BassanoHis name was Jacopo da (or dal) Ponte, called Bassano after the little city on the Brenta, where he was born and lived most of his long life. He was born in the second decade of the sixteenth century (Ridolfi says he was born in 1510; Borghini that he was 66 years old in 1584; while censuses give his age as 45 in 1561 and 70 in 1589). His father, Francesco the Elder (c.1470-1539), was a minor painter of the school of Giovanni Bellini and his Vicentine follower Bartolommeo Montagna. Ridolfi says that Jacopo was briefly a pupil of Bonifazio de’ Pitati (1487-1553) in Venice, where he is first recorded in December 1535.
Jacopo’s earliest works, painted in the 1530s, show the influence of his father and of Bonifazio, with borrowings from Titian and Raphael. For a short time in the late 1530s and early 1540s he was strongly influenced by Pordenone. Later – under the influence of Francesco Salviati (who visited Venice in 1539-41), prints after Dürer and particularly Parmigianino’s etchings – he developed a highly personal Mannerist style.
By the 1560s the Mannerist traits had fallen away, and he began to develop the ‘rustic’ manner for which he is best known. In contrast to the opulence of much Venetian painting of the time, he used humble rural settings with peasants and farm animals. His stormy landscapes reflect the mountain scenery around his native city. He often chose religious subjects (such as the Annunciation to the Shepherds, Jacob's Journey and Parable of the Sower) that were unusual in Renaissance art but provided opportunities for the depiction of rural life. With the assistance of his family workshop, he also produced cycles or sets of paintings (including several versions of the Story of Noah and also series, incorporating biblical or mythological references, of the Seasons, Months and Elements). It was once supposed (on the evidence of a letter written by his son Francesco) that he had virtually ceased to paint by 1581 because of failing eyesight, but he appears to have remained active until the very end of his long life. His style continued to evolve, and his late works were deeply influenced by Titian’s late works. These are usually night scenes, with strong chiaroscuro, flickering highlights and very free handling of paint. He died in Bassano on 13 February 1592.
His four sons, Francesco the Younger (1549-92), Giambattista (1553-1613), Leandro (1557-1622) and Gerolamo (1566-1621), were all painters. The most gifted were Francesco, who ran a Venetian branch of the workshop from 1579, and Leandro, who was the family’s chief portrait painter and was knighted by Doge Martino Grimani. Giambattista kept the family workshop going in Bassano after Jacopo’s death, while Leandro took over the Venetian workshop from Francesco, who died just a few months after their father as a result of injuries caused by throwing himself from the window of his house. Gerolamo, the youngest, worked under Jacopo and then Giambattista in Bassano, before moving in 1595 to Venice. The sons’ workshops perpetuated the type of pastoral genre painting that Jacopo had developed until well into the seventeenth century. Many versions and replicas were produced of his most successful compositions (in some cases more than thirty examples are known); and disentangling the hands of the various sons and other members of the workshops is notoriously difficult.
Few of Jacopo Bassano’s paintings are documented or dated; but an account book, discovered in the 1940s by Michelangelo Muraro but not published until 1992, contains a wealth of information about the activities of the Bassano family workshop up until about 1555. Later in his career, Jacopo collaborated with his sons, and entirely autograph works from the 1570s and 1580s are comparatively rare. Evidence of the almost industrial scale of the orders for his pictures by the mid-1580s is contained in a letter, written to Ferdinando de’ Medici by his agent in Venice, which informs the Duke that ‘Bassano has promised Signor Jacopo Contarini a good number of them [ie. pictures] ahead of everyone else, and also fifteen for the King of Spain, but all of these will come after the eight that you want’.
Abu Dhabi. Louvre Abu Dhabi.
Jacob's Journey. Canvas, 63 x 96.
Jacopo Bassano treated this Old Testament subject several times. The earliest version (probably dating from the late 1550s or early 1560s) is thought to be that in the Royal Collection at Hampton Court, while the most famous version (a later work of 1575-80) is in the Doge's Palace at Venice. The Abu Dhabi picture was probably painted around the mid-1560s, and is thought to have been a pendant to a canvas of the Meeting of Jacob and Rachel at the Well (sold at Christie's in 1979 from an old Genoese collection). Once in the Wallraf-Richartz Museum at Cologne, which sold it in 1943, and subsequently in a private German collection. Acquired by the new Abu Dhabi museum from the Galerie Canesso in Paris. There is a replica at Burghley House.
Angarano (near Bassano). Parish church (Santissima Trinità).
Trinity. Canvas, 240 x 156.
The massive God the Father is oddly out of scale with the Christ on the cross. The rustic landscape shows Bassano and Monte Grappa in the distance. The church was rebuilt in the eighteenth century, but the picture remained over the high altar until 1870, when the apse was enlarged. It is now placed high on the apse wall and is difficult to see. We know from the Bassano family account book that it was originally commissioned from Francesco the Elder on 6 November 1533. But the work was delayed for many years, until Jacopo had succeeded his father as head of the family workshop. Payment was made on 24 December 1546 to Jacopo and his brother Giambattista, who may have assisted with the picture.
Assumption with St Anthony Abbot and St Louis of Toulouse. Canvas, 175 x 161.
The Virgin – a fluttering figure with raised hands and billowing drapery – appears in a blaze of light, surrounded by child angels. The venerable monk, St Anthony Abbot, leans on his Tau-shaped stick. The youthful bishop, St Louis of Toulouse, crosses his arms in devotion. According to the Bassano family account book, this small altarpiece was commissioned by the Confraternity of Santa Maria dei Battuti on 8 February 1548 and final payment was made on 4 October 1549. It appears to have been modelled upon a picture, dated 1506, of the same subject by Lotto, which is still in the cathedral. Originally over the first altar on the left, it was moved in 1872. It was restored to its original dimensions in 1950 when a seventeenth-century lunette was removed.
Austin (Texas). Blanton Art Museum.
Sacrifice of Isaac. Canvas, 26 x 34.
This small, dark painting, rapidly executed on coarse canvas, appears to be a fragment cut from the top of a much larger picture representing an Allegory of Summer. The Allegory of Summer would have been one of a set of pastoral scenes representing the Four Seasons, which were painted around the mid-1570s and are now lost or destroyed. Many sets of the Four Seasons were produced in the Bassano workshop. The best known version is one attributed to Francesco Bassano (or to a collaboration between Jacopo and Francesco) at Vienna, which includes a background Sacrifice of Isaac similar to the Blanton fragment. The fragment was acquired by the museum in 1998 with the huge collection of Bertina Suida (daughter of the art historian William Suida) and her husband Robert Manning.
Saint John the Baptist. Canvas, 109 x 72.
This large fragment has been dated around the mid-1540s. Acquired in 1998 with the Suida-Manning collection and exhibited for the first time after restoration in 2009.
Barcelona. Museu de Arte de Catalunya.
Crucifixion. Stone, 49 x 30.
This small dramatic night scene, painted on the unusual support of smooth black stone (slate), was purchased by the museum in 1966 from the Jesuit Father Fabregas Cami. It was little known until 1990, when it was ‘published’ as a work of Jacopo Bassano by Alessandro Ballarin in the catalogue of an exhibition in Rome (Capolavori dal Museo d’Arte della Catalogna). Ballarin dated it around 1575 because of parallels with the frescoes painted that year by Jacopo and his son Francesco in the church at Cartigliano (Vicenza). A replica, also on black stone, was sold at Christie's in May 2000 (as Leandro Bassano) and at Sotheby's in January 2007 (as Jacopo Bassano).
Adoration of the Magi. Canvas, 113 x 146.
One of many paintings of this subject by Jacopo Bassano and his workshop. Previously unpublished, it was donated to the museum in 2005 by Enrique Pedroso Muller, a research chemist at Barcelona University. It had passed down through several generations of the Pedroso family, but its earlier provenance is unknown. It may date from the late 1570s, and is attributed by the museum to a collaboration between Jacopo and his eldest son Francesco.
Bassano. Museo Civico.
Flight into Egypt. Canvas, 183 x 198.
Warned by an angel of KIng Herod's intention to kill the infant Jesus, Joseph took the child and his mother to Egypt (Matthew: 2, 13-14). Joseph is shown leading the donkey, while three shepherds carry the family's provisions. This picture is one of Jacopo Bassano’s earliest surviving works. We know from the Bassano family account book that it was commissioned on 3 October 1532. Giambattista Verci, in a guidebook written in 1775, read the date 1534 beneath the signature (bottom left). The basic composition resembles that of Giotto’s fresco in the Scrovegni Chapel at Padua, while the Joseph seems to have been taken from Titian’s woodcut of the Triumph of Faith and the Virgin from Titian’s damaged frescoed lunette in the Doge’s Palace. The flowers, plants and trees are meticulously described. From the church of San Girolamo at Bassano, which was closed in 1780. Two later versions of the subject by Jacopo Bassano are now in American museums (Norton Simon Museum, Pasadena, and Museum of Art, Toledo).
Three religious pictures on the theme of Justice. Canvas, each 140 x 225.
These pictures originally hung in the Sala dell’Udienza of the Palazzo Pretorio at Bassano. Their subjects are: Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego in the Fiery Furnace (from the Old Testament Book of Daniel); Christ and the Adulteress (from the Gospel of John); and Susanna and the Elders (from the Book of Daniel). They are among Bassano’s earliest works, and were commissioned on 20 July 1535. One of them bears the coat-of-arms of Luca Navagier, who was podestà (mayor) of Bassano from October 1534 to February 1536. The quality of the execution varies, and the hand of an assistant (possibly Jacopo’s brother Giambattista) is particularly evident in the Susanna. The three pictures survived the sixteenth-century fire that gutted the city hall.
Madonna Enthroned with Saints and Members of the Soranzo Family. Canvas, 153 x 249.
Another very early work, which was commissioned on 12 March 1536 and completed by 15 December the same year. The contract was signed by Jacopo’s father, Francesco the Elder, but the painting was executed by Jacopo. The Virgin and Child are based on Titian’s Pesaro Madonna. The kneeling donor is Matteo Soranzo, who was podestà of Bassano from February 1536 to July 1537. He is introduced to the Virgin by St Matthew, his name saint. Matteo's brother, Francesco, stands at the left edge. St Francis, Francesco's name saint, appears in the centre background, displaying the stigmata in his side. The picture also includes Matteo's young daughter, Lucia, who sits on the plinth of the throne, playing with a little dog. St Lucy, Lucia's name saint, offers her martyr's palm to the Christ Child and holds her eyes in a dish. The picture hung in the Sala del Consiglio in the Palazzo Pretorio at Bassano. Transferred to the museum in 1840.
Fresco of the Casa dal Corno. 610 x 1190.
This enormous, very damaged fresco was detached in 1975 from the façade of a house (Casa dal Corno) on the Pizzotto del Sale in Bassano. It was commissioned by Zanetto dal Corno, a salt merchant, on 19 February 1539. The two upper bands of the fresco depict cherubs, animals and musical instruments. According to Ridolfi, the allegorical figures between the windows of the piano nobile represent Industry, Rhetoric and Prudence. Beneath a large representation of Samson Slaying the Philistines are four other Old Testament subjects (Judith and Holofernes; Lot and His Daughters; Drunkenness of Noah; and Cain and Abel). The fresco has been displayed in the museum since 1983.
St Anne and the infant Mary Enthroned with Two Saints. Canvas, 160 x 95.
The inscription on the plinth of the throne identifies the subject as the Immaculate Conception (CONCEPTIO BEATAE MARIE). St Anne is enthroned with the infant Mary. An unusually burly St Jerome (with Vulgate Bible, cardinal's hat and lion) stands on the left and St Francis (displaying the stigmata on his hands) stands on the right. A robin (symbolising Christ's Passion) perches on the plinth of the throne. A tiny white lily (symbolising purity) rests on the step, and violets and plantain (symbolising modesty and the path to salvation) grow by St Francis's foot. This small altarpiece was commissioned on 27 February 1541, and bears the date 26 September 1541 and Jacopo’s signature on the plinth of the throne. It is from the church of the Riformati (reformed Franciscans) at Asolo. Transferred to the Accademia of Venice in the nineteenth century and deposited with the Bassano Museum in 1952.
Martyrdom of St Catherine. Canvas, 160 x 130.
According to the Golden Legend, St Catherine, a fourth-century virgin martyr of royal blood, was tortured between two wheels; the machine was miraculously broken with such force by an angel that four thousand pagan bystanders were killed. Like the very early Flight into Egypt, this picture was originally in the church of San Girolamo at Bassano. It was commissioned on 9 June 1544 and paid for on 11 August of the same year. It was acquired in Napoleonic times by the Compostella family of Bassano and remained in their possession until 1953, when it was bought by the museum.
*Saint John the Baptist in the Desert. Canvas, 114 x 151.
The saint, accompanied by his lamb and with two large books discarded at his feet, leans back against a rock. He gazes, transfixed, as rays of light filter through the trees on the right. Comparison with a late seventeenth-century engraving shows the picture has been cut down at the sides and bottom. From the church of San Francesco at Bassano. A document discovered in 1958 proves that it was placed in the Cappella di San Giovanni Battista (to the right of the high altar) on 28 December 1558. It was removed to the Municipio in 1796 when the church was closed, but reclaimed in 1831 by the original patrons of the chapel, the Costa family, who then sold it to the Thiene family of Vicenza. Presented to the museum by Canon Merlo in 1866. Another ‘signed’ version in the sacristy of the church of the Redentore in Venice is ascribed to Jacopo Bassano in guidebooks, but is suspected by Rearick (1992) to be the work of the seventeenth-century painter and forger Giambattista Volpato.
Pentecost. Canvas, 314 x 174.
The Virgin Mary and twelve Apostles, gathered together after Christ's Ascension, are filled with the Holy Spirit, represented by the dove descending. An altarpiece from the church of San Francesco. It was painted, probably around 1560, for the altar of Santo Spirito. The composition was clearly influenced by Titian’s Pentecost in the Salute. In the 1680s the damaged edges were trimmed, and the picture was enlarged through the addition of an arched top and strips of new canvas at the sides and base. Removed to the Municipio in 1796.
Madonna with Two Saints. Detached fresco, 112 x 128.
The bishop on the left is thought to be St Bassianus (patron saint of Bassano del Grappa); St Francis is on the right. This damaged fresco probably dates from around the mid-1540s. It was detached from the cloister of San Francesco during the second half of the nineteenth century. It is not unfinished, as sometimes assumed: where the colour has been applied a secco (that is, on dry plaster) it has scaled off leaving only the grey underpainting visible in many parts.
*Adoration of Shepherds (‘Nativity of San Giuseppe’). Canvas, 240 x 151.
