paul Richter.
Boston. Museum of Fine Arts.
Mystic Marriage of St Catherine. Canvas, 196 x 235.
Probably a studio replica or early copy of a painting that has been in the Doria collection at Genoa since the early eighteenth century. The Doria painting, which is not on public view but has been included in several major loan exhibitions, is perhaps the finest of Bordone’s many variations on the theme of the Virgin and Child with saints in a landscape. The Boston version was acquired (as a work of Titian) by Thomas and Cornelius Conway Felton from Domenico Giobbe of Venice in 1882. Bequeathed to the museum by Cornelius Conway Felton’s widow in 1943.
Caen. Musée des Beaux-Arts.
Annunciation. Canvas, 102 x 196.
The odd signature (PARIS.G) and the date (MDCL) inscribed on the step below the Virgin’s feet are restored and unreliable. However, the date 1550 is consistent with the style of the picture. The fantastic architectural setting is almost identical to that in Bordone’s Bathsheba at Baltimore. The painting was discovered in the chapel of the seminary of the Laval Jesuits by Sylvie Béguin, who published it as a work of Bordone (in La Revue de Louvre) and brought it to the attention of the Caen museum, which acquired it in 1967. Its earlier provenance is uncertain, though the picture could well be identical with an ‘Annunciation of the Virgin Mary with rich architecture’ by Bordone listed in an inventory (undated) of the Palazzo Widman at San Canciano, Venice. There is a hasty study for the Virgin in the Louvre.
Marriage of the Virgin. Canvas, 73 x 99.
The elderly Joseph holds the rod that flowered miraculously as a sign that he had been divinely chosen to be the Virgin's husband. The younger suitors holds rods that failed to bloom. Acquired at auction for Euro 55,764 in 2008. The sale catalogue dates it around 1540 and suggests that it could have been painted in France. The Virgin’s pose is rather like that in the Caen Annunciation, while Joseph’s is similar to Christ’s in the London Christ Baptising St John Martyr.
Cambridge (Mass.). Fogg Art Museum.
Adoration of Magi. Canvas, 86 x 101.
Bordone’s only surviving painting of this subject. It is one of his more Mannerist pictures – in which the main scene with the Holy Family is pushed into the background, the foreground figures are drawn with highly contrived poses, and the colour is cool and lurid. Signed on the pillar at the left edge. A work of Bordone’s late maturity (1550s). Recorded in the 1659 inventory of the collection of Archduke Leopold Wilhelm. Rediscovered in a private collection in Vienna and published (by L. Fröliche-Bume) in the 1934 Burlington Magazine. Bequeathed to the museum in 1943 with the vast collection (some 4,000 art objects) amassed by the patrician New York lawyer Greenville Lindall Winthrop.
Chatsworth House (Derbyshire).
Family Group. Canvas, 119 x 150.
This intimate family portrait shows a man, a woman dressed in shimmering red and girl in virginal white (husband, wife and daughter?) exchanging apples. Signed, left, on the edge of the tablecloth. It may date from the late 1540s. As the apple is the attribute of Paris, it has been suggested that the picture could be a self-portrait of the artist and his family. Once in the collection of Charles I, it was sold by the Commonwealth in 1651 and later belonged to Jan Six at Amsterdam (where it was sold in 1702 as ‘Paris Bordone, his wife and daughter’). Acquired by the 6th Duke of Devonshire at the Cholmondeley sale.
Cologne. Wallraf-Richartz Museum.
Bathsheba Bathing. Canvas, 231 x 214.
King David is a tiny figure looking out of the window of a palazzo on the right. The distant horseman at the end of the paved street could be Uriah the Hittite, Bathsheba’s husband. Signed on the plinth of the column on the right. Painted, probably around 1548, for Carlo da Rho of Milan, Lord of Borghetto Lodigliano, who also commissioned the Mars and Venus surprised by Vulcan (now at Berlin) and a portrait of his wife Paola Visconti (which has been identified with a picture at the Palacio Real at Sintra in Portugal). In 1842 the picture was in the vast collection of Cardinal Fesch at Rome, whence it passed to the Deuser collection at Mannheim. Acquired by the Richartz Foundation in 1869.
Columbia (Missouri). Museum of Art and Archaeology.
Hephaestus and Athena (?). Canvas, 139 x 128.
Signed, lower left. While the man, sitting on a smith’s anvil, has been generally identified as Hephaestus (or Vulcan), the woman has been variously called Thetis, Aphrodite and Athena. The most plausible source for the picture is probably a myth recounted by Apollodorus of Athens, according to which Hephaestus, attempting to rape the chaste Athena, ejaculated on her leg. As she fled, his semen fell to the ground, producing Erichthonius, an early King of Athens. The canvas probably dates from around the late 1550s. It may have formed part of a decorative cycle on the walls or ceiling of a palazzo. It once belonged to the painter Lord Leighton. Purchased by Kress in 1937 (from Contini-Bonacossi).
Cracow. National Art Collection (Wawel Castle).
Portrait of Gian Jacopo Caraglio. Canvas, 135 x 103.
Caraglio was a renowned craftsman. Born in Verona around 1505/6, he worked as a young man in Rome as an engraver (collaborating with Rosso Fiorentino and Parmigianino), and then migrated to Venice after the Sack of 1527. By 1539 he was in Poland, where he worked as a goldsmith, gem-cutter and medallist until his death in 1565. He was knighted by Sigismund Augustus II in April 1552, and the portrait was probably painted shortly afterwards, when he made a brief visit to Italy. On the table are tools, rings, precious stones and an ornate golden helmet. The crowned eagle perched on the helmet is an emblem of Poland. It holds in its beak, and gives to Caraglio, a gold chain, on which hangs a medal with the head of the Polish king. Verona’s Arena is in the background, alluding to Caraglio’s birthplace. An inscription gives his age: 47. This fascinating portrait was previously in a British private collection. It was auctioned at Christie’s in 1965 and has been at Cracow since 1972.
Dubrovnik. Rector’s Palace.
Venus and Adonis. Canvas, 136 x 121.
The bow and arrows held by the female provides the only clue to the identity of the mythological lovers, and the current title (used since the seventeenth century) is not certainly correct. (Dido and Aeneas would be another possibility.) One of a group of pictures acquired by the Bishop of Ragusa (Dubrovnik) from Giovanni Alvise Raspi of Venice and his brothers in discharge of a debt. It has been at the Rector’s Palace since 1694. There are other versions in London (in which the female holds reed pipes instead of the bow and arrows) and Vienna (which is oblong in shape). The figures in all three versions are identical in size and were probably made from the same cartoon.
Edinburgh. National Gallery of Scotland.
Women at their Toilet. Canvas, 97 x 141.
The woman in the centre, with open bodice, admires her reflection in the mirror held by the older, dark-skinned woman on the left. She is presumably a courtesan, as is the other young woman, with similarly braided blonde hair, on the right. The signature, bottom left, is incomplete, suggesting that the picture has been trimmed. Probably relatively late. Acquired by the Royal Institution at Edinburgh in 1830 from the Marchesa Pallavicini of Genoa.
Rest on Flight into Egypt. Canvas, 104 x 141.
The two holy children embrace on the left. Joseph waters the donkey in the middle background. The Virgin appears in an identical pose in a painting by Bordone of the Holy Family with St John the Baptist, once in the Orléans collection, that was sold at Christie’s in 2006. The Edinburgh painting may date from the 1540s. It has been in Scotland since 1829, when it was purchased by the Stirling of Keir family from Christie’s for 71 guineas. It hung in Keir House in Perthshire until the death of Colonel W. J. Stirling of Keir in 1993. Accepted by the Exchequer in lieu of inheritance tax and allotted to the National Gallery of Scotland in 1996.
Portrait of a Knight. Canvas, 115 x 91.
