Pietro Aretino had a great impact on the development of Venetian art. According to Waddington, the personality of Pietro Aretino can be described in four ways. He can be considered as a wise satirist, who writes philosophically true works (Waddington, pp. 324-326).
He is also thought to be a magnificent demonstrator of vices and virtues. Many intelligent people of his time called him a poligrafo, or a writing superstar in other words. The other thing that is peculiar about Aretino is that he is often called a prophet of sexuality. It is strange that his free and in some aspects revolutionary viewpoint was changing according to the situation. He was able to popularize the artist and to make a well-known painter face oblivion or disgrace.
He was giving reasonable advice to the artists like Titian and Michelangelo in the letters. Even though his position considering Michelangelo became very subjective after the painter refused to follow the writer’s advice, Aretino’s evaluations are still important for understanding the development of painting.
Aretino emphasized that portraiture is the main genre where the talent of Titian is fully represented. He wrote that people on those portraits seem alive, there was nature transformed to art. Aretino noted that is was necessary to overcome the dogmatism in drawing and proposed to stop working according to the Mannerist imitation model. He also tried to explain the particular importance of using “colorito” in painting.
In the Italian Renaissance period there were two opposite schools in painting – Venetian and Florentine. The Florentine method of was called “disegno” and was focusing more on the design of work. Drawing was considered to be the most significant element in the piece of art. “Colorito” was typical for the Venetian school of painting. According to this new method artists were painting with color directly on canvas and were not using detailed drawings. Paul Hills writes that Venetians thought that coloring was the aspect of painting which is the most connected with nature. Disegno showed only “the muscular energy or movement of the figure”. Colorito, or the coloring, in its turn, showed the variety of nature in all details, the pulse of life and the source of animation (Hills, p. 216).
In his letters, Aretino also asked Titian to think about reducing the level of affectation in his works. The imagery that consisted of Venetian sunsets, olives and wine was not the one Aretino advised the painter to use. After Titian created the portrait of a beautiful woman, the mistress of the Spanish ambassador, Aretino wrote the sonnet that coincided with Titian’s love for affectation.
Stealthily Titian and Love,
Having taken up their brushes and arrow in contest,
Have made two examples of a lovely lady,
And dedicated them to Mendoza, the noble lord (Loh, p.35).
Judging by this example, it is possible to conclude that Aretino advised Titian to continue drawing divine portraits of beautiful women and he might continue writing sonnets. Though, the situation was more original in case of Aretino: he supported the artist in his choice of models. Aretino wrote that majestic people of their time had angelic beauty that is worth being painted. The peculiar thing even in this sonnet of praise Aretino advised Titian to add his own individuality into the artistic bouquet of nature, poetry and painting.
Another famous Venetian artist, who was a contemporary of Aretino was Michelangelo. Even though Aretino considered him to be one of the most talented painters of his time, he criticized a lot the “Last Judgment”. The writer considered it allegorically obscure and lascivious. It was a strange reaction, because Aretino was not characterized by Christian purity in the questions of intimacy. He wrote:
As far as the nude is concerned, Michelangelo is supreme, however, in one mode – at making a nude body muscular and elaborated, with foreshortenings and bold movements which show off in detail every artistic problem. In other modes he fails to measure up not just to himself, but to others as well – the reason being that he either does not recognize or else is unwilling to take into account those distinctions between the ages and the sexes (Roskil, p. 171).
In Aretino’s letters there are many reasonable pieces of advice the writer gave to the painters of his time. Nowadays it is possible to see the reflection of those ideas in the works of well-known artists like Titian and Michelangelo.
Venetian painting that exhibits colorito:
Giorgione. Pastoral Concert (Fête champêtre). Oil on canvas, 110 x 138 cm
Aretino, Pietro. Selected Letters. Trans. George Bull. Middlesex. England: Penguin Books, 1976.
Freedman, Luba. Titian’s Portraits Through Aretino’s Lens. The Pennsylvania State University, 1995. Web.
Hills, Paul. Venetian Colour: Marble, Mosaic, Painting and Glass 1250-1550. New Haven: Yale
University Press, 1999. Web.
Loh, Maria. Titian Remade: Repetition and the Transformation of Early Modern Italian Art. Getty Publications, 2007. Web.
Roskil, Mark. Dolce’s Aretino and Venetian Art Theory of the Cinquecento. University of Toronto Press. 2000. Web.
Waddington, Raymond. Aretino’s Satyr: Sexuality, Satire, and Self-Projection in Sixteenth Century Literature and Art. Italica. Vol. 83, No. 2 (Summer, 2006), pp. 324-326. Web.