On the left are St Victor, a patron saint of Siena in armour, and his wife St Corona. The sheep dog in the bottom right corner wears a curious collar of thorns. The altarpiece is one of Bassano’s most famous pastoral scenes, displaying his brilliant, sparkling technique. There are numerous copies. It was installed over the high altar of San Giuseppe at Bassano in December 1568. Transferred to the museum in 1859 when the church was closed.
Podestà Moro before the Virgin. Canvas, 130 x 103.
Sante Moro, the Venetian Governor (podestà) of Bassano, is recommended by St Roch to the enthroned Virgin, and receives the blessing of the Christ Child. The picture, mentioned by Ridolfi (1648), was the altarpiece of the chapel of the Palazzo Pretorio at Bassano. It is a comparatively late work: the chapel was built in 1576. The presence of St Roch suggests that the picture commemorated relief from the plague. (There was a terrible outbreak in the Veneto in 1575.)
*Baptism of St Lucilla. Canvas, 182 x 127.
The subject – apparently unique among sixteenth-century paintings in the Veneto – is found in the Golden Legend. St Valentine, a Roman priest martyred under Claudius, baptises the blind Lucilla, who is splendidly attired in shimmering white satin. Her sewing basket is in the foreground. Signed on the bottom step. A late work, usually dated 1575-80. Some parts, such as the architecture, may have been painted by Jacopo’s son Francesco. From the small church of Madonna delle Grazie, built against the city walls of Bassano.
*St Martin and the Beggar. Canvas, 165 x 105.
St Martin, as an armoured knight on a white horse, divides his cloak with the beggar. St Anthony Abbot sits (bottom right) studying the scriptures. A small altarpiece from the church of Santa Caterina at Bassano. A late work (though before 1580, when it is mentioned in a contract for another painting). Given to the museum by Commendatore Giuseppe Remondini in 1785.
Paradise. Canvas, 237 x 155.
From the church of the Cappucchini at Bassano (which was suppressed in 1812). Very late (about 1580). The picture is mentioned by Ridolfi (1648), who says that some of the figures were derived from Titian. In the 1978 museum catalogue it is ascribed to the elderly Jacopo in collaboration with Francesco; other critics have seen Leandro as the collaborator. An interesting suggestion (by Rearick) is that the painting was connected with the famous competition held in Venice after 1577 for a painting of Paradise for the Sala del Maggior of the Doge’s Palace. Francesco Bassano participated in the competition, and it is conceivable that the picture from the Ognissanti served as a sort of sketch or prototype for his entry.
Circumcision. Canvas, 320 x 211.
Signed by both Jacopo and Francesco and dated 1577 on the column on the left. Commissioned by February 1576 for the altar of the Nome di Gesù in the church of Santa Maria della Colle in Bassano. It was later moved to the altar of the Nome di Gesù in the Duomo. Transferred to the museum in 1870 and substituted by a copy by Giustiniano Vanzo Mercante, which is still in situ.
Madonna with St Agatha and St Apollonia. Canvas, 186 x 158.
The Madonna, seated on a cloud, appears in glory to St Agatha (with her breasts on a dish) and St Apollonia (with her teeth on a dish and holding the pliers used to extract them). Commissioned on 3 March 1580 by the Confraternita di Santa Maria e San Giuseppe for an altar, dedicated to St Apollonia, in the church of San Giuseppe. Payments were made between March 1580 and January 1581 both to Jacopo and to his youngest son Gerolamo. The picture was given to the Municipio in 1785 by Conte Giuseppe Remondini. It was attributed to Gerolamo by Wart Arslan (1931 and 1960). The museum, which had adopted the Gerolamo attribution in its 1978 catalogue, now classes the picture as a work of Jacopo.
Rachel at the Well. Canvas, 62 x 101.
As so often in Bassano's narrative pastoral paintings, the main incident is pushed into the background. Jacob, newly arrived in Haran, the land of his mother's family, is told that the beautiful shepherdess at the well is his cousin Rachel (Genesis: 29, 6). The sleeping shepherd and boy milking a ewe in the foreground are familiar elements in the Bassano pastoral repertoire. The picture, while not precisely datable, must be comparatively late (1570s?). It was bequeathed to the museum by William Roger Rearwick, the American historian of Venetian art, who died in 2004.
Portrait of Sebastiano Venier. Copper, 11 x 8.
Sebastiano Venier is famous as commander of the fleet that defeated the Turks in the great naval battle at Lépanto (1571). This tiny painting, sketchily executed on a piece of copper, is attributed to Jacopo Bassano as a preparatory oil study (bozzetto) for an official portrait commissioned after Venier was elected Doge in 1577 at the age of eighty-two. Acquired by the museum in 1995.
Martyrdom of St Lawrence. Canvas, 327 x 209.
The gruesome scene is set against a background of Palladian architecture. St Lawrence, seated on the gridiron, gazes heavenwards as two boy angels descend with a martyr's palm. The torturer standing on the left stokes the fire with a long rod, while others, kneeling and squatting, feed the flames with wood. This large altarpiece, signed by Jacopo Bassano and dated 1571, was commissioned by the Collegio dei Notai and is still in its original location. The composition was probably inspired by Cornelius Cort’s print after Titian’s painting in the Gesuiti (published in 1571). Jacopo’s son Francesco probably participated in the execution. There is a later version – similar in composition but much darker in tone – in the parish church at Poggiana di Riese (near Treviso).
Belvoir Castle (near Grantham in Leicestershire). Duke of Rutland's Collection.
*Annunciation to Shepherds. Canvas, 116 x 94.
One of many versions. Jacopo Bassano's original was formerly identified either as the painting in the Accademia di San Luca in Rome or the one in the National Gallery of Art at Washington. However, the Belvoir Castle painting (which has been well known only since the 1990s) also appears to be fully autograph and, on the evidence of style, might be earlier than the other versions. (The picture is discussed in Alessandro Ballarin's monumental 1996 Jacopo Bassano, Tavole (volume 1, pages 365-8).) There are copies by Bassano's studio or followers in the Ashmolean Museum at Oxford, the Victoria and Albert Museum in London, the Art Institute of Chicago, the Kunstsammlung at Kassel, and many private collections.
Bergamo. Accademia Carrara.
Madonna and St John. Canvas, 75 x 54.
There are many versions of this composition, which probably dates from the early 1540s. It seems to have been loosely based on Titian’s Pesaro Madonna. Published by Berenson as a work of Jacopo Bassano in 1894, when it was in the collection of the art historian Gustavo Frizzoni. It remained in the Frizzoni-Salis collection at Bergamo, and was bequeathed to the Accademia in 1966.
The Departure of Abraham. Canvas, 93 x 116.
God appears in the sky to Abraham and orders him to leave Haran. He ‘took his wife Sarah, and his nephew Lot, all the possessions they had amassed and the people they had acquired in Haran’ (Genesis: xii, 5). The Departure of Abraham, and the almost indistinguishable theme of Jacob’s Journey, were favourite subjects of the Bassano workshop. This version is signed both by Jacopo and his son Francesco. It may date from the mid to late 1570s. There are other versions in Amsterdam, Vienna, London (National Gallery) and elsewhere. Acquired in 1960.
Portrait of a Venetian Senator or Procurator. Canvas, 100 x 77.
A powerful but dignified portrayal, half-length and almost in profile, of a bearded middle-aged man wearing his official crimson robes of plush velvet. Attributed to Jacopo Bassano as a mature work (late 1550s). From the early twentieth-century collection of the Hungarian financier Marcell Nemes. (The collection was famous for its works by El Greco and the French Impressionists but also included around ten paintings by Bassano or his school.)
Birmingham, Barber Institute.
Adoration of Magi. Canvas, 94 x 130.
This composition, dating probably from the late 1550s or 1560s, was much replicated by Jacopo Bassano and his workshop. The best known version is in the Kunsthistorisches Museum at Vienna. The Birmingham picture is unrecorded before 1911, when it was sold at Christie's with the collection of Sir William Neville Abdy. It was bought by Agnew's in 1978 from the estate of a Major Peter E. C. Harris and acquired by the Barber Institute in the same year. Exceptionally well preserved.
Borso del Grappa (48 km west of Treviso). Parish Church (San Zenone or San Zeno).
Madonna with St Zeno and John the Baptist. Canvas, 215 x 179.
The plumpish Virgin, wearing a blue mantle over a dress of cloth of gold, is enthroned against an extensive landscape of fields, woods and distant mountains. St Zeno, the church's titular saint, wears a richly embroidered bishop's cope and holds a fishing rod. A lamb lies at the feet of the Baptist, who points to the Christ Child. A very early work, commissioned on 9 September 1537 and dated 1538 on the base of the Virgin’s throne. The patrons stipulated that the picture was to be along the same lines as an altarpiece painted by Francesco the Elder in 1519 for the church of San Giovanni in Bassano (now in the Museo Civico there). The figure of St Zeno is probably derived from the St Nicholas in Titian’s Frari Altarpiece of 1535 (now in the Vatican). The picture hangs behind the high altar of the church, which was rebuilt in 1910-29. (It is partly hidden behind organ pipes and the top of the ciborium.) The picture appears to have been over-cleaned in the 1950s, and the surface is somewhat abraded. An obvious addition to the top was made to fit the painting to the modern arched frame.
Boston. Museum of Fine Arts.
Portrait of a Prelate. Canvas, 81 x 62.
A close-up portrait of an elderly bearded prelate wearing a three-cornered hat; in the background is a trace of the cross of St Andrew. Bequeathed to the museum in 1921 by the Boston painter Ernest Wadsworth Longfellow, son of the poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. Originally ascribed to Tintoretto; the attribution to Jacopo Bassano was made (informally) by Berenson in 1939. Very late (mid-1570s).
Budapest. Fine Arts Museum.
*Way to Calvary. Canvas, 94 x 114.
Christ collapses under the weight of the cross and looks back towards the Virgin Mary and the other Holy Women. St Veronica strains forward to wipe the sweat and blood from his face. (According to legend, Christ left the image of his face on the cloth she used, and the 'veil of Veronica', a relic preserved at St Peter's, was greatly venerated in the Middle Ages.) The picture probably dates from the early 1550s. There are other versions of this subject by Jacopo Bassano at Cambridge (Fitzwilliam Museum) and London (National Gallery). The Budapest picture – with its crowded composition and elongated figures – is especially Mannerist in style, and was formerly attributed to Andrea Schiavone. Given to the museum in 1922 by Eugen Boross, a Hungarian businessman living in New York. The attribution to Jacopo Bassano was published in 1929 (by Adolfo Venturi in L'Arte).
Sleeping Shepherd ('The White Horse'). Canvas, 100 x 138.
This fine painting of peasant boys and farm animals in a landscape does not appear to illustrate any of the biblical subjects usually represented in Bassano’s pastoral scenes. It has been suggested (by Rearick in the catalogue of the 1992 Bassano exhibition at Fort Worth) that it could represent the month of August. The picture entered the museum with the Esterházy collection in 1871 as a work of Jacopo Bassano, but was demoted to a work of Gerolamo by Arslan in his 1931 and 1960 monographs and subsequently neglected. The re-attribution to Jacopo was made in 1990 by Alessandro Ballarin, who noted particular affinities with the ‘Nativity of San Giuseppe’ of 1568 (Bassano museum).
Portrait of a Cardinal. Canvas, 58 x 46.
The advanced age of the bald, white-bearded Cardinal is portrayed with almost shocking realism. The canvas is probably a fragment of a larger composition. (The raised right arm was discovered under repaint during restoration in 1988-89.) First recorded (as a portrait of Pietro Bembo by Titian) at the London sale in 1816 of pictures from the collection of Lucien Bonaparte. It was one of several works acquired by Prince Paul Esterházy in 1841 at the London auction of the collection of Charles-Louis de Bourbon, Duke of Lucca. The attribution to Jacopo Bassano dates from the late nineteenth century. It has sometimes been doubted. However, the portrait was included as an authentic work of around 1542-45 in the Jacopo Bassano exhibition held at Bassano del Grappa in 2010.
Way to Calvary. Slate, 46 x 42.
One of a number of small nocturnal scenes painted on slate that are sometimes now accepted as autograph late works of Jacopo Bassano. It was donated to the museum in 1951 but received scant attention until 1992, when it was attributed to Jacopo by Alessandro Ballarin on a visit to the museum. Unfortunately, just days after Ballarin's visit, the picture was dropped and shattered into seven fragments. It was subsequently restored. Another version (also on slate but slightly larger) at the Kunsthistorisches Museum in Vienna is attributed to Gerolamo Bassano.
Cambridge. Fitzwilliam Museum.
Way to Calvary. Canvas, 82 x 119.
Christ, pulled towards Calvary by a rope round his waist, falls under the weight of the cross. He turns his head to bid a last farewell to the Virgin Mary, who has fainted and is tended by the Three Maries. A youthful St John stands behind the Holy Women, wringing his hands in distress. The composition is loosely based on Raphael’s Lo Spasimo di Sicilia (which Bassano will probably have known through Agostino Veneziano’s engraving). Some elements are repeated in other paintings of this subject by Jacopo Bassano at London (National Gallery) and Budapest. The Cambridge picture may date from the late 1530s or early 1540s. (It is possibly the picture of this subject recorded in the Bassano family account book as sent to Alessandro Spiera, an artist-dealer in Venice, on 1 August 1543.) It is first certainly recorded in 1814, when it was in the collection of Napoleon's governor of Rome, General Sextius Miollis, at the Villa Aldobrandini on the Quirinal Hill. It was bought in Rome in 1836 by the Irish peer Viscourt Powerscourt. By 1857, it had passed into the collection of Peter Norton of Soho Square, who loaned it to the Manchester Art Treasures exhibition as a work of the Ferrarese artist Ippolito Scarsellino. Bequeathed to the museum in 1912 by the Anglo-Irish landowner and art collector Charles Brinsley Marlay.
Saint Jerome in the Wilderness. Canvas, 64 x 82.
The figure of the saint is very like the St Jerome in the large altarpiece of the Crucifixion and Saints at Treviso (ordered in November 1562). There is another, superior version of the Cambridge picture at Munich. The Cambridge picture has sometimes been accepted as a work of Jacopo Bassano (eg. in Berenson's 1957 Lists) but is more often classed as a studio replica (as in the museum catalogue) or ascribed to Francesco Bassano. Bequeathed to the museum with the collection of its founder, Viscount Fitzwilliam, in 1816. Somewhat abraded and restored.
Cartigliano (7 km south of Bassano del Grappa). Parish Church. Left transept (Cappella del Rosario).