The sitter rests his right hand on the table, on which stands his helmet and lance, a crown of carnations, brooches and a ring. Through a window in the top right corner is a view of a Cupid greeting (or delivering a letter to) a woman standing in a loggia at the top of a flight of steps. The portrait may date from the late 1540s or early 1550s. It was one of many Venetian pictures acquired by Cardinal Leopoldo de’ Medici. Transferred to the Uffizi from the Pitti Palace in 1775.
Portrait of a Man with a Fur Collar. Canvas, 107 x 83.
He glances to his left, one hand on his hip and the other resting on the hilt of his sword. His black robe has a wide, waist-length collar of lynx fur. Probably comparatively early (1520s or early 1530s). Also from the collection of Cardinal Leopoldo de’ Medici. At the Uffizi since 1704. The canvas has been widened. Berenson’s attribution (in his 1958 Lists) to Bernardino Licinio failed to attract much subsequent support.
Portrait of a Woman. Canvas, 107 x 83.
The woman, of matronly build, stands three-quarter length within a palace interior, wearing a crimson dress of lustrous stiff satin and a tiara adorned with pearls, holding gloves in her right hand and resting her left hand on a table. The portrait may date from the early 1550s. It is already attributed to Bordone in the 1675 inventory of the collection of Cardinal Leopoldo de’ Medici. Among the works plundered by Napoleon and exhibited in Paris (1799-1815). In the nineteenth century it was called ‘una balia [wet-nurse] di Casa Medici’.
Florence (Settignano). Villa I Tatti. Berenson Collection.
Rest on Flight into Egypt. Canvas, 34 x 88.
Two child-angels offer a basket of flowers to the youthful Virgin and the Child, seated with the elderly Joseph in a wooded landscape. St Eustace in the background. Probably one of the earliest of Bordone’s many paintings of this apocryphal Gospel subject (1520-5). Formerly in the collection of a Mrs Doweswell in London; acquired by Berenson early in the twentieth century. .
Genoa. Palazzo Rosso.
Portrait of a Man with a Letter. Canvas, 110 x 84.
The lady in the background, under a loggia, is presumably receiving or sending the letter that the young man is holding. The picture is documented in the Balbi collection at Genoa in 1658. It has been identified with the portrait of Ottaviano Grimaldi of Genoa that Vasari says was sent from Venice to Genoa together with one of a ‘donna lascivissima’; but this identification seems unlikely as the works in the Balbi collection were purchased in Venice in the early seventeenth century. It is likely to date from the 1540s and to have had a portrait of a lady as a pendant.
Holy Family with St Jerome and St Catherine. Canvas, 193 x 275.
This large canvas appears to combine a Sacra Conversazione with the Rest on the Flight into Egypt. Bedding and the Child's swaddling clothes lie in the bottom right corner. Two boy angels climb an apple tree to collect its fruit for the Holy Family, and Joseph offers an apple to the Child. St Catherine approaches holding a martyr's palm. St Jerome, seated with a human skull beside him, shows the Holy Family his Vulgate Bible. The picture may date from the 1530s or early 1540s. Recorded at the Palazzo Rosso since 1766; its provenance is unknown.
Glasgow. Kelvingrove Museum.
Holy Family with Saints and Donor (no. 570). Wood, 61 x 83.
The two elderly bearded saints are Anthony Abbot, who presents the donor, and Jerome. Signed on the scroll on the right. One of Bordone’s earliest surviving works and generally dated around 1520-23. First recorded in the hands of Paolo del Sera, a Florentine dealer living in Venice. Sold in Florence in 1663-64 with the pictures of Cardinal Carlo de’ Medici. Bequeathed to the museum in 1877 by the widow of the portrait-painter John Graham-Gilbert of Glasgow. Cleaning in 1981-85 revealed that the donor had been painted over another figure.
Holy Family with Saints (no. 191). Wood, 85 x 118.
John the Baptist points towards the lamb and his prophet’s scroll wound round his reed cross. Mary Magdalene sits behind with her jar of ointment. The armoured saint, taking the Child from the Virgin, could be either Liberale (patron of Treviso) or George. Early (about 1525?). Bequeathed in 1854 with the collection of the Glaswegian coach-builder Archibald McLellan. It entered the museum with an attribution to Paris Bordone but was subsequently (1892) catalogued as a work of Bonifazio de’ Pitati. Though almost all writers on Bordone supported the old attribution, the museum retained the attribution to Bonifazio until its 1970 catalogue. X-rays taken during conservation treatment in 2002-3 revealed significant pentimenti, particularly in the poses of the Child and armoured saint.
Göteburg (Sweden). Konstmuseum.
Jupiter and Io. Canvas, 136 x 118.
The subject is from Ovid’s Metamorphoses. Jupiter, having fallen in love with the nymph Io and carried her off to Olympus, covers her with his cloak to try to conceal her from his jealous wife Juno, who rushes to the scene in her chariot. The picture probably dates from towards 1560. Vasari says that a Jove and Io was one of many works painted in France for the Cardinal of Lorraine (either Jean de Lorraine, who died in 1550, or more probably his successor Charles de Guise.). Pellegrino Orlandi, writing in the early eighteenth century, says that Bordone was in France in 1559. In the eighteenth century, the picture was acquired, possibly in Italy, by the Swedish painter and interior designer Louis Masreliez. It later passed into the collection of Contessa Julia von Rosen of Stockholm, which was acquired by the museum in 1922.
Greenville (South Carolina). Bob Jones University.
Christ the Redeemer. Wood, 24 x 20.
This tiny devotional panel was once ascribed to Titian. Previously in the collection of Edwin D. Levinson of Long Island, it was acquired by the museum in 1954 (through Julius Weitzner of New York).
The Hague. Mauritshaus.
Christ Blessing. Canvas, 74 x 64.
Christ’s right hand is raised, two fingers upright, in benediction. Signed, right, on the wall. The picture may date from around 1540. Acquired by William I of Holland in 1831 with the Reghellini collection. There are other pictures by Bordone of this subject at London, Ravenna and Bergamo.
Bathsheba. Canvas, 54 x 66.
Signed and dated 1552 (on the step in the centre). One of three different versions by Bordone of this subject. The others – both much larger – are at Baltimore and Cologne. Possibly the ‘Bathsheba at the Fountain’ recorded in 1766 in the Palazzo Stefano Franzone at Genoa. In the nineteenth century it was in the collection of the Principessa Matilde Bonaparte. Bequeathed to the museum in 1919 by Siegfried Wedells.
London. National Gallery.
Two Lovers. Canvas,139 x 122.
Cupid crowns the lovers, who have sometimes been identified as Daphnis and Chloe (from the third-century Greek pastoral romance by Longus). The female holds reed pipes. In variants (called Venus and Adonis) at Dubrovnik and Vienna she holds a bow and arrows. The National Gallery version was perhaps the last of the three to be painted and might date from the late 1550s. Parts (including the woman’s dress and the foliage and tree trunks) are somewhat worn. One of thirty paintings acquired in 1860 with the Beaucousin collection (where it was called Mars and Venus).
Christ Blessing. Canvas, 91 x 73.
The Latin inscription on the scroll is from John 8:’I am the light of the world’. There are traces of a signature, in tiny letters, on the base of the pillar, top left. The picture may date from around 1550. Presented in about 1829 by the embassy in London of the Kingdom of the Two Sicily to a Dr Henry Greenwood in appreciation of the help he had rendered to an aristocratic Neapolitan lady, whom he had found ill and hungry in a dispensary in Southwark. It was bequeathed to the gallery in 1901 by Dr Greenwood’s daughter. There is another (weaker) version in the Accademia Carrara at Bergamo and variants at Ravenna and The Hague.
Portrait of a Young Woman. Canvas, 100 x 83.
The inscription, with the year ANN. XVIIII, on the base of the column presumably indicates the sitter’s age. The young woman (traditionally called a ‘Lady of the Brignole Family) strikes a bold pose, with one hand on her hip and the other playing nonchalantly with an ornamental gold chain round her waist. Her striking costume, made of crimson silk with crumpled folds and sleeves embroidered with textured bands, was fashionable around the middle and late 1540s. Her sideways look has been taken as evidence that the portrait was paired with another portrait – presumably representing the young woman’s husband, fiancé or lover. (The Portrait of a Man holding a Letter in the Palazzo Rosso at Genoa and the Portrait of a Knight in the Uffizi have been suggested as possible pendants.) Purchased in Naples in 1861 for 1,500 ducats from the Duca di Cardinale (later Duca di Terranuova) and said to have come from Genoa. Restored in 1980 (when later additions of some 10 cm to the height and width of the canvas were removed), and in very good condition.
Christ Baptising St John Martyr. Canvas, 62 x 68.
Almost certainly the painting of ‘St John, Duke of Alexandria, in prison baptised by the Saviour’ noted in 1648 by Carlo Ridolfi in the possession of a nun, Signora Gradenica Gradenico, at the convent of San Daniele, Venice. The church of San Daniele (demolished in 1839) held the relics of St John Martyr, who is said to have been miraculously baptised by Christ in prison. Acquired in Venice by Sir A. H. Layard for 1,000 lire from a ‘Signor Antonio Marcato’ and bequeathed to the National Gallery in 1916. Thinly painted, and darkened by old varnish and discoloured retouchings. Consigned to the reserve collection in the basement galleries.
London. Royal Collection.
Virgin and Child with Donors. Canvas, 82 x 125.
The Christ Child reaches towards a young man, dressed soberly in black with arms crossed on his chest, while the Virgin looks down on the man’s fashionably dressed wife, kneeling devoutly with hands folded in prayer. A landscape with low wooded hills stretches in the left background. The picture – serious, monumental and compact – appears to date from Bordone’s middle period (perhaps late 1530s). Probably a picture (‘Mary & ye Child a signior & lady by them by Tytsian’) valued at £80 by the Commonwealth in 1649. Attributed to Titian in the reign of James II, to Veronese in the reign of Queen Anne, to Giorgione in 1818 and, finally, to Paris Bordone in 1860. Heavy repaint was removed in 1862.
Portrait of a Man with a Wreath. Canvas, 192 x 112.
The young man, presumably a poet, is shown full-length, one hand on his hip and the other holding a laurel wreath. At some later date, he was converted into St Sebastian, with the addition of a halo, palm branch in his left hand and quiver on the floor. Acquired by George III in 1762 with the art and book collection of Joseph Smith, who had been British Consul in Venice in the 1740s and 1750s. For a hundred years it was ascribed to Giorgione on the strength of a false inscription. There were later attributions to the ‘School of Bordone’ (Mary Logan’s 1894 guidebook to the pictures at Hampton Court), Bordone himself (the 1900 Bailo-Biscaro monograph) and simply ‘a North Italian’ (1929 Hampton Court catalogue). For John Shearman (in his 1983 catalogue on the earlier Italian pictures in the Royal Collection), it is an autograph early work of Bordone and ‘one of the most important surviving early full-lengths in Italian art’. However, it remains rather little known.
Bust of a Man in a Cap (Self-Portrait?). Canvas, 52 x 39.
The sitter is youngish, bearded and wears a black cap and coat. His head is turned half to the left but he gazes piercingly at the viewer. Acquired by Charles I, before his accession, from George Geldorp, a Flemish portrait painter working in England. It was described at the time as 'a darke painted mans head in a black Capp and a Cloake without hands or ruff done by Georgzone (ie. Giorgione) said to bee his owne picture'. It has been conjectured that the painting could be a self-portrait of Paris Bordone. While no certain painted likeness of the artist is known, there is a resemblance to Jacopo Piccini's engraved portrait in Ridolfi's La Maravigie dell'Arte (1648).
London. Courtauld Institute.
Rest on Flight into Egypt. Canvas (transferred from panel), 48 x 69.
Damaged and heavily overpainted. Probably an early work of the 1520s. Acquired in very poor condition by Count Antoine Seilern in 1951 from Count Adam Potocki of Cracow, and restored by Sebastian Isepp, the Austrian painter and conservator. Bequeathed to the gallery with the ‘Princes Gate Collection’ in 1978.
Los Angeles. County Museum of Art.
Virgin and Child with St Jerome and St Francis. Wood, 75 x 98.
The Christ Child places a cardinal's hat on the head of the kneeling St Jerome, who reaches forward to take the Child from the Virgin's knee. The saint's crucifix and book are propped on a stone by his knee, and his lion is seen confronting a snake on the hill behind. The stigmata are just visible on the hand, foot and side of St Francis, who uses a small wooden cross to point to the words on the page of his book. Signed, bottom centre. Early work (mid-1520s?). Formerly in the famous collection of Prince Giovanelli, which was housed in his fifteenth-century palazzo (now hotel) on the Grand Canal. Bequeathed to the museum in 1939 with the collection of the wealthy Los Angeles banker and art lover Paul Rodman Mabury.
Lovere. Accademia Tadini.
Virgin and Child with St Christopher and St George. Canvas, 210 x 160.
Two boy-angels hold up a cloth of honour behind the Virgin, who lifts the Christ Child from the shoulders of the muscular St Christopher as the saint emerges from the stream. St George stands nonchalantly on the left. Signed on the cartellino, bottom left. Painted for the church of Sant’Agostino at Crema. According to Vasari, the St George is a portrait of the patron, Giulio Manfron. Manfron, a condottiere in the service of Venice, was killed at Cremona on 15 August 1526, and the altarpiece must have been one of Bordone’s earliest major commissions. It seems to show some influence from Lorenzo Lotto's nearly contemporary altarpieces at Bergamo. After the convent was closed, the picture passed to the hospital at Crema, from which it was bought in 1805 by Conte Luigo Tadini for 364.16 lire milanese.
Madrid. Thyssen-Bornemisza Collection.
Portrait of a Young Woman. Canvas, 101 x 82.
Probably not a portrait from life but rather an idealised beauty: Bordone’s female figures are often of a similar type. The bare arms, as well as the breasts, would have been considered erotic at the time. The monkey, sitting eating fruit on a cornice in the upper left corner and tethered to fine chain held in the woman’s left hand, probably represents lust. The roses, in the bowl and in the woman’s right hand, are a traditional symbol of love. Probably late (1550s?). From the collection of the Earl of Radnor at Longford Castle, Salisbury.
Baptism of Christ. Canvas, 175 x 202.
This fine painting, with monumental nude figures and a marvellous nocturnal landscape, was probably painted in Milan around 1550. (It may well be the ‘St John the Baptist of large dimensions’ recorded in the 1553 post-mortem inventory of Bordone’s Milanese patron Carlo da Rho.) The small figures on the left (particularly the man removing his trousers) may have been suggested by the bathers in Michelangelo’s Battle of Cascina cartoon (which Bordone could have known from a print). In another, probably earlier, version by Bordone of this subject at Washington these figures are replaced by an angel. Bequeathed, as a work of Bordone, in 1650 by Cardinal Cesare Monti to the Archbishop’s residence at Milan. At the Brera since 1811.
Two Lovers. Canvas, 95 x 80.
The subject is often construed as a seduction, the man tempting the woman with the offer of a gold chain. A very different interpretation is that the 'lovers' are newlyweds: the groom is helping his bride display her betrothal gifts and the man in the background is the witness or ring bearer (compare dell'anello). An early work (mid-1520s?), showing strongly the influence of Titian. (The female is similar in pose to Titian’s Woman at the Mirror in the Louvre, while the group composition is very like that of the Love Scene, possibly a copy of a lost Titian, in the Casa Buonarotti at Florence.) Acquired in 1890 from the Pinetti family of Milan. Well preserved, with the colours still fresh.
Pentecost. Canvas, 305 x 220.