One of Jacopo Bassano’s rare fresco cycles. It was painted in the chancel of the old church, which was transformed into one of the transepts when the building was remodelled in 1606-20. The cycle has survived largely intact. Right wall (either side of window): Temptation of Adam and Expulsion from the Garden. Left wall: large Crucifixion (a substantial section, bottom left, is lost). Back wall: figures of St Peter and St Paul (either side of Bartolomeo Montagna’s altarpiece); and the Sacrifice of Isaac and Moses receiving the Tablets of the Law (above the fictive pillared arcade). The horizontal line of damage was probably caused by the hanging of curtains at the sides of the altar. In the vaulting: Evangelists and Doctors of the Church (St John is paired with St Gregory the Great; St Luke with St Augustine; St Matthew with St Ambrose; and St Mark with St Jerome). The date 1575 is inscribed on the back of the apse.
The frescoes are first described in 1648 by Carlo Ridolfi, who mentions that Jacopo was assisted by his eldest son Francesco. Modern criticism has detected Francesco's hand particularly in the scenes on the right wall. Jacopo made preparatory drawings for the frescoes in charcoal and coloured chalk (Louvre, British Museum and elsewhere).
Cassola (near Vicenza). Parish Church (San Marco). High altar.
St Mark in Glory. Canvas, 178 x 119.
St Mark appears on a cloud, holding his Gospel and accompanied by his lion. The standing saints are John the Evangelist (identified by his eagle and chalice with a viper in it) and Bartholomew (with his flaying-knife). The landscape is said to represent a view over the Vicentine plain. A late work, installed in the church on 21 December 1573, and doubtless painted with workshop assistance. Rather damaged, especially towards the bottom.
Chicago. Art Institute.
Story of Actaeon. Canvas, 64 x 69.
According to Ovid’s version of the Greek legend, Actaeon was a famous hunter who intruded on Diana and her attendants bathing. As punishment, Diana transformed him into a stag by splashing water on his face, and he was devoured by his own hounds. Bassano’s picture combines several episodes in the story. It is rather damaged: abraded in parts and retouched in others. A very late work (1585-92), and possibly the ‘Story of Actaeon one braccia square’ included in an inventory of Jacopo Bassano’s studio drawn up on his death. Bequeathed to the Art Institute by Charles H. and Mary F. S. Worcester in 1939.
Madonna and Child with the Infant St John. Canvas, 80 x 91.
Jacopo Bassano's abbreviated signature is on the wall, upper left, behind the red curtain. There is another version in Florence (Uffizi, ex-Contini-Bonacossi collection). The composition may date from the early or mid-1560s. The Chicago version was once in the Earl of Carlisle’s collection at Castle Howard, and later that of Archibald Werner at Newlands; acquired by the Art Institute in 1968.
Cittadella (15 km south of Bassano). Duomo.
Sacristy (Pinacoteca del Duomo).
Supper at Emmaus. Canvas, 235 x 250.
The subject is from Luke: 24, 30-1. Christ, seated in the centre between St Peter and the disciple Cleophas, is shown at the moment of blessing the bread and revealing his identity. There are bread, wine, cherries and a platter of fish on the table and a flagon of wine on the floor. The innkeeper stands on the left and, in the arched passage, a serving girl lifts a curtain to reveal a man working in the kitchen. The three tiny figures in the right distance might be Christ and the two disciples walking to Emmaus. Ridolfi’s statement that the painting is a very early work is confirmed by a record in the Bassano family account book of its commission on 19 September 1537. Final payment was received on 22 March 1539. The picture was painted for the high altar of the church, which was re-erected in 1775. Another, smaller version, commissioned around a year later, is now in the Kimbell Art Museum at Fort Worth. The composition is related to a picture of this subject traditionally ascribed to Bonifazio but recently given to his pupil Stefano Cernotto, which was painted for the Palazzo dei Camerlenghi in Venice and is now in the Brera.
Old Testament Subjects. Fragments of frescoes.
The frescoes were painted in the original apse of the Duomo in 1537-39. They were covered in plaster and stucco in the nineteenth century. Some fragments were rediscovered in 1989 and restored in 1992. The scenes are from the Old Testament: Joshua (top left); Samson slaying the Philistines (upper right); David and Goliath (lower left); and Judith with the Head of Holofernes (lower right). A life drawing for the figure of Samson is preserved in the British Museum.
Civezzano (4 km northeast of Trento). Church (Santa Maria Assunta).
Four Altarpieces with Predelle. Canvas, each 180 x 110; predelle, each 52 x 135.
This cycle of altarpieces (described by Carlo Ridolfi in 1648) was painted in the 1570s by Jacopo with the assistance of his son Francesco. The cycle was probably commissioned by the archpriest, Gerolamo Roccabruna, a canon of Trento Cathedral and close friend of the Prince-Bishop, Cardinal Cristoforo Madruzzo. Three altarpieces are still framed with their predelle. The subjects are: the Meeting at the Golden Gate (with the predella representing the Madonna della Misericordia); the Mystical Marriage of St Catherine (with the predella showing the saint’s martyrdom); and the Baptist Preaching (with the predella showing his beheading). The fourth altarpiece, representing St Anthony Abbot with SS. Vigilius and Jerome, has lost its predella, which was probably sold when the church was refurbished in 1875
The missing predella, representing the Temptation of St Anthony, was rediscovered in 1975 (by Ludovico Borgo) in an English private collection. It was sold for Euro 62,500 at the Dorotheum, Vienna, in April 2015 and bought by the Province of Trento.
Cleveland. Museum of Art.
*The Rich Man and Lazarus. Canvas, 146 x 221.
The biblical source is Luke xvi, 19-22: ‘There was a rich man who used to dress in purple and fine linen and feast magnificently every day. And at his gate lay a poor man called Lazarus, covered with sores, who longed to fill himself with the scraps that fell from the rich man’s table. Dogs even came and licked his sores.’ This highly original, strikingly ‘modern’ picture was discovered in Rome in the early twentieth century. Though it bore a traditional attribution to Jacopo Bassano, it continued to puzzle art historians for some time, and there were suggestions that it was seventeenth-century, even that it was Dutch. It is now fully accepted as a middle-period Bassano, probably dating from the mid-1550s. A probable pendant, representing the Miracle of the Quails, is in a private Italian collection. The two canvases may have been painted for the choir of a parish church. The Lazarus was bequeathed to the museum by L. E. Holden of Cleveland in 1929.
Copenhagen. Statens Museum.
*Beheading of John the Baptist. Canvas, 131 x 126.
One of Bassano’s most Mannerist works, with very elegant, Parmigianinesque figures and astringent, dissonant colouring (hot ochre, mint green, rose and turquoise). It has been identified with a picture recorded in the Bassano family account book that was painted in 1550 for Gasparo Ottello (who lived in Padua, but was from a family of leather workers from the village of Borso, near Bassano). The picture was to have a ‘landscape’ in a lunette (possibly a St John the Baptist in the Wilderness), which has not been traced. Acquired at Hamburg in 1755 as a work of Parmigianino. In the early twentieth century it was attributed either to El Greco or to the Netherlandish School.
Crosara (Vicenza). San Luca.
Lamentation (Pietà). Canvas, 159 x 130.
A very early work, commissioned on 18 July 1537 and completed by 8 August 1538. The figure of the dead Christ is probably derived from the Pietà engraved by Marcantonio Raimondi after Raphael. There is the traditional cast of mourners: Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus (at the sides), the Virgin Mary, one of the Holy Women (Mary Salome or Cleopas), Mary Magdalene (embracing Christ's legs) and St John (reaching forward).
Detroit. Institute of Arts.
Madonna and Child. Canvas, 80 x 64.
Rather abraded and retouched, and possibly a fragment of a larger composition that included saints and a donor. A relatively early work (1540s?). First recorded only in 1919, when it was sold at Christie's, London, with the collection of Septimus Corbett Goldsmid. Bought by the Art Institute in 1937 from the dealer Jakob Heimann.
Dijon. Musée des Beaux-Arts.
Martyrdom of St Sebastian. Canvas, 65 x 76.
A turbaned archer shoots arrows into the saint, who has been stripped of his robe and bound to the column of a classical temple. A child reaches for an arrow that has fallen onto the pedestal. Signed by Jacopo Bassano and dated 1574. Doubtless commissioned to invoke St Sebastian’s protection against the plague, which had broken out that year in the region of Bassano. Recorded in the 1659 inventory of Archduke Leopold Wilhelm’s great collection at Brussels. It remained in the Hapsburg collection until 1809, when it was taken by the French for the Musée Napoleon. Transferred to Dijon in 1811.
Supper at Emmaus. Canvas, 197 x 260.
Variously attributed to Jacopo Bassano, his workshop or a follower. From Louis XIV's collection at Versailles. There is another version in the British royal collection. The composition may date from the 1560s.
Samson Slaying the Philistines. Canvas, 153 x 218.
The Old Testament hero Samson killed a thousand Philistines with the jawbone of an ass (Judges: 15, 14-17). A very early work, which repeats the subject of the fresco painted in 1539 on the façade of the Casa dal Corno (now detached and in the Museo Civico at Bassano). With its crowded composition, furious action and vigorous foreshortening, the picture provides a particularly clear demonstration of Pordenone's influence on Bassano's early style. Transferred to Dresden in 1749 from the Imperial Gallery at Prague. There were old attributions to Giulio Romano and to Paris Bordone.
Tobias’s Journey. Canvas, 179 x 277.
The unusual subject is from the Book of Tobit (part of the Catholic Old Testament but considered apocryphal by Protestants). On the extreme left, Raguel tells her daughter Sara to take her dowry of livestock, slaves, clothes and furniture and follow her husband Tobias. Tobias is seen with the angel in the distance, upper right.
Journey to the Promised Land. Canvas, 183 x 278.
The subject is from Numbers: 20, 8-12. In the foreground, the Israelites use pans, tubs and barrels to collect the miraculous water that gushed from the rock smote by Moses. In the right distance, Moses – a small figure with a staff in his hand and light rays emanating from his head – leads the Israelites to the Promised Land. A pendant to Tobias’s Journey. Until 1747, when they were purchased by Zanetti for the Dresden Gallery, the two pictures hung in the Palazzo Grimani de’ Servi at Venice. They were once attributed to Francesco or Leandro Bassano, but are now considered to be at least partly by Jacopo himself. They are late works, probably dating from the early 1570s.
The subject of the Journey to the Promised Land was often repeated by the Bassano workshop – with several different compositions, as well as several almost identical versions of the Dresden picture. One of the best of these other versions was formerly in the Wardell-Yerburgh collection (sold at Sotheby's in 1975). Another was formerly in the collection of the Princes of Monaco (sold at Sotheby's in 2019). There is also a copy, attributed to 'the Bassano family', in the Towneley Hall Gallery at Burnley. The Israelites Drinking the Miraculous Water at the Prado, Madrid, is similar to the Dresden picture, but the composition is reversed.
Dumfries House (East Ayrshire). Dumfries House Trust.
Laban and his Flock. Canvas, 129 x 193.
Probably a studio replica of the Jacob's Journey in the Royal Collection (Hampton Court). Bought in 1756 by the 5th Earl of Dumfries for 60 gns at the London sale of the 'gentleman dealer' John de Pester. It was hung in the Dining Room at Dumfries House in a frame supplied by the Edinburgh furniture maker William Mathie. It was put up for sale at Christie's in 2007 and bought by the Dumfries House Trust. Restored in 2012.
Edinburgh. National Gallery of Scotland.
*Adoration of the Kings. Canvas, 183 x 235.
This large and splendid picture is perhaps the ‘story of how the three kings brought their gifts to the manger’ noted in the Bassano accounts book, which was commissioned by a certain Jacopo Ghisi (probably a Venetian nobleman) in 1542. It shows the influence of Pordenone, particularly his fresco of the Adoration of the Kings in the Duomo at Treviso, while the buildings on the left derive from a Dürer woodcut. In 1758 it was in the collection of Giacomo Balbi at Genoa. It was then attributed to Titian, and it retained this attribution in 1805 when it was bought by Andrew Wilson from the Balbi family, and again in 1856 when it was acquired by the Royal Scottish Society. Crowe and Cavalcaselle (1871) were the first to recognise the hand of Bassano.
Eger (Hungary). Art Museum (Dobó István Vármúzeum).
Adoration of Magi. Slate, 35 x 27.
This tiny painting on slate was bequeathed to the museum in 1913 by Cardinal József Samassa, Archbishop of Eger. Until restoration in 1997, its quality was obscured by repaint and discoloured varnish. Attributed to Jacopo Bassano, as a very late work, in the 2008 museum catalogue. Parts of the picture (including the Virgin and Child) may have been executed by an inferior hand. There is another version (almost identical but on canvas) in a private collection in Rome.
Enego (39 km north of Bassano del Grappa). Parish Church (Santa Giustina).
*St Giustina and Saints. Canvas, 170 x 112.
St Giustina, with a dagger in her heart and holding a martyr's palm, is seated on a high pedestal. St Sebastian appears at the left edge, behind St Anthony Abbot, who reads a large tome. The pig and brightly burning fire are attributes of St Anthony. On the right, St Roch lifts the hem of his tunic to display the ulcer on his thigh. Giustina is the titular saint both of the church and of the confraternity that commissioned the picture, while Sebastian, Anthony Abbot and Roch are all 'plague saints'. The small altarpiece, which has been recorded in the church since 1571, probably dates from the late 1550s. It is a masterpiece of Mannerism, showing strongly the influence of Parmigianino. The programme of decoration also included frescoes executed by Jacopo and his son Francesco in the choir, nave and ceiling. The church was damaged by fire in 1762 and rebuilt in the early nineteenth century, and no trace of the frescoes remains. The picture has been on deposit at the Museo Civico at Bassano.
Feltre. Santa Maria degli Angeli.
Madonna appears to the Flood Victims. Canvas, 176 x 115.
The Virgin and Child appear in the heavens between St Crescentius and St Anthony of Padua. Below, a flooded landscape, where farm animals wade through the muddy waters and a flotsam of household furniture, pots and pans, and a corpse has accumulated. Signed by Jacopo Bassano and dated 1576. Commissioned as an ex voto picture following the flooding of the Colmeda river, near Feltre, in spring 1576. The execution of the upper part has been ascribed largely to an assistant (Leandro Bassano?).
*Two Hunting Dogs. Canvas, 85 x 126.
Vasari and Borghini, writing within Bassano’s lifetime, draw attention to his fame as a painter of animals, and this picture is extremely rare in sixteenth-century art as a painting of animals for their own sake rather than as part of a larger composition. It probably dates from the mid-1550s. There is another, slightly smaller, probably slightly earlier, painting by Bassano of two dogs in the Louvre. The Uffizi picture is first recorded, with an attribution to Titian, in 1668 in the collection of Cardinal Leopoldo de’ Medici.