The Holy Spirit is represented by a flash of light above the head of the Virgin, who is seated under a grand classical arch. The twelve Apostles surrounding her seem frozen in attitudes of piety or surprise. An altarpiece from the little church of Santo Spirito at Crema, where it was described as a work of Bordone by Marcantonio Michiel (before 1543). (Vasari also mentions the picture, but mistakenly says it was in Sant’Agostino at Crema.) An early work, probably contemporary with the Pala Manfron at Lovere, which also came from Crema. The un-Venetian clarity of detail and the static figure poses seem to show the influence of Moretto's works at nearby Brescia. At the Brera since 1808. The canvas still shows the outline where it was fitted into a new altar in the church.
Virgin presenting St Dominic to Christ. Wood, 148 x 106.
According to the Golden Legend, St Dominic had a vision in which he saw Christ in the sky with three spears to punish humanity for the sins of pride, lust and greed. The Virgin interceded on mankind’s behalf, introducing Dominic as a ‘true servant and noble fighter against the vices’. Signed, left, on a ribbon wrapped round the tree trunk. From the Dominican convent of San Paolo in Treviso. It hung opposite Lorenzo Lotto’s Pietà of 1545, which is also now in the Brera. Bordone’s picture is later (the artist is documented as working in the convent in 1557-58), and is mentioned both by Vasari (who says it is a fresco) and Ridolfi. At the Brera since 1810, when San Paolo was closed.
Holy Family with St Ambrose and a Donor. Canvas, 93 x 130.
St Ambrose, presenting the donor to the Holy Family, is sumptuously attired as Bishop of Milan and holds a whip. Early (mid-1520s?). Included (already attributed to Bordone) in Cardinal Cesare Monti’s bequest in 1650 to the Archbishop’s Palace in Milan. At the Brera since 1895. A horizontal crack runs through the central join in the panel, but the picture is otherwise is good condition.
‘Sacra Conversazione’. Canvas, 100 x 152.
The Virgin gives the Cardinal’s hat to the kneeling St Jerome. St Catherine of Alexandria is at the left edge with her wheel and martyr’s palm and St Anthony Abbot at the right edge with his crutch. The female saint towards the centre, gazing adoringly at the Christ Child, has no identifying attributes. A relatively late, rather dark work. It is in poor condition, and was heavily restored early in the nineteenth century and treated again (by the famous Milanese restorer Luigi Cavenaghi) in 1897. The 1809 Brera inventory gives the provenance simply as ‘Cremonese’.
Milan. Santa Maria presso Celso (or Santa Maria dei Miracoli).
Holy Family with St Jerome. Wood, 351 x 191.
The Christ Child places the cardinal’s hat on the head of the kneeling Jerome. Angels in the clouds play an organ, viola da braccio, lute and cornet. The Eternal Father is in the lunette (93 x 187) and a single long scene of St Roch awakened by the Angel is in the predella (28 x 193). This fine altarpiece was commissioned by the Milanese nobleman Carlo da Rho and is still in situ in his chapel, originally dedicated to St Jerome, at the end of the right aisle. Carlo da Rho financed the construction of the chapel and also the small south tower of the church. His coat-of-arms and those of the Stanga family are shown at the ends of the predella. The altarpiece has been dated about 1542 (on the evidence of a payment made that year for work on the chapel) or about 1548-50 (when Bordone is thought to have been in Milan working for Carlo da Rho).
Moscow. Pushkin Museum.
The Sibyl appearing to Augustus. Canvas, 173 x 215.
In the middle of the narrow street, the Emperor Augustus and the Tiburtine Sibyl point to a vision of the Madonna and Child in the clouds. The street is lined with magnificent buildings, several of which appear to be based on Serlio’s architectural drawings. The picture is recorded as a work of Paris Bordone in 1661 in the collection of Cardinal Mazzarin in Paris. It came into the Duke of Marlborough’s possession at the end of the seventeenth century, and was given by the Duke’s brother, Charles Churchill, to Robert Walpole. At Houghton Hall it was attributed to Giulio Romano. Sold with the Walpole collection to Catherine the Great in 1779. At the Hermitage it was attributed to Giulio Romano and then Baldassare Peruzzi. It had left the Hermitage by 1915, and in the 1950s entered the collection of Sergey Obraztsov of Moscow, where it was discovered by Tamara Fomichova, who ‘published’ it as a work of Paris Bordone in the March 1971 Burlington Magazine. Acquired by the Pushkin Museum in 1983. Fomichova dated it around 1535 on the grounds of stylistic similarities with the famous Fisherman’s Ring in the Venice Accademia. Among subsequent writers, Canova (1987) suggested that it was painted in Augsburg in 1539-40 and Béguin (1987) that it was painted in France around 1559. The picture may have influenced Antoine Caron, the French painter of the School of Fontainebleau, whose own version of Augustus and the Sibyl is in the Louvre.
Madonna and Child with St John the Baptist and St George. Canvas (transferred from panel), 90 x 120.
There are close similarities with Bordone’s early Madonna and Child with St John the Baptist, St Mary Magdalene and St Liberale (or George) at Glasgow. The Moscow painting appears somewhat later, dating from the 1530s or 1540s. Until 1918 it was in the Duke of Leuchtenberg’s collection at Munich and St Petersburg. Once ascribed to Titian, it was recognised as a work of Paris Bordone in 1864 (by Waagen).
Munich. Alte Pinakothek.
Portrait of a Jeweller. Canvas, 99 x 81.
The man points to jewellery arrayed on a table, while a woman appears on his left, facing him in profile. The picture has been called The Seduction but is probably simply a portrait of a jeweller and his wife. Recorded in the 1618 inventory of the Herzoglichen Kunsthammer as a pendant to Titian’s Vanitas. Attributed to Salviati in a 1748 inventory and to Titian in 1761 and 1836. First catalogued as a work of Bordone (following Crowe and Cavalcaselle) in 1884. Probably comparatively early (around 1525-30). It has been cut down: an engraving of 1884 shows a curtain and pillar on the right.
Portrait of a Young Woman (no. 12.502). Canvas, 104 x 83.
She is posed, one hand on her hip and the other holding a plumed fan, in front of a curved recess containing a classical monument with a sculptured bust in a niche. Her dress is of red velvet, with puffed shelves decorated with slashes, and her hair, piled up and adorned with pearls, is let down in long plaits at the front and back. Signed, bottom right. Like a number of other Belle Donne painted by Titian, Palma Vecchio and Bordone, she has been called ‘Violante’ – the beautiful (and possibly fictional) daughter of Palma Vecchio and lover of Titian. Little appears to be known of the provenance of the picture, which was owned by New York dealers in 1938 and was salvaged after the War from the Alt Ausse salt mine. There are several copies and variants. One of these is also owned by the Munich gallery (no. 529), having been acquired in 1818 by Duke Maximilian of Bavaria. There is also a variant in the Musei Mazzucchelli (Pinacoteca Giuseppe Alessandra) at Brescia.
Portrait of a Bearded Man. Canvas, 78 x 66.
The man, with a very full and bushy beard, stands behind a stone parapet, his hand on a small book. Dated 1523 in large letters on the parapet. The portrait was in the Van Veerle collection in Antwerp in 1649, when it was engraved by Wenceslaus Hollar as a work of Titian. It was in Munich by 1761, and was engraved again around 1823 as a portrait by Titian of Binto Altoviti. The attribution to Paris Bordone was made in 1877-78 by Crowe and Cavalcaselle and has been generally accepted since the early twentieth century. The portrait is the earliest work attributed to Bordone that can be precisely dated. Despite much discussion, the sitter has not been convincingly identified.
New York. Metropolitan Museum.
Man in Armour with Two Pages. Canvas, 117 x 158.
The unidentified middle-aged man, with greying hair and beard, wears a splendid suit of black armour and is clearly an officer of high rank. The page on the left fastens the plate of armour on his right arm and the black page on the right holds his helmet. A castle appears above the trees on the left and a troop of foot soldiers is massed in the right distance. Signed, lower centre, on the ribbon. This imposing portrait may date from around 1550. It was among the pictures acquired by Cardinal Leopoldo de’ Medici in 1654 from Paolo del Sera, a Florentine dealer living in Florence. It then disappears from view for three hundred years, resurfacing in 1866 in the collection of Baron Somers at Eastnor Castle in Herefordshire. It was later (1932-65) in the collection of the Earl of Harewood, and was given to the Metropolitan Museum in 1973 by Mr and Mrs Charles Wrightsman of New York.
Narcissus(?). Canvas, 58 x 41.
A naked youth, tentatively identified as Narcissus, dries himself at an elaborate fountain and seems to look at his own reflection in the water. There is a similar fountain in Bordone’s Bathsheba, dated 1552, at Hamburg. Accepted by the Exchequer in lieu of tax in 2008-9 and assigned temporarily to the Ashmolean.
Padua. Museo Civico.
Christ Taking Leave of His Mother. Canvas, 182 x 99.
Christ looks at the Virgin, who stands beside him with her hands clasped. Late; not well preserved, but probably never one of Bordone’s better pictures. There is an earlier, smaller (and better) version – with figures half-length rather than three-quarter length – at Philadelphia. Bequeathed to the museum in 1864 with the collection of Conte Emo Capodilista.
Portrait of Hieronymous Kraffter (or Thomas Stachel). Canvas, 107 x 86.
There is some uncertainty over the sitter’s identity. He was previously assumed to be Hieronymous Kraffter (‘Jeronimo Crofft’), whose name is given in the inscription on the letter. However, it has been recently suggested (by Andrew J. Martin in the catalogue of the 1999 exhibition Renaissance Venice and the North at the Palazzo Gritti) that the sitter is more likely to be Thomas Stachel (or Stahel), whose initials and family crest are shown on the pillar. The age of the sitter (27) and the date of the painting (1540) are given in another inscription at the top of the pillar. Both Kraffter and Stachel were merchants from Augsburg in Bavaria; it is often assumed that the portrait, one of Bordone’s finest, was painted during the artist’s visit to the city, but that need not be so. Recorded in 1683 in Louis XIV’s collection. X-rays have revealed under the portrait a sketch by Bordone for a picture of Christ similar to that at Ravenna.
Two Lovers. Canvas, 130 x 124.
The amorous couple have been called Daphnis and Chloe, but many other subjects are possible (including Vertumnus and Pomona, Angelique and Medor and Venus and Anchises). A late work. The canvas, originally rectangular, has been transformed into an oval. It was in France by 1672, when it is recorded in the collection of Marie Particelli d’Hémery. Seized during the French Revolution from the collection of the Duc de Penthièvre.
Portrait of a Woman. Canvas, 105 x 85.
The woman, sometimes called Flora, sits, with breasts and arms bare, in a niche with a basket of roses on a ledge to her right and roses in her hand. Signed, bottom left. Donated to the Louvre in 1902 with the collection of Louis-Alfred Caroillon (Comte de Vandeul).
Philadelphia. Museum of Art.
Saint Jerome in a Landscape. Canvas, 70 x 87.
The saint, a relatively small figure in the bottom right corner, turns from his book in a slightly awkward, twisting pose to look at his lion clambering up a cliff. The major part of the composition is the picturesque landscape. The curious scene in the middle distance of a man fleeing from a winged monster emerging from the river has not been explained. An early work (early 1520s?). Formerly in the Duke of Leuchtenberg’s collection at Munich and St Petersburg. Acquired by Johnson in 1905.
Christ Taking Leave of His Mother. Canvas (transferred from panel), 83 x 73.
Signed, bottom left, with Bordone’s initials. Also from the Leuchtenberg collection. It is very probably a painting (‘the beautiful composition of the Redeemer of the world and his very holy mother meeting’) recorded in 1660 by Boschini in the Casa Crivelli at Venice. Probably comparatively early (about 1530?). There is a larger and later variant, with three-quarter length figures, at Padua.
Pialdier (Commune of Trichiana, near Belluno). Santa Croce (or Sant’Elena).
The damaged wall paintings, in the side chapel on the right, are remains of a fresco decoration that may originally have extended to the whole interior of the little church. On one wall is a fresco of the Virgin and Child between St Felice and St Helena. The Four Doctors of the Church are shown in the triangles of the vault. Standing figures of St Roch and St Sebastian are frescoed on either side of one window and St James and St John the Baptist on either side of the other window. There appear to be no early references to the frescoes, which were ‘published’ only in 1985 (by Egida Coda in Arte Veneta). They may date from around 1540. Restoration removed an obscuring layer of dirt.
Prague. Castle Gallery.
Portrait of a Musician. Canvas, 83 x 76.
From the Duke of Buckingham’s collection, where it was described in 1635 as a work of Bassano and in 1648 as a work of Palma Vecchio. At Prague, it was ascribed in 1718 and 1737 to Titian’s school. The attribution to Bordone was made by Gustavo Frizzoni and published in Bailo and Biscaro’s 1900 monograph on the artist. Probably one of his earliest portraits (early 1520s?). There is a suggestion of Lotto in the sensitive portrayal of inner anxiety.
Raleigh (North Carolina). Museum of Art.
Knight in Armour. Canvas, 91 x 76.
The tournament favour (the ribbon worn to pledge loyalty to a lady) is inscribed with fragments of verse. Recorded in 1838 in the possession of Sir Abraham Hume as a work of Pordenone, and later in the collection of Earl Brownlow at Weybridge-on-Thames. Acquired by the museum in 1933 from Anderson Galleries of New York.
Ravenna. Accademia di Belle Arti.
The Redeemer. Canvas, 85 x 57.
Christ holds in his left hand a scroll with a Latin inscription from John 8: ‘I am the light of the world’. A variant (with the right hand lowered rather than raised in blessing) of the painting in the National Gallery, London. It once belonged to the Venetian merchant Andrea Cornaro. It passed in 1766 to the Camaldolese monks of Sant’Apollinare in Classe and then, after their monastery was closed in 1797, to the Rasi family of Ravenna. Bequeathed to the Accademia in 1922 by the widow of the engineer Claudio Rasi.
Rennes. Musée des Beaux-Arts.
Saint John the Baptist crowning the Lamb with Flowers. Wood, 75 x 61.
Discovered only comparatively recently and acquired by the museum in 1995. The museum already possessed a preparatory study for the painting. The subject is unusual. Representations of the Baptist with the lamb are frequently included in horizontal Sacre Conversazioni, and it is possible that the idea originated with such a picture.
Rome. Vatican Pinacoteca.
Saint George and the Dragon. Wood, 290 x 189.
The high altarpiece of the church of San Giorgio at Noale (near Treviso). The church’s Franciscan convent is represented in the background. Early (about 1525). The picture remained in situ until 1769, when the convent was closed. After its acquisition by the papacy in 1789, it hung for a time in the Palazzo del Quirinale and then in the Ante-Chamber of the Pope’s Apartments. It was described by Ridolfi (1648) as a work of Pordenone, whose false abbreviated signature is on the cartellino to the left. This attribution was accepted by Crowe and Cavalcaselle (A History of Painting in North Italy (1871)), and the picture was not recognised as a work of Bordone until 1896 (by Adolfo Venturi).
Rome. Galleria Borghese.
Sleeping Venus with Satyr and Cupid. Canvas, 122 x 148.
Cupid pulls back the sheet to reveal the sleeping nude, and a satyr hovers menacingly over her exposed body. The subject has sometimes been interpreted as ‘Jupiter and Antiope’. There is another version, without the satyr, at the Ca d’Oro, Venice. Comparatively late. Recorded in the Borghese collection, as a work of Bordone, since 1650.
Rome. Galleria Pamphilj.