Madonna and Child with Infant St John. Canvas, 79 x 60.
The Virgin, seated almost in profile, puts her arms protectively around both children. The Christ Child, standing on her knee, blesses the little St John, who reaches up to hand him a reed cross. A white lamb pokes its head into the bottom of the canvas. The picture seems to be a later near replica of one at Bergamo; some details, including the lamb (omitted from the Bergamo version), may be unfinished. Bequeathed to the Italian State in 1969 with the Contini Bonacossi collection. (The Contini Bonacossi pictures were transferred to the Uffizi from the Pitti Palace in 1993, but were not integrated into the general collection until March 2018.) There are several other variants of the composition. One was also formerly in the Contini Bonacossi collection, and another is at Chicago. One formerly in the collection of Earl Spencer at Althorp was sold in 1985 and acquired in 1995 by the Banca Popolare di Vicenza. A studio version at the National Gallery of Scotland adds the figure of a donor.
Parable of the Sower. Canvas, 51 x 63.
This charming little painting, illustrating the sower whose seed is about to be eaten by birds, was attributed to Francesco Bassano in the past, but is now recognised as a work of Jacopo. It may date from the late 1560s. It was one of many Venetian paintings acquired in the seventeenth century by Cardinal Leopoldo de' Medici. It was placed in 1935 with the Italian Embassy in Warsaw and stolen during the German occupation of Poland. It resurfaced in the United States, and was bought in 1955 by the Museum of Fine Arts in Springfield (Massachusetts) from the Knoedler Gallery of New York. Returned to Italy in 2001.
Adam and Eve. Canvas, 54 x 76.
The almost naked figures, resting after their expulsion from Paradise, are illuminated by the last glow of sunset. Described as a work of Jacopo Bassano in 1660 when in the collection of the Venetian nobleman Paolo del Sera, who sold his pictures to Cardinal Leopoldo de’ Medici. The attribution was once often doubted, with Berenson (1899-1957) consistently listing the picture under Schiavone. But it is now generally accepted as a mature work of Jacopo Bassano, dating from the 1560s. Restored in 1998.
Sacrifice of Noah. Canvas, 93 x 124.
From a four-canvas set of the Story of Noah painted around 1578 for Cardinal Ferdinando de' Medici. The set hung initially in the cardinal's Roman residence, the Villa Medici at Trinità dei Monti. The set was broken up in the eighteenth century, and the Sacrifice of Noah was sent to the Pitti Palace in 1761. Two of the other three canvases (the Flood and Noah's Ark) are now in the museum at Arezzo and the third ((Building of the Ark) hangs in the Prefettura (regional government offices) at Pistoia. The Story of Noah was conceived by Jacopo Bassano in the 1570s and several sets were produced in his busy family workshop. A set in the Bishop's Palace at Kromeriz (Czech Republic) is signed by Jacopo, as is an individual canvas of the Sacrifice of Noah at Potsdam. The Pitti Palace/Arezzo/Pistoia set is usually attributed to Francesco Bassano (or to a collaboration between Jacopo and Francesco).
Christ in the House of Mary and Martha. Canvas, 81 x 116.
One of several versions of a composition that dates from around the mid-1570s. The best version, arguably, is one – slightly larger and signed by both Jacopo and Francesco Bassano – at the Blaffer Foundation in Houston, Texas. Another version, clearly inferior, is recorded in the British Royal Collection since the reign of George IV.
Fort Worth. Kimbell Art Museum.
Supper at Emmaus. Canvas, 99 x 127.
A smaller version of the altarpiece in the cathedral at Cittadella. According to the Bassano family account book, it was ordered on 4 October 1538 by Cosimo da Mosta, podestà of Cittadella, for the Malipiero family of Venice. It appears to have been kept by Cosimo da Mosta for himself, and was still in the possession of his descendants at Cittadella in the nineteenth century. Acquired around 1882 by William Graham (a Scottish wine merchant and politician best known for his patronage of the Pre-Raphaelites). Sold at Christie's, London, in 1886 and 1935 as a work of the Venetian painter Marco Marziale, and later in a South American collection. Acquired by the Kimbell Museum in 1989. Around 8 cm. has been cut from the left edge, removing a strip of landscape seen through the archway.
Portrait of a Franciscan Friar. Canvas, 81 x 69.
He is dressed in a Franciscan's grey woollen habit and holds a skull as an emblem of mortality. This strikingly naturalistic portrait was attributed to Jacopo Bassano in the eighteenth century, when it was in the collection of the Orsetti family of Venice. It was acquired at the beginning of the nineteenth century by the English antiquarian Charles Francis Greville, whose collection was auctioned at Christie's in 1810. The portrait (then reattributed to Sebastiano del Piombo) was bought for 72 guineas by Lord Henry Petty, 3rd Marquess of Lansdowne, and it remained with his descendants, at Bowood House in Wiltshire, for the best part of two centuries. Acquired by the Kimbell Museum in 1997. It has been suggested that the portrait might have been painted around 1541, when Jacopo Bassano was working on an altarpiece for the Franciscans at Asolo. (The altarpiece is now on loan to the Museo Civico at Bassano.)
Genoa. Palazzo Rosso.
Man Praying. Canvas, 78 x 65.
Described in an 1847 guide to the Palazzo Rosso as a ‘prisoner praying by Bassano’. If the subject is a prisoner, the portrait could either have been painted in prison or commissioned by the man as an offering of thanks after his release. Possibly a fragment of a larger composition with a Virgin and Child (though there seems to be no technical evidence that the picture has been cut down). Long ascribed to the Brescian school (Romanino or Moretto), the picture was reclaimed for Jacopo Bassano by Rearick in a 1980 article (in Artibus et Historiae) on Bassano’s portraits.
Glyndebourne (Lewes). Christie Collection.
Way to Calvary. Canvas, 137 x 117.
Possibly the altarpiece of this subject commissioned on 25 August 1547 by the nuns of San Giovanni in Bassano for the (rather low) price of 48 lire 8 soldi. The execution may be largely by Jacopo’s brother Giambattista.
Hartford. Wadsworth Atheneum.
Mystical Marriage of St Catherine. Canvas, 90 x 113.
The Christ Child, seated on the Virgin's knee, places the ring on St Catherine's finger. St Joseph is on the left with a putto bearing a basket of fruit. Apparently unfinished (particularly the draperies and landscape). The canvas appears to have been cut down by some six inches at the bottom. The picture probably dates from the 1550s. It was acquired in 1806 by Earl Grosvenor (as a work of Tintoretto) and remained with his descendants (later Dukes of Westminster) until 1959, when it was sold at Sotheby's.
Havana. Museo Nacional des Bellas Artes.
Saint Christopher. Canvas, 147 x 86.
The giant St Christopher carries the Christ Child across the river on his shoulders. The palm fronds sprouting from the top of his staff presumably allude to his martyrdom. The Virgin and Child appear in the sky in a burst of light. The painting is very worn and has an added strip of canvas on the right. It was the central part of a triptych from the church of the Augustinian monastery of San Cristoforo della Pace in Venice. The church – on a small island in the Lagoon now joined to the cemetery island of San Michele – was closed in 1810 and its works of art were sold or destroyed. The triptych, painted around the late 1550s, was the earliest of only three altarpieces commissioned from Jacopo Bassano for Venetian churches. The two wings (representing St Stephen and St Francis on the left and St Jerome and St Nicholas on the right) are lost. Also lost is a Saint Jerome painted later by Jacopo for the same church.
Houston. Sarah Campbell Blaffer Foundation.
Christ in the House of Mary and Martha. Canvas, 95 x 124.
The subject is from John's Gospel (12: 1-2), which tells that Christ had supper in the house of Mary and Martha at Bethany six days before the passover. Mary (traditionally identified with the Magdalen) kneels as Christ and his disciples appear at the door, and Martha gestures to the guests to enter. Their brother Lazarus, whom Christ had raised from the dead, prepares food at the table. On the right, a maid tends a cooking pot over a fire. The picture is signed by both Jacopo and Francesco on the base of the column on the left. It probably dates from around the mid-1570s, when Jacopo and Francesco often worked in collaboration. Possibly the picture of this subject seen by Ridolfi (1648) in the Palazzo Contarini a San Samuele in Venice. Acquired by the Bob Jones University, Greenville, from a private English collection in 1959, and bought by the Blaffer Foundation in 1974. There are a number of other versions – some of which are workshop replicas and others (in which the composition is reversed) copies of a 1598 engraving by Jan Sadeler.
Jyväskylä (Finland). Alvar Aalto Museum.
Madonna and Child with St Anthony Abbot and the Baptist. Canvas, 108 x 130.
The Madonna (seated, almost in profile, leaning forward with the Child in her arms) is of the type found in many of Jacopo Bassano's later paintings. The figure of the Baptist (accompanied by his lamb and seated against a tree stump) is also familiar from other works (including the well-known Saint John the Baptist in the Desert of 1558 in the Museo Civico at Bassano). The elderly monk, seated with a large book open on his knees, is plausibly identified as St Anthony Abbot (though he has none of the saint's usual attributes). This devotional sacra conversazione was probably painted for a private client in the 1560s, when this type of picture had already become somewhat old fashioned. From the collection of the Finnish industrialist Jalo Sihtola. Before that, with the Bourbons – the French royal house – at Frohsdorf Castle in Austria, whose pictures were sold at Sotheby’s in 1938.
Portrait of a Venetian Senator. Canvas, 86 x 70.
The sitter wears a splendid scarlet toga of office. After its acquisition in 1928 by Julius Böhler of Munich, the portrait was attributed (by Mayer) to Vincenzo Catena. It was sequestrated by the Nazis in 1942 from the Fischer collection in Lucerne, and entered the Kassel Gallery in 1966 as a work of Lorenzo Lotto. The attribution to Jacopo Bassano was made only in 1980 by Rearick (Artibus et Historiae), who identified the sitter as Bernardo Morosini, podestà of Bassano in 1541-42.
Kromeríz (Kremsier). Bishop’s Palace.
Story of Noah. Canvas, each 130/5 x 180/5.
A set of four pictures: the Building of the Ark; the Animals entering the Ark; the Flood; and Noah’s Sacrifice. All four are signed by Jacopo Bassano, but they are usually regarded as works of collaboration with Francesco or Leandro. They probably date from the late 1570s. They are recorded at the archiepiscopal palace at Kromeríz since 1667, when they were offered to Leopold I.
Several other four-part cycles of the Story of Noah are known. One was hung in the Escorial during the reign of Philip II of Spain. Another was acquired around 1578 by Cardinal Ferdinando de' Medici and is now divided between the Pitti Palace, the museum at Arezzo and the Prefettura in Pistoia. There are also individual scenes of Noah's Sacrifice at Potsdam and Liverpool.
Lisbon. Museum Nacional de Arte Antiga.
Lamentation. Canvas, 60 x 76.
A late nocturne, painted probably as a modello rather than as a finished picture. The most notable of many other versions is a large canvas (154 x 225) attributed to Francesco in the Louvre. Acquired in 1921.
Liverpool. Walker Art Gallery.
Sacrifice of Noah. Canvas, 120 x 86.
In the distance Noah makes a burnt offering in thanksgiving for his deliverance from the flood, while in the foreground his sons are building a house. Usually considered an at least partly autograph late work of Jacopo Bassano. It is possibly the Sacrifice of Noah mentioned by Ridolfi (1648) as belonging to a great nephew of Jacopo, Carlo Scagliari. There are other versions at Kromeríz (signed by Jacopo Bassano), Potsdam, Madrid (Escorial) and Florence (Pitti Palace). These other versions are wider and include, on the left, a great number of animals and a litter of household objects. Formerly owned by Mrs Vere Wright of Shelton Hall, Newark; bought by the gallery in 1952.
London. National Gallery.
*Way to Calvary. Canvas, 146 x 133.
Christ, dragged forward by a rope, sinks to his knees under the weight of the cross and blows of his guards. St Veronica, in contemporary Venetian dress, offers him the cloth (sudarium) to wipe away his sweat. Among the seething crowd, the Virgin brushes the tears from her face and St John raises his hands in horror. Like the other versions of this subject by Jacopo Bassano at Budapest and Cambridge, the composition is likely to have been inspired by Raphael’s Lo Spasimo di Sicilia (which, in turn, was influenced by a woodcut by Dürer). Probably originally a small altarpiece, it is likely to date from the middle or late 1540s. One of twenty-four Italian paintings given by the States of Holland to King Charles II in 1660. It appears to have been given as a bribe by Catherine of Braganza in 1692, and passed by descent from Viscount Torrington to the Earls of Bedford at Weston Park, Shifnal, Shropshire. It was bought by the National Gallery in 1984, after it had appeared in the Genius of Venice exhibition at the Royal Academy. In remarkably fine condition, with the impasto largely preserved. There is an old copy, once attributed to Bassano but probably by a Dutch artist (Dirck Barensz?), in the York City Art Gallery.
*Good Samaritan. Canvas, 102 x 79.
The Parable of the Good Samaritan is told in Luke's Gospel (10: 29-37). The Samaritan raises the man who had fallen among thieves onto his mule (now difficult to see because the colours have darkened); the priest and the Levite hurry away in the distance. The two dogs, bottom right, are lapping up the wounded man’s blood. In the background, a characteristic view of the city of Bassano and Monte Grappa. A middle-period work (late 1550s or early 1560s). Sold by Count Vitturi Pisani to Thomas Moore Slade in about 1775. Later owned by the painter Sir Joshua Reynolds, who is said to have always kept it in his studio, and the poet Samuel Rogers. Bought by the National Gallery in 1856 at the Roger’s sale for 230 gns. There is another version (an unfinished sketch) at Prague.
*Christ Driving the Moneychangers from the Temple. Canvas, 159 x 265.
The subject, also called the 'Purification/Cleansing of the Temple', occurs with similar wording in all three Synoptic Gospels. Jesus entered the temple at Jerusalem and overturned the tables of the moneychangers and the benches of the sellers of sacrificial doves, saying 'My house shall be called the house of prayer, but ye have made it a den of thieves' (Matthew: 21, 12-14). A very late work, close in style to the signed Susanna of 1585 at Nîmes. An assistant (Gerolamo?) was probably responsible for the architectural background. The old moneychanger on the right is traditionally (but unreliably) identified as a portrait of the allegedly avaricious Titian. Elements of the composition – including the setting of a vaulted hall, the figure of Christ raising his whip of cords, the moneychanger's table on the right and foreground details such as the lamb, basket of eggs and frisky dog – appear to have been borrowed from a large picture of this subject painted in the mid-1530s by Stefano Cernotto, a Dalmatian pupil of Bonifazio de' Pitati, for the Palazzo dei Camerlenghi at Venice. (Cernotto's picture is presently on loan from the Accademia to the Cini Foundation.) Brought to England from Genoa in the early nineteenth century by the Scottish painter Andrew Wilson. Given to the National Gallery by Philip Lytcott Hinds in 1853. There is another, rather earlier, version by Jacopo Bassano of this subject in the Prado.