Venus, Mars and Cupid. Canvas, 118 x 151.
Venus leans on a tree trunk, holding an apple and resting her other hand on Mars’ helmet. Cupid, seated on Mars’ cuirass, reaches for another apple, which Mars is plucking from the tree. The stag, reclining in the meadow in the left, was an emblem of the French royal family and it is possible that the picture was painted in France. Signed on the tree trunk. Probably comparatively late (about 1550-60). Recorded in the collection since 1649-52. Exceptionally well preserved. Censorious repaint, raising the neckline of Venus’s gown, was removed in a 1984 restoration. There is another version in the Hermitage at St Petersburg.
Rome. Galleria Colonna.
Holy Family with SS. Mary Magdalene, Jerome and Sebastian and a Donor. Canvas, 185 x 236.
The figure of St Sebastian is repeated from the altarpiece at Berlin. Mary Magdalene holds her jar of ointment. St Jerome's crucifix and cardinal's hat are propped on a stone in the foreground. The Virgin, vividly dressed in a purplish red mantle and indigo blue cowl, holds up a piece of fruit. A picturesque landscape of trees and low hills stretches to a distant range of blue mountains. Bordone’s faint signature was discovered on the tree trunk during cleaning in the 1990s. Perhaps the ‘picture with several saints in a landscape among which is a St Sebastian’ described by Ridolfi (1648) in the possession of the painter Michele Pietra.
St Petersburg. Hermitage.
Venus, Flora, Cupid and Mars. Canvas, 108 x 129.
Cupid, hovering overhead, crowns Venus and showers Flora with roses, while the two goddesses exchange flowers. Mars, holding a battleaxe, is almost hidden in the right background. Signed, lower left. The picture could date from the 1540s or 1550s. It was acquired by Catherine the Great in 1779 with the Walpole collection from Houghton Hall.
Holy Family with St Catherine. Canvas (transferred from panel in 1869), 69 x 89.
St Joseph, shown as unusually young and virile, takes the Child from the Virgin; she leans towards St Catherine, who holds a ring as token of her mystic marriage. An early work (1520-25). The warm colouring, the ample female forms, the dialogue between the figures, and the landscape setting are all reminiscent of Titian’s early Sacre Conversazioni. Acquired by Catherine the Great in 1772 with the Crozat collection.
Portrait of a Woman with a Child. Canvas, 97 x 77.
The sitter was once supposed to be Isabella d’Este, presumably because she wears a large turban-like hat (balzo) of the type worn by the Duchess of Mantua. Her costume would have been fashionable in Northern Italy around the 1530s. The portrait was acquired by the Hermitage in the late eighteenth century as a work of Giorgione. The attribution to Bordone was made in 1864 (by Waagen) and has usually been accepted, though the 1958 Hermitage catalogue (following Fiocco) proposed Callisto Piazza da Lodi.
São Paulo. Museu de Arte.
Portrait of a Man (Alvise Contarini?). Canvas, 94 x 70.
The man, full-bearded and wearing a black robe trimmed with fur, poses in front of a curved niche. With a gloved hand he touches a little gold and enamel pot on a marble ledge on the right. The portrait is said to come from the Palazzo Contarini at Venice. It was long supposed to be a work of Titian: it was described as such in 1829 (by Sir Abraham Hume in his Life and Works of Titian) and still had this attribution when acquired by the São Paulo museum from Wildenstein & Co. The attribution to Paris Bordone was made in 1959 by the museum’s curator (Pietro Maria Bardi). The identification of the sitter with Alvise Contarini (proposed in 1994 in an unpublished letter by Eleonora Fatigati) is based on comparisons with a marble bust and with a portrait in Tintoretto’s altarpiece of the Resurrection of St Agnes in the church of the Madonna dell’Orto at Venice.
Sibiu (Romania). Muzeul Brukenthal.
Holy Family with St John the Baptist. Canvas, 63 x 104.
A late work (dated 1555-65 in Canova’s monograph). The composition largely repeats (in reverse) that of an earlier painting by Bordone, once in the Orléans collection, that was sold at Christie’s in 2006. The Sibiu painting was in the collection of Archduke Leopold Wilhelm at Brussels, where it was engraved for Teniers’ Theatrum Pictorium (1656-60). It was probably acquired by Samuel von Brukenthal, Habsburg Chancellor and later Governor of Transylvania, at Vienna in the 1760s.
Siena. Pinacoteca Nazionale.
Annunciation. Canvas, 99 x 134.
The unusual composition – the Virgin kneeling in the foreground and the angel appearing behind her – seems to be derived (in reverse) from Titian’s Annunciation in the Cathedral at Treviso. In the background, a splendid Renaissance loggia, with a view of the snow-capped Dolomites through the arches. Signed on the base of the first column on the left. A mature work, perhaps quite close in date to Bordone’s larger Annunciation (of 1550?) at Caen. From the Spannocchi collection, which was given to the city of Siena in 1834. (Most of the collection was apparently looted by Enea Silvio Piccolomini during the Sack of Mantua in 1630.)
‘Sacra Conversazione’. Wood, 55 x 82.
The young donor is introduced to the Virgin and Child by St Homobonus (Omobono); the saint, patron of tailors and cloth-workers, holds a pair of shears. An early work (1520s), formerly ascribed to Palma Vecchio. Also from the Spannocchi collection.
Resurrection. Wood, 224 x 144.
Signed on the sarcophagus. Commissioned by the lawyer Alvise Campagnari, called Il Noalese, for the Franciscan convent church of Santa Chiara on Murano. It was the altarpiece of the chapel to the right of the choir. It may date from the middle or late 1540s – a little later than Titian’s Resurrection of 1542-44 at Urbino. The convent of Santa Chiara was shut in 1810 (and is now a store for the glass museum). By 1831 the picture had entered the Galleria Barbini-Breganze, which was acquired by William I of Württemberg in 1852.
Taibon Agordino (25 km northeast of Belluno). SS. Cornelio e Cipriano.
Madonna and Child with Saints. Canvas, 225 x 151.
St Cyprian and St Catherine of Alexandria on the left. The two saints on the right – Cornelius and Elizabeth of Hungary – have been almost completed effaced. Signed on the step of the throne, which also shows the arms of the Salce family. The picture was probably commissioned for the high altar of the church by Agostino Salce, who was Archdeacon at Agordino until 1546. In July 1944, shortly after it had been moved to a new church, the picture was stolen. It was discovered, two months later, crammed into a zinc pipe and gravely damaged. During restoration work on the church during the 1990s, the remains of a large fresco of the Last Supper were discovered.
Toronto. Art Gallery.
Portrait of a Young Man. Canvas, 81 x 66.
He wears a large cap with an ornate badge and has a fur cape over his shoulders. Seen from the side, he turns to face the viewer with a thoughtful, questioning expression, pointing mysteriously at something out of the picture to his right. Early (mid-1520s?). The sitter bears a distant resemblance to the man in the Brera Two Lovers. Acquired by the museum in 1927.
Treviso. Museo Civico.
Paradise. Canvas, 333 x 166.
At the top of the picture, the Coronation of the Virgin is shown in the centre with prophets at the sides (including John the Baptist on the left). There is then a semi-circle of evangelists and apostles and, below them, a semi-circle of martyr saints (including Ursula and Lawrence). On the ground is a host of other saints (including Benedict and Scholastica in the centre and the giant Christopher lying on the ground holding a palm tree). Signed on the trunk of the tree. Painted for the high altar of the church of the Ognissanti (All Saints) at Treviso. A late work, characterised by diminutive figures with Mannerist distortions. A document of 14 August 1561 refers to the completion of the altar of the church. Taken in 1812 to the Venice Accademia. On long-term loan.
Resurrection. Canvas, 80 x 88.
Another late work from the convent church of the Ognissanti, where (according to Ridolfi) Bordone’s daughter had taken her vows. It was one of two smaller paintings that hung either side of the Paradise. Bequeathed to the museum in 1939 by Giuseppe Mandruzzata.