London. Royal Collection.
Martyrdom of St Mark. Canvas, 114 x 165.
According to the Golden Legend, pagans of Alexandria tied a rope around St Mark's neck and dragged him through the streets until he was dead. An early work (1537-38?), painted to Jacopo’s design, although the execution may not be wholly his. It is badly damaged, partly through scorching when the canvas was relined in the nineteenth century. The figures of several of the soldiers appear to have been taken from Agostino Veneziano’s engraving of Raphael’s Lo Spasimo; Bassano appears to have been haunted by this print, which he drew on as a source in many of his paintings.
*Adoration of the Shepherds. Canvas, 140 x 219.
One shepherd kneels to offer a trussed lamb, another carries bagpipes and a third brings a brace of birds. The classical ruins in the background (symbolising the ending of paganism) are derived from Dürer’s prints. Other elements, including the shepherd raising his hat, are borrowed from a Nativity by Titian (known in versions, both now ruined, at Christ Church, Oxford, and the Pitti Palace). The landscape, with Monte Grappa rising in the distance, is almost identical to that in several other paintings by Jacopo Bassano, including the Good Samaritan (also in the Royal Collection). The picture is usually dated around the mid-1540s. One of no less than twenty-four works by Jacopo Bassano or his workshop acquired by Charles I; valued at only £35 in the Commonwealth Sale of 1649, it was returned to the monarchy after the Restoration. A similar picture was formerly in the Giusti del Giardino collection at Verona and is now in the Accademia at Venice.
*Good Samaritan. Canvas, 64 x 84.
The Samaritan binds the thieves’ victim’s wounds; the National Gallery picture shows a later moment in the story when he places him on his ass. There are other versions of the Hampton Court picture at Rome (Capitoline Museum) and Vienna, while a signed variant formerly at Berlin was destroyed in 1945. Usually dated around 1546-48, it is probably the earliest version of this subject by Bassano (and conceivably the earliest treatment of this subject by any Italian painter). From Charles I’s collection (‘Ye samaretan by Old Bassano’, valued at £20 in the Commonwealth Sale of October 1649). Exceptionally well preserved. Since 2014, the Good Samaritan and Adoration of the Shepherds have hung in the new Cumberland Art Gallery at Hampton Court Palace.
*Jacob’s Journey. Canvas, 128 x 184.
Previously thought to represent Abraham’s Journey or the Return of Moses to Egypt. It probably dates from the late 1550s or early 1560s – earlier than the larger version of this subject in the Doge’s Palace. Considered one of the few ‘pastoral’ scenes by the Bassani that is entirely by Jacopo’s own hand. In the 1649 inventory of pictures in the Commonwealth Sale, it was attributed to ‘Bassano in his first manner’ and valued at £50. Comparison with a workshop replica (formerly in Viscount Cobham’s collection at Hagley Hall and now in America) suggests that it has been cut down at the bottom. The colours have darkened, and the greens have turned to brown. The picture currently hangs in the 'King's Closet' at Windsor Castle.
Supper at Emmaus. Canvas, 169 x 237.
Acquired in about 1720 from the Capel collection. There is another, better preserved version at Dijon. The attribution is traditional and has usually been accepted, although Arslan (1960) rejects both versions, Shearman (1983) doubts if the Hampton Court picture is wholly autograph, and Rearick (1992) thinks that Jacopo was assisted by his two eldest sons Francesco and Giambattista.
The Flood. Canvas, 201 x 261.
This large night scene may originally have been one of a set of pictures devoted to the Old Testament Story of Noah. (There is a complete set of four Noah scenes in the Archbishop's Palace at Kromeriz.) The picture is rather damaged and restored. It is perhaps most appropriately ascribed to the Bassano workshop (though the number of visible pentimenti are arguable evidence of the master's intervention). Acquired by Charles I with the Gonzaga collection. It currently hangs in the KIng's Gallery at Kensington Palace.
Man with Gloves. Canvas, 87 x 63.
An unostentatious portrait, half-length, of a man simply dressed in a brown cap and coat. He holds a pair of gloves in his two hands. The face and hands are more highly worked than the clothes, which are left fairly sketchy. The picture is recorded in the Royal Collection since the reign of George III. It was previously attributed to Leandro Bassano, but is now classed as a mature work of Jacopo (late 1550s). It presently hangs in the 'East Closet' at Hampton Court.
Los Angeles. J. P. Getty Museum.
Portrait of a Man. Canvas, 61 x 53.
The middle-aged man, with cropped hair and long brown beard, rolls his eyes to the left with a soulful expression. The portrait was owned by Lord Battersea in the late nineteenth century, and remained in the possession of his widow until 1931. It was later in the collection of Carl Marks of New York, and was acquired by Getty in 1969. It was ascribed to Moroni for many years, and later to Moretto. The attribution to Bassano was made only in 1971 by Alessandro Ballarin.
Lusiana (20 km west of Bassano del Grappa). Parish Church (San Giacomo).
Pentecost. Canvas, 161 x 68.
The Virgin Mary and twelve Apostles are gathered together in a room; 'cloven tongues like as of fire' are on their heads and the Holy Spirit descends in the form of a dove (Acts: 2, 1-13). This small altarpiece was recently rediscovered by Elisa Avagnina. According to the Bassano family account book, it was commissioned by the Confraternity of Santo Spirito on 13 June 1551. The composition may have been inspired by a print in Dürer’s Small Passion.
Purification of the Temple (no. 28). Canvas, 149 x 233.
Christ drives the moneychangers and sellers of sacrificial animals out of the Temple at Jerusalem (Matthew 21: 12-13). This picture (‘a splendid work almost entirely from Jacopo’s own hand’ according to Rearick) was probably painted in about 1570, perhaps ten or fifteen years earlier than the version in London. A third version, squarer in format, is known in several replicas: one (attributed to Francesco) is also in the Prado (no. 27); others are at Lille (signed by Leandro), Vienna and elsewhere. It has been suggested that the subject may have been regarded as symbolic of the Counter Reformation movement to purge the Church of heresy. First recorded at the Alcázar, where it was saved from the 1734 fire.
Entrance of the Animals into the Ark. Canvas, 207 x 265.
The famous story of Noah's Ark is told in Genesis 6-8. The storm clouds are beginning to gather as the patriarch Noah ushers the animals up a ramp leading into the ark. The procession of animals is led by a wild boar, eagle, pair of lions and pair of foxes, followed by horses, sheep, goats, cows, donkeys, rabbits and hares, ducks, geese and water fowl, cats and dogs, stoats and weasels, deer, a camel and monkeys. A profusion of different birds are perched on the tree or flying to escape the approaching storm. The picture is probably a work of collaboration between Jacopo and Francesco (and possibly Giambattista). Ridolfi (1648) says that Titian bought a painting of this subject from Jacopo Bassano for the high price of 25 scudi, but that may have been a different picture. The Prado painting was probably one of forty-two art works acquired by Philip IV of Spain in 1634 from his architect, Giovanni Battista Crescenzi.
Reproach of Adam. Canvas, 191 x 287.
This rarely illustrated episode in the story of Adam and Eve is from Genesis 3: 7-19. Adam (among the animals to the right) and Eve (sitting behind a tree at the left edge) hide themselves from the presence of God (who appears in the sky in the top left corner). As in the Entrance into the Ark, the main preoccupation is the realistic portrayal of animals and birds. The picture was probably designed by Jacopo but executed largely by Francesco. It was given to Philip IV of Spain by Prince Philibert of Savoy, and brought from Sicily on the Prince’s death in 1624. It is known that Philibert's father, Duke Charles, bought works from Francesco Bassano during his stay in Venice in 1582.
Israelites Drinking the Miraculous Water. Canvas, 146 x 230.
The picture combines two episodes from the Book of Exodus (13: 21-22 and 17: 1-7). In the background, Moses (wearing a head-dress resembling a bishop's mitre) and Aaron (brandishing his rod) lead the Israelites to the Promised Land. It is evening and the pillar of cloud that guides them is turning into a pillar of fire. In the foreground, the Israelites drink the water that flowed from the rock after Moses had smote it with his rod. Until 1969 the picture was on loan to the museum at Murcia as a work of the Bassano workshop; but it is now accepted as a work of Jacopo, at least in part, dating from the 1560s. Recorded in the Spanish royal collection as early as 1636; in 1666 it was one of seven Old Testament scenes (all attributed to Bassano) installed in the Alcázar. The composition is almost a mirror reflection of that of the Journey to the Promised Land at Dresden.
Vulcan's Forge (Allegory of Fire). Canvas, 250 x 407.
The smiths are in contemporary clothes, and only the presence of Cupid – crouching by the dog near Vulcan's anvil – suggests a mythological subject. The woman leaning out of the window at the left edge is presumably intended for Venus, Vulcan's wife. This large canvas is one of the so-called 'genre' paintings of the 1580s that were previously considered to be shop productions, but are sometimes now thought to be very late works of Jacopo himself. Recorded in 1666 in the 'Hall of Mirrors' in the Alcázar at Madrid, where it was paired with Veronese's Christ among the Doctors. When 'discovered' recently by the art historian Alessandro Ballarin, the picture was hanging in the Sala de Juntes (Boardroom) of the University of Barcelona, where it was on loan with an attribution to a follower of Leandro Bassano. There is a smaller version, attributed to Francesco Bassano, at the Louvre, and several other versions and variants are known – sometimes from sets of paintings representing the elements of Fire, Earth, Air and Water.
Madrid. Thyssen-Bornemisza Collection.
*Pastoral Scene (Parable of the Sower). Canvas, 140 x 120.
This superb painting probably dates from the 1560s. Zampetti (1958) interpreted its subject as Spring (from a set of the Four Seasons), but the Parable of the Sower is more likely. The picture is possibly one recorded in the post-mortem inventory drawn up on 27 April 1592 of works left in Jacopo Bassano’s workshop (‘a large painting of two braccia square of the story of the sower taken from the Gospels’). By 1839 it was in the collection of Sir Thomas Baring, who loaned it that year to the British Institution Old Masters exhibition. It later belonged to William Coningham (sold 1851), the Earl of Northbrook (sold 1919) and the Earl of Harewood, from whom it was bought by Baron Heinrich Thyssen-Bornemisza in 1934.
Adoration of Shepherds. Canvas, 75 x 64.
Attributed to Jacopo Bassano and/or his workshop as a late work of the mid-1570s. Possibly the ‘Nativity by Night’ bought with seven other paintings by Philip II in 1579 from Giulio Giunti, acting as agent for the Venetian painter Parrasio Micheli. By the end of the sixteenth century it had found its way into the Old Church at the Escorial.
Maróstica (7 km west of Bassano). Sant’Antonio Abate. High altar.
Saint Paul Preaching. Canvas, 303 x 190.
St Paul delivers his sermon in the Areopagus at Athens (Acts: 17, 16-34). St John the Evangelist appears in the heavens. The altarpiece is signed by both Jacopo and Francesco and dated 1574. The son’s hand appears to predominate.
Memphis. Brooks Memorial Gallery.
*Portrait of a Man. Canvas, 76 x 66.
The bearded man sits behind a table covered by an oriental carpet, one hand on an open book, the other holding a glove. Jacopo Bassano’s only signed portrait. It may date from about 1540; the inscription states that it was painted in Venice. It came to light only in 1950, when it was acquired by the Kress Foundation from a private collection in England.
St Roch Blesses the Plague Victims. Canvas, 350 x 210.
The Virgin appears in the heavens as St Roch, dressed in a pilgrim's garb and raising his hand in benediction, visits the plague victims. The building in the background resembles the Palladian Basilica at Vicenza. Signed by Jacopo Bassano (lower right). Originally on the high altar of the church of San Rocco at Vicenza, where it is recorded in 1584 (in Borghini's Il Riposo). It may have been commissioned as an ex voto after the terrible plague of 1575. Transferred to the Brera in 1811 when the French confiscated the property of the church and convent.
**Rest on Flight into Egypt. Canvas, 118 x 158.
The Virgin is seated in the centre. Joseph, reclining with his head resting on his hand, gazes intently at the Christ Child, who lies almost horizontally across her lap, clutching her veil. On the left, two youths, one with a lamb slung over his shoulder, stand with a donkey, which is being tethered to a tree stump by a kneeling man. This famous picture, brilliantly painted in rich, warm colours and heavy impasto, probably dates from the late 1540s. It is unusually highly finished, and still-life details (such as the roll of swaddling cloth in the wicker basket in the foreground, the grape vine in the top right corner and the lizard on the tree trunk) are lovingly described. The picture was attributed to Jacopo Bassano when it was donated by the Ambrosiana's founder, Cardinal Federico Borromeo, in 1618. It had been acquired by the Cardinal (through Alessandro Mazenta Rusca) in Venice in 1612.
Modena. Galleria Estense.
Saints Peter and Paul. Canvas, 288 x 123.
The elderly St Peter is seated hunched on a rock (an allusion to his status as 'the rock' of the Church). He holds a large Bible and his key lies on the ground near his foot. The more youthful St Paul, holding a sword and book, stands in profile against a sky streaked with clouds. Painted in the early 1560s for the little Jesuit church (closed in 1806) of Santa Maria dell’Umiltà in Venice. It was one of only three altarpieces painted by Bassano for Venetian churches. It stood over an altar on the right side of the nave. Veronese’s canvases for the ceiling of the church, painted at the same time as Bassano’s altarpiece, are now in SS. Giovanni e Paolo (Cappella del Rosario).
Munich. Alte Pinakothek.
Madonna with SS. Martin and Anthony Abbot. Canvas, 191 x 121.
St Anthony Abbot, a venerable monk with a long grey beard, gazes devotedly up at the Christ Child. He has dropped his bell, which lies in the bottom right corner of the picture. St Martin, robed as Bishop of Tours, looks out at the spectator. The picture is a comparatively early altarpiece (1542-43) from the church of San Martino at Rasai (near Feltre). It was removed from the church around 1674 by the artist, forger, art historian and critic Giambattista Volpato (a passionate admirer of Jacopo Bassano), who substituted a copy he had painted himself. Despite Volpato’s subsequent conviction for theft, the picture was not returned to the church but sold to an administrator of the Monte di Pietà at Bassano, from whom it was stolen three days later. Documented in the Dusseldorf Gallery from 1719. Volpato's copy is still in the church at Rasai.