Three Saints. Canvas, 202 x 121.
The Bishop saint on the pedestal is identified by the (doubtful) inscription as St Anthony. The Dominican saint on the left could be Vincent Ferrer (Ridolfi) or Dominic (Boschini). According to the inscription, the saint on the right is Blaise. From the church of Santa Maria Celestia. A very late work, it hung in a chapel, to the right of the high altar, dedicated to St Anthony of Padua. After the church was closed in 1810, it was placed in the Palazzo Reale. Taken to Vienna in 1838 and returned in 1919. Another work on loan from the Accademia.
Madonna and Child with SS. John the Baptist and Jerome. Canvas, 280 x 167. Painted for the high altar of the convent church of San Girolamo at Treviso. Comparatively late (1555-60). The convent, occupied originally by the Gesuati and later by Carmelites, was closed in 1867 and the picture then passed to the Commune of Treviso. The inscription on the base of the throne gives the artist as a ‘Vincenzo Vicentino’, but the attribution to Bordone (who Vasari says painted an altarpiece for San Girolamo) is generally accepted. A mature work (about 1555-60).
Holy Family. Wood, 91 x 111.
Early. On loan from the public hospital at Treviso.
Portrait of a Man. Canvas, 92 x 71.
The picture has been thought to be a self-portrait, the apple held by the sitter supposedly alluding to the artist’s name. There are no authenticated likenesses of Bordone for comparison. (Piccini’s engraving in Ridolfi’s La Maraviglie dell’Arte is posthumous.) Acquired by the museum in 1900 to mark Bordone’s four-hundredth anniversary. Canova (1964) called the portrait ‘very ruined’ (perhaps an exaggeration) and questioned whether it was the original.
Adoration of the Shepherds. Canvas, 333 x 182.
This tall altarpiece was painted for the chapel of Alvise di Rover in the church of San Francesco at Treviso. Two shepherds are said to be portraits of Alvise and his wife Aurelia Pola. A late work. (Ridolfi says it was painted in 1569, but this is impossible as the picture is mentioned by Vasari, who collected his material on Bordone in 1566.) The church of San Francesco was closed in 1806. The picture now hangs in the vestibule of the Malchiostro Chapel at the end of the right aisle.
‘Pala di San Lorenzo’. Canvas, 278 x 182.
St Lawrence, dressed as a deacon and leaning on his gridiron, stands on a high pedestal under the arches of a classical loggia. A boy angel descends from heaven with a wreath and martyr's palm. St Jerome and St Peter (left) and St John the Baptist and St Sebastian (right) stand at the sides, and two boy angels kneel in prayer in the bottom corners. A late work, signed and dated 1562. From the church of San Lorenzo at Treviso.
The Sacred Mysteries. Canvas, 86 x 130.
There are half-dozen small Gospel scenes: the Annunciation on the left; Nativity in the centre; Resurrection on the right; Lamentation in the background; the Assumption of the Virgin above; and the Ascension of Christ on the hill in the right distance. Painted in 1550-51 for the Canon of Treviso, Andrea Salomon. It originally hung against a pillar in the nave, above an altar dedicated to the Innocenti. It is now in the sacristy.
Turin. Galleria Sabauda.
Portrait of a Courtesan. Canvas, 118 x 91.
The characteristically voluptuous young woman is shown, breasts exposed, against an architectural niche, holding a basket of cherries on her lap. A glass vase on the left contains a red and a white carnation. A squirrel on a chain is perched on a ledge in the top right corner. A variant of the Flora in the Louvre. Rather coarsely executed, it was called a copy by Canova (1964) and was subsequently catalogued as such by the museum. Acquired by the King of Sardinia in 1824 with the collection of Marchese Durazzo of Genoa.
Valdobbiadene (37 km northwest of Treviso). Santa Maria Assunta.
Madonna and Child with St Sebastian and St Roch. Canvas, 225 x 140.
Much restored and never, perhaps, one of Bordone’s more successful pictures. Mentioned by Ridolfi (1648).
Vallada Agordina (Belluno). San Simon.
Bordone’s extensive fresco cycle originally covered the apse of the church. When the apse was remodelled in 1773, sections were removed and now hang on the walls. The scenes include: the Nativity and Adoration of the Shepherds; Last Supper; St Simon and St Thaddeus being brought to Martyrdom and the Martyrdom of St Simon; and St George and the Dragon. There are also figures of the Eternal Father, Michael the Archangel and half-dozen saints (Barbara, Bartholomew, Cyprian, Roch, Anthony Abbot, Augustine or Martin). The frescoes, which seem to show the influence of Leonardo and the Milanese School, could date from the 1530s or 1540s. They were ignored by Vasari and Ridolfi, but are described in local sources as works of Bordone from the early seventeenth century. With the church in such an isolated position on Monte Celentone, they attracted little attention until the twentieth century. They were damaged by repainting, and suffered neglect until a restoration in 1951. There was another thorough restoration in 2007. The frescoes have lost the final paint layers that were applied a secco.
The Fisherman giving the Ring to the Doge. Canvas, 370 x 300.
The picture illustrates the romantic legend, according to which Venice was saved from a tempest on 25 February 1340 by the divine intervention of St Mark, St George and St Nicholas, who had been ferried to the lagoon by a humble fisherman. The three saints gave the fisherman a ring, which he presented to Doge Bartolomeo Gradenigo. The picture depicts the reigning doge, Andrea Gritti, rather than the historical one. It also clearly includes many other portraits among the senators, procurators and onlookers. Signed on the pillar on the right. The huge canvas was painted for the Sala dell’Albergo of the Scuola Grande di San Marco (now the civic hospital of Venice). The Scuola decided on 19 January 1534 to commission ‘one or two canvases’ to complete the decoration of the Sala dell’Albergo. Bordone faced competition from Pordenone and Lotto, and nepotism may have helped him win the commission. (Zuan Alvise Bonrizzo, Guardian of the Scuola, was Bordone’s wife’s uncle.) The painting is described in November 1534 as nearing completion. It was hung in the centre of the north wall of the Sala dell’Albergo, between Giovanni Mansuetti’s St Mark Healing Anianus and the Storm (began by Palma Vecchio and, after his death in 1528, completed by Bordone). The spectacular High-Renaissance architectural setting – an ideal view of the renovation of the Doge’s Palace planned by Doge Gritti – must have been inspired by unpublished architectural drawings, as nothing in this new style had yet been built in Venice. Vasari lauds the picture as ‘the most beautiful, the most remarkable and the most worthy of praise that Paris ever painted’, and it has remained the artist’s most famous work. It was taken to Paris in 1797 and entered the Accademia on its return to Venice in 1815. There is a fine eighteenth-century copy by Gian Antonio Guardi in the Correr Museum.
Putti with Garlands. Wood, 52 x 101.
Probably part of the decoration of a ceiling. It entered the Accademia in 1816 with an attribution to Pordenone. Recognised as a work of Bordone in 1871 by Crowe and Cavalcaselle. It has been on loan to the Ca’ d’Oro.
Venice. Doge’s Palace.
Dead Christ. Canvas, 80 x 225.
The dead Christ, lying on the lid of his sarcophagus, is mourned by two angels, one at his head and the other at his feet. The picture, which was previously in the chapel of the Doge’s Palace, now hangs in the Sala Correr. It has been mistakenly identified with a picture painted in 1553-54 for the Sala del Consiglio dei Dieci, whereas it was in fact given to the Venetian Republic in 1709 by Antonio Biondini. Poussin used Christ’s pose for his Narcissus Lamented by Echo and Eros (1628) in the Louvre.
Venice. Museo del Settecento (Ca’ Rezzonico).
Prophets Daniel and Habakkuk with St Andrew. Canvas, 141 x 111.