Madonna with SS. James the Great and John the Baptist. Canvas, 191 x 134.
St James, with pilgrim's hat and staff, receives the blessing of the Christ Child. The Baptist, posed rather awkwardly with his weight on one leg, points to the lamb at his feet. The picture is some years later than the preceding altarpiece: the execution seems more hasty and the figures are more mannered. It came from the high altar of the parish church of the village of Tomo, near Feltre. It was commissioned by Antonio and Pasquale Zatta and delivered in July 1548. Like the altarpiece from Rasai, it came onto the art market in the 1670s as a result of the dishonest activities of Giambattista Volpato, and was acquired by the Dusseldorf Gallery by 1719.
Saint Jerome. Canvas (mounted on wood), 63 x 83.
Very like the figure of St Jerome in the Crucifixion of 1562-63 at Treviso. Usually given to Jacopo, but sometimes alternatively described as a work of Francesco. From the Dusseldorf Gallery. There is another, inferior version in the Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge.
Mussolente. Parish Church.
St Ursula with SS. Valentine and Joseph. Canvas, 168 x 106.
St Ursula, standing on a pedestal, holds her martyr's palm and white banner with a red cross in one hand, and points heavenwards with the other. St Valentine holds a book and palm. St Joseph has a book and his flowering rod, and his carpenter's bow saw rests in the bottom right corner. The background was originally blue, but few traces of pigment remain. There are no early references to this altarpiece, which was discovered by Michelangelo Muraro (1947) in the sacristy of the church. According to the Bassano family account book, it was commissioned in September 1541. It has been on deposit with the Bassano Museum.
Nancy. Musée des Beaux-Arts.
Portrait of a Man (Francesco Soranzo?). Canvas, 57 x 48.
This restrained little portrait bust shows a middle-aged man, with a forked auburn beard and moustache, wearing a simple brown coat and cap. It was donated to the museum in 1882 (by the widow of the engineer and architect Victor Poirel) as a work of Pordenone. Bernard Berenson attributed the portrait to Lorenzo Lotto in 1895, and he retained this attribution sixty years later when he published the second edition of his Lotto monograph in 1956. It was suggested somewhat fancifully (by Carlo Gamba) that the portrait could be one made by Lotto of Michelangelo when the great sculptor fled to Venice in 1529. The attribution to Jacopo Bassano was made in 1980 in an article on his portraits by William Rearwick (Artibus et Historiae). The sitter has been identified as Francesco Soranzo, brother of Matteo Soranzo, who was podestà of Bassano from February 1536 to July 1537. Both brothers are portrayed in the votive picture painted by Jacopo Bassano in 1536 for the city hall (now in the Museo Civico).
New York. Metropolitan Museum.
*Baptism of Christ. Canvas, 192 x 160.
The subject is treated, most unusually, as a night scene. St John, whose lamb is dimly visible on the ground to his left, baptises Christ, whose red robe is held by a kneeling angel. Another angel stares skywards at the dove of the Holy Spirit and a third boy-angel is sketched in behind. The picture first came to notice in 1931, when it was loaned by a German collector to an exhibition of Venetian Mannerist paintings at Julius Böhler's gallery at Munich and attributed to Jacopo Bassano as 'one of the most beautiful achievements of his last period'. The attribution has been accepted in most subsequent literature (the notable exception being Edoardo Arslan's 1960 monograph, which found the 'handling too heavy' and listed the picture among the numerous productions of the Bassano family workshop). The picture has generally been identified with the 'unfinished altarpiece of the Baptism of Our Saviour' recorded in the inventory of Jacopo Bassano's studio at his death in 1592. The picture remained at Bassano with the artist's descendants until 1673, when it was sold with six other pictures for 300 ducats. It was taken to America just before War by the German Jewish architect and set decorator Paul Huldshinsky, whose heirs sold it in 1964 to the art historian Claus Virch for $10,000. After many years on loan to the Metropolitan Museum and (from 1992) the Toledo Museum of Art, it was acquired in 2009 by the real estate developer Mark Fisch as a gift for the Metropolitan Museum. There is a copy by Jacopo's workshop (Gerolamo Bassano?) in the Museo di Castevecchio at Verona. Another version (attributed to 'Jacopo Bassano and studio') was included in a sale at Christie's, London, in July 2006.
Nîmes. Musée des Beaux-Arts.
*Susanna and the Elders. Canvas, 86 x 127.
The subject (from chapter 13 of the Book of Daniel in the Latin Bible) was quite common in sixteenth-century Venice. As the beautiful and virtuous Susanna bathes in her garden, she is accosted by two elderly and lustful judges who threaten to accuse her of adultery, punishable by death, if she does not submit to their advances.The poetical night scene is one of Jacopo Bassano’s last works, painted when he had fallen under the influence of Titian’s late style. Signed lower right with Jacopo’s initials. The date (previously read as 1572, 1576 or 1579) was shown to be 1585 when the picture was cleaned in 1965-66. Previously it had been thought that Jacopo had ceased to paint before then, because a letter of 1581 by his son Francesco stated that he was losing his sight. Previously in the Gower collection; acquired in 1875.
Northampton. Art Gallery.
Return of the Prodigal Son. Canvas, 99 x 95.
The story of the Prodigal Son is told in Luke: 15, 11-32. The wayward son, who had wasted his inheritance, kneels in repentance before his father. His arrival home is greeted with a fanfare from the trumpeters at the top of the steps. A servant brings the 'best robe'; another prepares the 'fatted calf'. The faithful son arrives on horseback and is told of his brother's return. Acquired in 1977 at Agnew's as a work of Francesco Bassano. This attribution has been retained by the museum. However, Alessandro Ballarin (Jacopo Bassano Scritti (1995)) considers the picture a work of Jacopo of around 1572.
The composition is completely different from the usual Bassano version of this subject, the original of which (signed by both Jacopo and Francesco) is in the Doria Pamphilj Gallery at Rome.
Onara. Parish Church.
‘Noli Me Tangere’. Canvas, 250 x 156.
The Latin title ('Touch me not') refers to Christ's words to Mary Magdalene when he revealed himself to her after the Resurrection (John: 20,17). Commissioned in February 1546 according to the Bassano account book. The price was 100 lire. There is another, slightly earlier version at Oriago.
Oriago. Parish Church.
‘Noli Me Tangere’. Canvas, 255 x 180.
This altarpiece was described by Ridolfi (1648) as a work of Francesco Vecellio (Titian’s brother). It retained this attribution until fairly recently, and it was assumed that Jacopo Bassano had borrowed Vecellio’s composition for his Onara picture. But it is now known that the Oriago version is also by Jacopo Bassano. According to the Bassano account book, it was painted between April 1543 and March 1544. The price, including the frame, was 620 lire.
Ormesson-Sur-Marne (18 km. from Paris). Church of Notre Dame.
Baptism of Christ. Canvas, 115 x 100.
Previously ascribed to Gerolamo Bassano and almost unknown before 2006, when it was included as a work of Jacopo Bassano (or of collaboration between Jacopo and Francesco) in the exhibition Spendeur de Venise 1500-1600 held at Bordeaux and Caen.
Ottawa. National Gallery of Canada.
Susanna and the Elders. Canvas, 89 x 115.
The subject, quite common in sixteenth-century art, is from the Old Testament Story of Susanna (included in the Book of Daniel in the Vulgate Bible but relegated to the Apocrypha of the King James version). Susanna, bathing in her garden, is propositioned by the lecherous elders, who threaten to accuse her of promiscuity (a capital offence) unless she agrees to have sex with them. A middle-period work (around 1555-65). Bequeathed to the museum in 1965 with the collection of Mrs Jeanne Taschereau Perry. There are other, very different paintings of this subject by Jacopo Bassano in the Museo Civico at Bassano (a very early work of about 1535) and in the museum at Nîmes (a very late work, signed and dated 1585).
Oxford. Ashmolean Museum.
Christ among the Doctors. Canvas, 116 x 174.
The idiot with the gaping mouth (behind the column on the left) is the only one truly to believe Christ’s words. An early work, commissioned in October 1539 by the Venetian nobleman Marco Pizzamano, whose brother Francesco was archpriest of Bassano Cathedral. It was in England by 1684, when it was bought at auction in London by Sir John Oxenden. It was inherited by the Capel family, in whose possession it remained until 1931. Bought by the museum at Christie’s in 1949. The oriental carpet covering the seat on the right (a type known as a ‘small pattern Holbein’) appears in several other paintings by Bassano, including the early portrait at Memphis and the Beheading of the Baptist at Copenhagen.
Oxford. Christ Church.
Crowning of Thorns. Canvas, 103 x 139.
Attributed to Francesco Bassano by Tancred Borenius in his 1916 catalogue of the Christ Church collections, but now regarded as a very late work (about 1590) of Jacopo himself. Like most of his late works, it is a night scene, painted with extraordinary rapidity and freedom. It is one of many Italian pictures bequeathed to the college by General Guise in 1765.
Padua. Musei Civici.
Saint Paul Preaching. Canvas, 45 x 37.
St Paul addresses the Court of Areopagus in Athens (Acts 17: 16-34). This rapidly executed little oil sketch was probably a modello for a painting of Saint Paul Preaching commissioned in 1559 by a certain Zuanne da Lugo. The finished painting is lost. At the end of the seventeenth century, the oil sketch was in the collection of the abbot of Santa Giustina in Padua as a work of the seventeenth-century Vicentine painter Francesco Maffei (whose name is still inscribed on the bottom step). At the museum since 1857.
Padua. Santa Maria in Vanzo.
Entombment. Canvas, 270 x 180.
The poignant scene is set in a dawn-lit landscape. The dead Christ is carried to the tomb by Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus. To the left, the Virgin has fainted and is tended by two Holy Women. The profile of John the Evangelist is just visible at the left edge. To the right, Mary Magdalene prepares the oils for embalming the body. A large basket contains a rope, pliers and winding cloth; other tools are scattered on the ground. Signed by Jacopo Bassano and dated 1574 on the stone, bottom centre. Originally over the last altar on the left wall, it is generally considered one of the few late works painted completely by Jacopo himself. A replica (attributed to Jacopo or to Jacopo in collaboration with Francesco or Leandro) was painted for the church of Santa Croce (now the Carmini) at Vicenza. There is also a smaller version (attributed to Jacopo or Leandro) at Vienna.
*Two Hunting Dogs. Canvas, 61 x 80.
One of two pictures of hunting dogs by Jacopo Bassano that are known; the other, slightly larger, is in the Uffizi. The Louvre version is probably the picture noted in the Bassano account book on 5 October 1548 (‘two hunting dogs, that is only dogs’), which was commissioned by Antonio Zentani, a Venetian nobleman. Formerly in the collection of the Duke of Bedford. Acquired in 1994.
Deposition. Canvas, 154 x 225.
A night scene. The dead Christ, lying at the foot of the cross, is mourned by Nicodemus, Joseph of Arimathea (holding the winding sheet), Mary Magdalene, the Virgin and another Mary (Salome or the mother of James). Late (early 1580s?). Acquired by Louis XIV in 1661 from the heirs of Cardinal Mazarin. There is a much smaller variant, also attributed to Jacopo, in the Hermitage at St Petersburg. Another variant, tiny and painted on slate, was formerly in the collection of the New York interior designer and collector Hester Diamond (auctioned as a work of Jacopo Bassano at Sotheby's, New york, in January 2021).
Pasedena. Norton Simon Museum of Art.
*Flight into Egypt. Canvas, 124 x 190.
The Holy Family are guided on the road by an angel with splendid bird-like wings. The sprouting tree stump to which the angel points is a symbol of the Messiah (Isaiah: 11,1). On the left, a kneeling shepherd releases cockerels from a wicker basket (symbolising Peter's denial and Christ's Passion), while another shepherd drinks from a miniature barrel (evoking the wine of the Eucharist) and holds a spear (alluding to the lance that pierced Christ's side). The picture is probably the latest (mid-1540s?) and arguably the finest of three versions by Jacopo Bassano of this subject (the others are at Bassano and Toledo). The central group of the Madonna and Child on the donkey is similar in all three versions, but only the Pasedena version has the angel and the two shepherds on the left. It was exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1879 by Sir Henry Hawley simply as ‘Venetian School’. It was presented to Prinknash Abbey in Gloucester by H. S. Goodhart-Rendal in 1957, and first attributed to Jacopo Bassano only in 1960 when it was shown in the Italian Art in Britain exhibition.
Poggiana di Riese (35 km west of Treviso). Parish church (San Lorenzo).
Martyrdom of St Lawrence. Canvas, 192 x 120.
A near replica – smaller in scale and darker in tone – of the altarpiece, signed and dated 1571, in Belluno Cathedral. Formerly ascribed to Francesco Bassano, but now sometimes accepted as a very late work of Jacopo.
Sacrifice of Noah. Canvas, 100 x 168.
The flood waters have receded, and in the distance the ark can be seen resting on Mount Ararat. The foreground is filled with animals and a litter of household objects. The men build a shelter and the women prepare a meal. In the middle distance, Noah makes his sacrifice of thanksgiving. Signed by Jacopo Bassano and bearing the arms (on the chest) of the Venetian Barbarigo della Terazzo family. Possibly originally one of a set of pictures illustrating the Story of Noah, like the four-part cycle at Kromeríz. It probably dates from the 1570s and may have been commissioned by Nicolò Barbarigo, who was podestà of Verona in 1574. First recorded in the Neue Palais at Potsdam in 1794.
Pove del Grappa (4 km from Bassano). Parish church (San Vigilio).
St Vigilius in Glory. Canvas.
St Vigilius was an early bishop of Trent, martyred in the fifth century. He appears in the heavens, while St John the Baptist (with reed cross and lamb) and St Jerome (with Vulgate Bible and lion) stand below. The Baptist points to a sprouting tree stump – a common symbol of the Messiah. The poplar tree alludes to the town of Pove, which is said to take its name from a poplar grove. Monte Grappa rises in the distance. This little known altarpiece is painted in Bassano's rather rustic, relatively primitive, very early style (1536-37). It hangs over the high altar of the church, which was rebuilt in the early nineteenth century.
Prague. Castle Gallery.
Good Samaritan. Canvas, 108 x 85.
A full-scale unfinished sketch of the composition in the National Gallery, London. Sometimes considered a preliminary study and sometimes a replica (by Francesco?). An earlier sketch – a seated shepherd, upside down, from an Annunciation to the Shepherds – shows through the dark background. Recorded as a work of ‘Bassano the Elder’ in the 1685 inventory of the Castle Gallery.
Prague. National Gallery (Sternberg Palace).
Annunciation to the Shepherds. Canvas, 126 x 175.
Previously ascribed to Francesco, this night scene was re-attributed to Jacopo as a late work of the mid-1570s by Alessandro Ballarin in 1966. There are no certain early records of the picture, which was transferred from Prague Castle in 1960. There are many replicas. (One, formerly in the famous collection of Marcell Nemes at Budapest, is signed by Francesco Bassano.)
Providence. Rhode Island School of Design.
Oil Sketch for an Altarpiece. Canvas, 46 x 37.
The three saints are Nicholas of Bari (identified by the three golden balls resting beside his mitre on the pedestal of the throne), Valentine (standing on the left with a martyr's palm at his feet) and Martha (treading on a dragon-like monster (tarasque), while holding a holy water pot in one hand and an aspergillum in the other). The small, freely executed oil sketch (modello) probably dates from around the mid-1570s. Donated anonymously to the museum in 1957.
Rome. Galleria Nazionale (Palazzo Corsini).
Adoration of the Shepherds. Canvas, 105 x 157.
Probably the picture noticed by Ridolfi (1648) in the house of Cristoforo Orsetti in Venice; by 1750 it was in the Corsini collection (with an attribution to Jacopo Bassano). Ascribed to El Greco in the early twentieth century, but since reclaimed for Jacopo Bassano as a work of the early 1560s. Restored in 1991-92.
Rome. Galleria Borghese.
*Last Supper. Canvas, 168 x 270.
A masterpiece of Bassano’s Mannerist period. Commissioned in 1546-47 by Giovanni Battista Erizzo, a Venetian nobleman, who paid 30 gold scudi for the picture in early 1548. The composition probably derives partly from the Last Supper in Dürer’s Large Passion; there are also similarities with Tintoretto’s almost contemporary Last Supper of 1547 in San Marcuola, Venice. Recorded in the Borghese collection since 1700.
Adoration of the Shepherds (no. 26). Canvas, 76 x 94.
The treatment of the subject is most unusual: so far from ‘adoring’ the Madonna and Child, only one of the shepherds – reclining on a barrel in the foreground – appears to be taking any notice of them at all. The small flask, almost obscured by the sleeping dog on the left, suggests that the shepherds may be representing pilgrims. Probably a work of the 1550s. It has been in the Borghese collection since at least 1650, when it is mentioned in Jacopo Manilli’s description of the Villa Borghese as one of seven paintings by the Bassano family.
Adoration of the Magi (no. 565). Canvas, 58 x 49.
Acquired in 1923 for 4000 lire through the Ufficio di Esportazione. One of many paintings by the Bassani that were mistakenly ascribed to El Greco in the early twentieth century. Attributed to Jacopo by Roberto Longhi in 1928. The attribution has been often accepted (eg. by the 1955 gallery catalogue and by Berenson in his 1957 Lists), though some critics (including Wart Arslan) have considered the picture only a school work. Rearick (1992) saw the hand of the young Ippolito Scarsellino. There is a slightly smaller variant (no. 234: wood, 50 x 41) also in the Borghese Gallery. Bought in 1787 as a work of the seventeenth-century Roman painter Filippo Lauri, it was ascribed to El Greco early in the twentieth century, before Roberto Longhi (1928) claimed it for Jacopo Bassano with a dating of 1550-60. Rearick (1992) thought it probably a Flemish copy based on an engraving made by Raphael Sadeler in 1598 of a version of the painting then owned by the prior of Santi Giovanni e Paolo in Venice and now lost.
Adoration of the Magi (no. 150). Canvas, 125 x 140.
Recorded in the Borghese collection as a work of the Bassano family in 1650. The picture is hard to attribute. Arslan believed it to be by Francesco Bassano and Rearwick by Leandro Bassano. But Ballarin attributed it to Jacopo Bassano, dating it around 1576, and it was included as a late work of Jacopo in the 1992 Bassano exhibition at Fort Worth. A version at the Prado (smaller, upright in format and clearly inferior in quality) is signed by Francesco.
Ewe and Its Lamb. Canvas, 30 x 51.
Probably a fragment of a large pastoral composition. Recorded in the Borghese collection in 1650 as a work of Titian. It was ascribed by Arslan to Jacopo Bassano’s workshop; Roberto Longhi initially gave it to Francesco, but later (1945) reattributed it to Jacopo himself with a dating of around 1560.
Rome. Pinacoteca Capitolina.
The Good Samaritan. Paper mounted on panel, 60 x 42.
A smaller (upright) variant of the (oblong) picture in the British Royal Collection. Possibly the ‘small picture with the story of the Good Samaritan’ recorded in the Bassano family account book as sold to Giambattista Fontana, a physician of Treviso, in 1550. Acquired in 1748 with the Sacchetti collection. There is yet another version (sometimes attributed to Francesco or Leandro Bassano) in Vienna.
Rome. Galleria Doria-Pamphilj.
Earthly Paradise. Canvas, 77 x 109.
The picture depicts the moment when Adam and Eve, having eaten the forbidden fruit, become aware of their nakedness (Genesis: 3, 7). The figures on the left seem, however, largely incidental to what is essentially a landscape painting with animals and birds. A comparatively late work (1570s). The figures may have been painted by Jacopo himself, while the landscape and animals have been ascribed to Francesco or Leandro.
Return of the Prodigal Son. Canvas, 99 x 126.
The famous parable of repentance and forgiveness is from Luke's Gospel (!5, 11-32). The prodigal son, who had squandered his inheritance, returns home to beg his father's help and is welcomed with open arms. In the foreground, the fattened calf is butchered and a celebratory feast prepared. Signed by Jacopo and Francesco on the door of the cupboard on the left. The composition was a favorite with the Bassano workshop. Among the many other versions, there is one attributed to Leandro in the Bristol City Art Gallery, one attributed to Gerolamo in the Art Gallery of Western Australia in Perth, and one attributed to Francesco in the church of Santissima Annunziata in Naples.
Rome. Accademia di San Luca.
Annunciation to the Shepherds. Canvas, 97 x 80.
A boy angel appears in the night sky to announce Christ's birth to a rustic family. A woman milks a cow; a shepherd rests in the foreground playing a pipe; a boy tends sheep and goats; and other shepherds are dazzled by the divine light. The picture was bequeathed to the Accademia in 1753 by Fabio Rosa, who was computista (bookkeeper) to Pope Benedict XIV. The composition – one of Jacopo Bassano's earliest 'pastoral' scenes – probably dates from the late 1550s. At least thirty versions and copies are known. The Accademia picture has sometimes been considered the original, although Rearick (1992) regarded it as merely a replica by Francesco Bassano. Versions in the National Gallery of Art, Washington, and in the Duke of Rutland's collection at Belvoir Castle, Leicestershire, are also usually accepted as autograph works of Jacopo.
St Petersburg. Hermitage.
St Sebastian, St Fabian and St Roch. Paper (mounted on canvas), 58 x 45.
A sketch for the large altarpiece from the church of the Ognissanti at Treviso (now in the Museo Civico there). Sometimes regarded as a copy in the past, but restoration in 1968 revealed its high quality. Acquired (as by Jacopo Bassano) in 1772 with the Crozat collection. Until 1926 it hung in the Gatchina Palace.
Santa Caterina di Lusiana (16 km west of Bassano del Grappa). Parish Church.
Madonna Enthroned with Two Saints. Canvas, 177 x 120.
Three child angels hold up a green cloth of honour behind the Virgin and Child, who are enthroned on a wide pedestal (or exedra). St Catherine of Alexandria stands on the left with spiked wheel and martyr's palm. The bishop, standing on the right with his mitre on the ground and crozier lying across the plinth of the throne, is identified as St Zeno by the fish dangling from his left hand. A very early, Bonifazesque work. It probably dates from 1534-35, when the young Jacopo Bassano painted a very similar altarpiece for a church in Fara Vicentino (now in the Vicenza museum).
Sarasota (Florida). Ringling Museum.
Allegory of Fire; Allegory of Water. Canvas, each 140 x 182.
Two evening scenes. Fire is represented by the god Vulcan, forging iron in a realistic depiction of a blacksmith's shop. His finished metalwork – armour, pots, pans, plates, ladles and spoons – is arrayed in the foreground. He is visited by his wife Venus and her son Cupid. He appears again in the heavens, riding in a chariot drawn by dogs and holding a flaming torch. Water is represented by a teeming fish market. The different varities of saltwater and freshwater fish for sale are observed with naturalistic accuracy. Neptune, god of the sea, appears in the heavens, riding in a chariot drawn by white seahorses.
The two pictures would originally have belonged to a set of four representing the Elements. Earth would have been represented by a harvest scene (with the Cybele appearing in the heavens in a chariot drawn by lions) and Air would have been represented by a poultry market (with Juno appearing in the sky in a chariot drawn by peacocks).
The Elements cycle was probably conceived by Jacopo Bassano in the late 1570s, after the four-canvas sets of the Story of Noah and the Seasons. To judge from the number of surviving versions and copies, it proved less popular than the two previous series. No autograph version by Jacopo is known and no complete set survives even from his workshop. Only Air (usually attributed to Francesco) remains from a series formerly at Berlin; the other three canvases were destroyed in 1945. Only Earth (preserved in the Walters Museum at Baltimore and attributed to Leandro) survives from another series. The Sarasota paintings were probably from a series produced in the Bassano workshop around the mid-1580s. Nothing appears to be known of their history before 1936, when they were bequeathed to the museum by its founder, the circus impresario John Ringling.
Stamford. Burghley House.
*Adoration of the Kings. Canvas, 149 x 217.
Clearly an early work, and possibly the tre Magi noted in the Bassano account book in 1537, which was commissioned for 70 lire by Giovanni Simon Zorzi, podestà of Bassano, for the Palazzo del Podestà. Recorded by Ridolfi (1648) in the Casa Widmann in Venice, and acquired by the 9th Earl of Exeter in 1768, when he visited the city on his Grand Tour. It owes much to Pordenone’s fresco of 1520 in the Malchiostro Chapel in Treviso Cathedral. (The picture is hung in a part of the house inaccessible to the public and can be seen only by appointment.)
Agony in the Garden. Canvas, 127 x 111.
An almost monochromatic night scene, illuminated only by the divine light emanating from the angel appearing to Christ 'from heaven, strengthening him' (Luke 22: 43). The Apostles Peter, James and John sleep unawares in the foreground. Recorded in a Devonshire inventory of 1690 ('A night piece of Our Saviour in the Mount ... by Bassan'). It is one of many versions and variants of a compostion that could date from the mid or late 1570s. A larger variant (in a horizontal format) was included as a work of Jacopo Bassano in loan exhibitions held at the Louvre in 2009-10 and at Bassano del Grappa in 2010. It was sold at Christie's in July 2020. A variant (reversing the position of Christ) in the Ringling Museum at Sarasota is signed by Francesco Bassano. It was one of nine canvases depicting Christ's Passion painted for the Jesuit church of Sant'Antonio Abate at Brescia. A small version (on copper) in the Pushkin Museum, Moscow, is signed by Leandro Bassano.
Adoration of Shepherds. Canvas, 75 x 100.
The picture appears unfinished, but overcleaning may have removed the final paint glazes. Acquired by 1760 by Queen Louisa Ulrika. A middle-period work (mid-1550s?).
Toledo (Ohio). Museum of Art.
*Flight into Egypt. Canvas, 157 x 203.
Joseph leads the way along a rocky path, followed by the Virgin and Child on a donkey, three shepherds (one with a flask and chickens slung from his staff), a dog, two sheep and an ox. Monte Grappa in the distance. This undocumented picture probably dates from the early 1540s – a few years later than the version at Bassano and a few years earlier than the version at Pasedena. It first came to light only in 1961, when it was owned by Lt-Col. A. D. Taylor of North Aston Manor, whose grandfather had probably acquired it in Italy. In the late eighteenth century it hung in the church of Santissima Annunziata at Ancona, but there is no evidence that this was the original location. It left Ancona when it was sold in 1801. Acquired by the Toledo Museum in 1977. A preparatory drawing for the head of Joseph (Pierpont Morgan Library, New York) is boldly rendered in coloured chalks on blue Venetian paper.
Treviso. Museo Civico.
*Crucifixion. Canvas, 300 x 157.
Blood streams from the wounds in Christ's hands and side as he hangs on the cross against a darkening sky streaked with gold. The Virgin stands on the left, wringing her hands with grief. John the Evangelist, standing with his Gospel on the right, gazes up at Christ on the cross. St Jerome kneels in front of the cross, reading a huge Bible placed open on the ground. Mary Magdalene kneels behind him, clasping the base of the cross. The picture was ordered on 8 November 1562 as the altarpiece for the church of the Dominican convent of San Paolo at Treviso, and finished the following September. When the convent was closed in 1810, during the Napoleonic suppressions, the nuns took the picture to the Dominican church of San Teonisto. San Teonisto was badly damaged by bombing in 1944, and the picture was transferred to the museum in 1946. Some elements of the composition, including the figure of Christ, seem to be derived from Titian’s Crucifixion of 1558 at Ancona.
St Fabian, St Sebastian and St Roch. Canvas, 229 x 136.
St Fabian, a third-century Bishop of Rome, was miraculously chosen as Pope when a dove, representing the Holy Spirit, landed on his head. He is traditionally venerated with St Sebastian, who is depicted as the familiar nude in a loincloth, bound to a column and pierced with arrows. St Roch, dressed as a pilgrim, is seated on the ground with his dog. A child angel tends the plague ulcer on his leg. An altarpiece painted, probably around the late 1560s, for the church of the Ognissanti at Treviso. Jacopo’s sons probably assisted him in the execution. In 1592-94 the canvas was enlarged to fit a bigger frame; the additions were made by Lodovico Toeput (Il Pozzoserrato), who also inserted a new landscape. A painted sketch for the altarpiece is preserved in the Hermitage, St Petersburg.
*Adoration of the Shepherds. Canvas, 95 x 140.
Similar to (but perhaps a little later than) the version at Hampton Court. It belongs to the most Mannerist phase of Bassano’s art, when he was particularly influenced by Parmigianino. It was acquired by the Accademia in 1983 from Conte Justo Giusto del Giordino; it had been in his family since 1620.
*Saint Jerome. Canvas, 119 x 154.
The saint meditates on a crucifix, illuminated by evening twilight against the dark background of his cave. On the ground are a human skull, leather-bound books and an hourglass. This work of striking realism dates from Bassano’s middle period, and is probably contemporary with the St John the Baptist in the Desert of 1558 in the Bassano Museum. It has been identified with a picture of this subject mentioned by Ridolfi in 1648 in the Palazzo Widmann at Venice. Bought by the Accademia in 1900 from Alessandro Bedendo of Mestre.