Habakkuk, transported by an angel, brings food to Daniel in the lions’ den. St Andrew stands on the left with his cross. From the Venetian church of Santa Marina, where it hung over the altar of the Dolfin family. A mature work (about 1550?). After the church was closed in 1810, the picture passed into private hands. It entered the museum in 2001 with the collection of the Venetian restorer, painter and art critic Egidio Martini.
Venice. Ca d’Oro. Galleria Franchetti.
Sleeping Venus and Cupid. Canvas, 86 x 137.
Cupid draws back the sheet to reveal the sleeping goddess. Signed on the right. In another version, at the Borghese Gallery, a satyr is included. The Cupid appears to be based on a fragment of the Throne of Saturn – an antique marble that was in the collection of Vincenzo Grimani in the sixteenth century and is now in the Archaeological Museum at Venice. Acquired by Baron Franchetti from the Cervieri brothers of Milan.
Venice. San Giobbe.
St Peter, St Andrew and St Nicholas. Wood, 245 x 165.
This picture, described as a ‘most beautiful altarpiece’ by Vasari, is still in situ over the last altar on the right side of the church. The altar belonged to the Scuola dei Barcaioli (Guild of Boatmen and Gondoliers), and the three saints are the patrons of seafarers. Signed on a cartellino. A comparatively late work. It may have been commissioned around 1554, when the Scuola moved their altar from another part of the church. The current altar dates from 1585.
Venice. San Giovanni in Bragora.
Last Supper. Canvas, 175 x 240.
Signed, bottom left. A rather dark, very late work – possibly after 1566, as it is not mentioned by Vasari.
Victoria. National Gallery.
Rest on Flight into Egypt with St Catherine and Angels. Canvas, 155 x 236.
Small angels pick oranges from the tree on the right. Another angel collects water in an ewer from the fountain of life. St Catherine, seated on the left with a book, is given a ring by the Christ Child as token of her mystic marriage. One of the largest of Bordone’s many Sacre Conversazioni. It may date from the late 1520s. Acquired at a London sale by Lord Northwick in 1833. Throughout the nineteenth century it was ascribed to Giorgione. The attribution to Bordone was made in 1900 by Bailo and Biscaro, who published the first serious monograph on the artist. The picture remained at Northwick Park until the death of Captain Edward George Spencer-Churchill in 1964. Bought by the Victoria Gallery in 2006 for $3.8 million from Galerie Canesso of Paris. It is the National Gallery’s most expensive painting.
Vienna. Kunsthistorisches Museum.
Allegory. Canvas, 112 x 175.
A winged spirit (Victory?) crowns Mars and Venus with myrtle. Venus plucks a lemon from a tree, while Cupid tips roses into her lap.
Allegory. Canvas, 110 x 176.
Mars (possibly a portrait) takes the bow and arrow from Cupid. Venus, décolleté, leans against a tree with her elbow on his helmet. The woman standing on the right, dressed in green and usually identified as Flora, takes sprigs of myrtle from a pot. The two Vienna Allegories are mature works, probably painted in the 1540s or 1550s. Both are said to have an Augsburg provenance dating back to 1643, and it is possible that they were painted there, as part of a series of pictures for some Bavarian palace.
Battle of the Gladiators. Canvas, 218 x 329.
The gladiators are not fighting in an arena but in the wide boulevard of an imaginary city. On either side are famous Roman monuments, including the Septizonium, the Pantheon and Trajan’s Column (on the right) and the Hadrianeum and Colosseum (on the left). A late work, generally dated about 1560. It has sometimes been identified with a painting mentioned by Vasari as painted by Bordone for the undocumented Pinieri family of Augsburg (‘a large picture in which he placed the five orders of architecture in perspective, and which was a beautiful work’). The seventeenth-century provenance has been traced to Count Pal Pallfy, son of Maria Fugger. Recorded in the Imperial collection since 1730-35 (when it was attributed to Giulio Romano). An alternative attribution has been made (eg. by Robert Rosenblum in Marsyas, no 6, 1950-3) to Antoine Caron, the French painter of the School of Fontainebleau.
Young Woman at Her Toilet. Canvas, 102 x 81.
She glances sideways at the mirror on the wall, resting one hand on the table with her toilet preparations and playing with a coil of her long braided blonde hair with the other. Recorded in the Imperial collection since 1685.
Portrait of a Woman. Canvas, 102 x 78.
A very explicit example of Bordone’s many ‘Belle Donne’ paintings. She poses against an architectural niche, gathering loosely around her, or perhaps discarding, a green velvet cloak; her undergarments have slipped down over her shoulder, leaving her breasts revealed. In the Imperial collection since 1685.
Venus and Adonis. Canvas, 115 x 131.
One of three apparently autograph versions; the others are in Dubrovnik and London. Acquired by Archduke Leopold Wilhelm from the Duke of Hamilton’s collection. It was long on loan to the Landesregierung at Salzburg.
Vienna. Liechtenstein Collection.
Portrait of Nikolaus Körbler. Canvas, 100 x 78.
The inscription along the top of the picture gives the name of a sitter and the date 1532. Signed, bottom right. The portrait is Bordone’s earliest signed and dated picture (though he had been already active for some fifteen years). Körbler was a prosperous merchant from Judenburg in Austria, and the portrait was probably commissioned to mark his elevation to the nobility by Charles V on 20 November 1532. Acquired in 1872 by Prince Johann II von Liechtenstein from the Countess Andriani-Widmann-Rezzonico of Venice.
Portrait of a Bearded Man. Canvas, 98 x 84.
Signed (bottom left) and dated 1533 (top right). The bearded man, dressed in a fur-lined doublet of shimmering blue silk, is posed against a curved niche, one hand on his hip and the other on the sheath of his dagger. His provocative appearance has earned the picture the title Cavaliere Attaccabrighe (‘Quarrelsome Knight’). This very Germanic portrait has been recorded in the Liechtenstein collections since 1767.
Washington. National Gallery of Art.
Baptism of Christ. Canvas, 130 x 132.
The angel on the left holds Christ’s raiment. The light in the upper left corner of the sky indicates the descent of the Holy Spirit, with God’s voice saying ‘This is my beloved son with whom I am well pleased’. The picture probably dates from around 1535-40 – somewhat earlier than the version of this subject by Bordone in the Brera. First recorded in the collection of Ambrogio Doria at Rome. It was in England by 1839, when it was sold in Liverpool. In 1899, having crossed the Atlantic, it was bought (from Colnaghi) by Peter Widener of Pennsylvania, whose son Joseph donated it to the National Gallery in 1942.
Warsaw. National Gallery.
Madonna and Child enthroned with Saints. Wood, 210 x 136.
The saints are Mary Magdalene (standing on the left with her jar of ointment), Lucano (the bishop kneeling on the step of the throne), Eligius (kneeling in the foreground with the pliers) and Catherine of Alexandria (leaning on her broken wheel). From the church of San Lucano at Belluno, where it remained until the early nineteenth century. It was one of the many Italian paintings sold by the English merchant Edward Solly in 1821 to the Prussian Government. It was exhibited for a time in the old Reichskanzlerpalais at Berlin and transferred in 1939 to the museum at Danzig (Gdansk). Ceded by Germany to Poland after the War.
Venus and Cupid. Canvas, 93 x 143.
Venus, who holds a bunch of roses in her right hand, reaches to take an arrow offered by Cupid. One of several paintings by Bordone on the Titianesque theme of the reclining female nude. Others – where Venus’s body is almost identical but the goddess is sleeping – are in the Borghese Gallery, Rome, and the Ca d’Oro, Venice. The Warsaw version is possibly the ‘chamber picture of Venus and Cupid’ mentioned by Vasari as painted in France for the distinguished soldier François, 2nd Duc de Guise. It was another of the pictures ceded to Poland by Germany after the War. It had been bought in 1936 by Adolf Hitler, who hung it in the Berghof, his alpine retreat.