St Eleutherius Blessing the Faithful. Canvas, 280 x 174.
St Eleutherius the Martyr was deacon to the more famous St Denis. He is said to have been martyred, along with St Denis and the priest St Rusticus, in Paris around 250. The picture shows the three martyr-saints in a columned Renaissance church, standing before an altar at the top of the steps on the right. St Denis is the bishop in the centre, holding a reliquary or monstrance, and St Eleutherius is the deacon on his right, blessing the kneeling worshippers. In the foreground are two soldiers, one lying on his shield. Above, Christ emerges from a cloud, holding a communion wafer in one hand and blessing with the other. The picture was originally the high altarpiece of the Confraternità dei Mazzari in the church of Sant’Eleuterio at Vicenza. It came to the Accademia in 1829 when the church was closed. The picture is a comparatively late work, dating from the 1560s or possibly early 1570s. It was described by Borghini in 1584 as a work of Jacopo; but like many of Jacopo’s later works, the execution might be in considerable part by his studio. There is a much smaller version, attributed to Jacopo Bassano's workshop, in the British Royal Collection (Holyroodhouse).
Madonna in Glory and St Jerome. Canvas, 210 x 161.
The penitent St Jerome, meditating on a crucifix, receives a vision of the Virgin and Child in glory. Dated 1569 on the stone (bottom centre). The picture was the high altarpiece of the church of the Padri Riformati (reformed Franciscans) at Asolo. Transferred to the Palazzo Reale at Venice in Napoleonic times, taken to Vienna in 1866, and returned to Venice after the First World War. Though signed with Jacopo Bassano's initials, the picture is often considered to be at least partly the work of his studio (Francesco or Giambattista Bassano?). It is said to have been restored by a local early eighteenth-century painter, Francesco Trivellini, after the canvas was accidently torn from top to bottom. Until recently, it was rarely exhibited.
Mocking of Christ (Flagellation). Canvas, 53 x 111.
Designed by Jacopo Bassano and probably executed in his workshop in the mid or late 1560s. Two of Jacopo's rare coloured chalk drawings are related to the painting. A large, rapidly executed sketch at Washington shows a broadly similar composition but with several notable differences in the poses and gestures of the figures. It is dated '1568 da agosti'. A sheet with preparatory studies for the brutal figure with his arm raised in the act of scourging and for the head of Christ was sold at Christie's, New York, in 1999 for $189,500 and is now in the Metropolitan Museum, New York. The painting was bequeathed to the Accademia in 1838 with the Contarini collection and was attributed to Francesco Bassano in old catalogues. Rarely exhibited. A later variant of the composition – adopting a vertical format and probably dating from around 1590 – is known in several versions. One, now in a private collection in Rome, was exhibited at Bassano del Grappa in 1993. Another, formerly in a private collection in France, was sold at Sotheby's, New York, in 2017.
Venice. Palazzo Ducale. Anticollegio.
**Jacob's Journey. Canvas, 150 x 205.
Having served his uncle Laban for fourteen years, Jacob set off secretly with his wives, children and livestock to return to his father, Isaac, in Canaan (Genesis: 31, 17-21). This masterpiece of rustic naturalism was commissioned, like Veronese’s Rape of Europa in the same room, by Giacomo Contarini. It dates from about 1575-80; unusually for such a late work, the execution seems to be largely by Jacopo’s own hand (though Leandro may have been responsible for the painstakingly detailed painting of the pots, pans, jugs, ladles, plates, baskets and other household objects in the foreground). Ridolfi (1648) saw the picture in the Palazzo Contarini at San Samuele; it was bequeathed to the Venetian State by Bertucci Contarini in the eighteenth century and has hung in the Anticollegio ever since.
Venice. Redentore. Sacristy.
Saint John the Baptist in the Desert.
A replica of the well-known picture painted by Jacopo Bassano in 1558 for the church of San Francesco at Bassano and now in the Museo Civico there. It has been conjectured that the replica was made for the Cappella di San Giovanni Battista, located in the nearby small church of Santa Maria degli Angeli, which was consecrated as a burial chapel in 1561 and demolished around a century later. Though apparently signed (lower left), its authenticity has sometimes been doubted. William Rearick (1992) suspected it was a seventeenth-century copy made by the painter and forger Giambattista Volpato.
Venice. San Giacomo dell’Orio. New sacristy.
Virgin in Glory with SS. Nicholas and John the Baptist. Canvas, 250 x 125.
Commissioned by the merchant Gaspare Dolzoni as an altarpiece for his family chapel, which was built in 1568 and dedicated to the Madonna and St Nicholas. Dolzoni was buried there in 1584. The altarpiece was probably painted in the late 1570s. It is signed by Francesco alone, but Jacopo appears to have supplied his son with drawings and may also have played some part in the execution (Rearick (1992) seeing his touch in the two saints). The picture is said to include portraits of the Bassano family and of Titian (on the extreme left wearing a red hat).
Venice. San Giorgio Maggiore. 1st altar, south aisle.
*Adoration of the Shepherds. Canvas, 421 x 219.
The subject, normally treated in a horizontal format, has been adapted to a tall vertical altarpiece. There are three sources of light in the murky night scene. At the bottom, radiance emanates from the Child in the manger as the Virgin lifts a cloth to reveal him to the adoring shepherds; halfway up, a torch held up by a shepherd boy flickers dimly; and at the top a shaft of divine light rents the darkness to illuminate a trio of child angels hovering overhead. The altarpiece was commissioned at the very end of Jacopo Bassano’s career; according to Ridolfi, it was installed in the church after his death in 1592, and payment (80 ducats) was not made until 1594. Restored in 1999.
The picture is one of only three altarpieces painted by Bassano for Venetian churches, and it is the only one to remain in the city. The central part of a triptych painted in the late 1550s for the island monastery church of San Cristoforo della Pace survives in the National Museum of Fine Arts at Havana. An altarpiece painted in the early 1560s for the now demolished church of Santa Maria dell'Umiltà on the Zattere is now in the Galleria Estense at Modena.
Vicenza. Museo Civico.
Madonna, Saints and Donor. Canvas, 159 x 127.
St Catherine, broken wheel at her feet, stands on the left, and the Magdalen, ointment jar in her hand, on the right; a tiny donor kneels by the pedestal of the Virgin’s throne. This small altarpiece is one of Jacopo Bassano's earliest works. It is from the church of Santi Felice e Fortunato (now the Santuario dell'Immacolata) in the village of Fara. It was seen there by Carlo Ridolfi (1648) and remained in situ until 1812. According to the Bassano family account book, it was painted between November 1534 and April 1535. The fee (including the frame) was 179 lire, 16 soldi.
Madonna enthroned with St Mark, St Vincent and Two Chancellors. Canvas, 342 x 519.
This huge lunette – an important civic commission – was painted for the Sala del Consiglio in the Palazzo del Podestà (destroyed by bombing in 1945 but subsequently rebuilt). It was a votive offering in thanks for Vicenza being spared the worst effects of an outbreak of the plague in September 1572. It shows two chancellors, Silvano Cappello and Giovanni Moro, kneeling before the Virgin, who is enthroned between St Mark (patron saint of Venice) and St Vincent (patron saint of Vicenza). On the right are prisoners being pardoned. Signed by Jacopo Bassano and dated 1573 (lower left). For such a large, late commission, Jacopo was doubtless assisted by at least one of his sons.
Adoration of the Child. Canvas, 99 x 76.
Angels overhead display instruments of the Passion (the cross, lance, nails and column), while an angel on the ground offers the Christ Child the crown of thorns. The classical ruins symbolise the ending of paganism. This smallish, almost monochrome, picture was probably a private commission rather than an altarpiece. Once considered an early work, it has more recently been dated around 1556-57. Acquired by the museum in 1973.
Vienna. Kunsthistorisches Museum.
*Adoration of the Magi. Canvas, 92 x 118.
This picture is recorded in the 1659 inventory of Archduke Wilhelm Leopold’s collection as ‘an original by the young Bassano’. Boschini, writing in 1660, interpreted this as an attribution to Leandro Bassano. Early in the twentieth century the majority of critics thought the picture was by El Greco. But it is now recognised as one of Jacopo Bassano’s masterpieces, dating from the late 1550s or 1560s. The colour is vivid and unexpected, the deep emerald green robes of two of the Magi contrasting with the pink clothes of the Virgin and the other Magus. More than a dozen other versions are known. One at the Barber Institute in Birmingham is attributed to Jacopo; another at the Hermitage in St Petersburg is attributed to Jacopo and Francesco.
Tamar brought to the Stake. Canvas, 55 x 116.
This subject, very rare in Italian art, is from Genesis: 38. Tamar was the childless widow of Jude’s two sons. Jude took her for a prostitute when he encountered her veiled upon the road. Later, when Jude discovered she was pregnant, he sentenced her to be burnt for fornication. As she was being led to the stake, she revealed that it was Jude himself that had made her pregnant by displaying his ring, cord and staff. The picture may date from the 1560s. It has been recorded in the Imperial Collection at Vienna since 1730. It appears to have been one of a series of three pictures; the others (Jude and Tamar and Hirah searching for Tamar) are known only from studio replicas.
Lazarus and Dives. Canvas, 55 x 43.
The parable of Lazarus and Dives is told in Luke's Gospel (16, 19-33). In the background, Dives (Latin for 'the rich man') feasts in the company of a musician and a courtesan. In the foreground, the beggar Lazarus lies at the gate, feeding on crumbs from the table, while dogs lick his sores. This sketch-like little canvas is attributed to Jacopo Bassano as a work of around 1560. It is recorded in Prague in 1685 and was transferred to Vienna in 1894. There are a number of more finished versions, which are usually ascribed to the Bassano workshop.
The Seasons. Canvas, each 79/76 x 111/109.
The four-canvas set of the Seasons was conceived by Jacopo Bassano around the mid-1570s. According to Ridolfi (1648), the original set was sent to Venice and hung in San Moise. It proved extremely popular, and many replicas and variants were made by the Bassano workshops and by seventeenth-century imitators. The Vienna set, while probably not the original, is acknowledged as the finest of the surviving versions. The design is usually attributed to Jacopo and the execution either to Francesco or to a collaboration between Jacopo and Francesco. (The Winter is badly worn, appears to be of poorer quality than the other three canvases, and may not have belonged to the same series.) The landscapes all include small biblical scenes: the Expulsion of Adam and Eve in Spring; the Sacrifice of Isaac in Summer; Moses receiving the Ten Commandments in Autumn; and Christ carrying the Cross in Winter. The four canvases were engraved for the 1660 catalogue (Theatrum Pictorium) of Archduke Leopold Wilhelm's collection. The archduke could have acquired the series either from the Duke of Buckingham's collection or the Duke of Hamilton's; sets of Bassano Seasons are recorded in both collections, which were dispersed after the English Civil War. Another, incomplete series at Vienna (Spring is missing) is signed by Francesco. There are other versions in the Hermitage at St Petersburg, the Borghese Gallery in Rome, the Prado at Madrid (with Summer missing) and the Palazzo Spinola at Genoa.
Self-Portrait (copy). Canvas, 80 x 72.
The elderly painter, shown from the waist, wears a black skull cap and jerkin with fur collar. He displays his palette and brushes. The original self-portrait is described by Ridolfi, who used an engraving from it as a frontispiece. The copy at Vienna is likely to have been painted by one of Jacopo's sons (the museum says Gerolamo but attributions have also been made to Francesco and Leandro). Recorded in 1621 in the Imperial collection at Prague. There are other versions (bust-length) in the Uffizi and the Prado.
Warminster (Wiltshire). Stourhead House.
Betrayal of Christ. Canvas, 114 x 94.
A night scene, lit by braziers held by the soldiers that have come to arrest Christ in the Garden of Gethsemane. St Peter is about to cut off the ear of Malchus, the High Priest's servant, who has fallen to the ground. Christ, about to be seized by the soldiers, tells Peter to sheathe his sword. The picture is one of a number of later variants of a composition that appears to date from 1568. A large drawing bearing that date (executed in charcoal and coloured chalks) is preserved at the Louvre. There is a vertical variant signed by Francesco Bassano in the Cremona gallery. It was part of a cycle of nine canvases depicting Christ's Passion that was painted around the mid-1580s for the Jesuit church (Sant'Antonio Abate) at Brescia. A horizontal variant at Liverpool has been ascribed to Francesco. The Stourhead picture is catalogued by the National Trust as a work of Jacopo Bassano, but it too may have been executed by Francesco, at least in part.
Washington. National Gallery.
Annunciation to the Shepherds. Canvas, 106 x 83.
There are many versions of this composition, which is probably one of the earliest of Jacopo Bassano's 'pastoral' scenes (late 1550s). The Washington version is sometimes regarded as the best. For most of the nineteenth century, it was in the collection at Duncombe Park in Yorkshire; it later belonged to the Pre-Raphaelite artist and picture dealer Charles Fairfax Murray; and it was acquired by Samuel H. Kress in 1933 from Contini Bonacossi. Versions in the Accademia di San Luca, Rome, and in the Duke of Rutland's collection at Belvoir Castle, Leicestershire, are also usually accepted as autograph works of Jacopo Bassano. A much smaller version in the Victoria and Albert Museum, London, was listed as a work of Jacopo by Berenson (1932-57) but dismissed by Arslan as a ‘modest copy’. There is a larger version (with additional figures on the right) in the Kassel gallery.
Miraculous Draught of the Fishes. Canvas, 144 x 244.
The composition is based on Raphael's famous tapestry design. Jacopo Bassano will not have seen Raphael's cartoon (now in the Victoria and Albert Museum, London), but would have known Ugo da Carpi's woodcut copy of it. Jacopo has added, in the right distance, a view of the town of Bassano with Monte Grappa behind it. The brightly coloured painting came to light only in 1989, when it was discovered in a private collection in London. It was acquired by the Washington gallery in 1997. It has been identified with a painting of this subject, recorded in Jacopo's account book, ordered in April 1545 by Pietro Pizzamano, the Venetian governor of the town of Bassano.
Wormley (Herts). St Lawrence.
Last Supper. Canvas, 117 x 316.
The picture was given to the church in 1797 by the collector and local landowner Sir Abraham Hume, who had acquired it from the Venetian dealer Giovanni Maria Sasso and believed it to be by Palma Vecchio. It is said to have come from a suppressed convent in a village near Verona. It has been recently identified (by Joannides and Sachs in the Burlington Magazine for October 1991) with a Cenacolo recorded in the Bassano family account book on 14 September 1537. The patron was Ambrogio Frizier de la Nave, a pharmacist who appears to have supplied paints to the Bassano family. The composition depends on Bonifazio’s Last Supper in Santa Maria Mater Domini, Venice.