Filippino Lippi was able to paint his way out of a disreputable birth (his father was a Carmelite monk and his mother an Augustinian nun), but he wasn’t able to paint his way into history books as well as his mentor and studio-mate Sandro Botticelli. This is all the more striking since Sandro’s popularity was in decline after his spiritual crisis at the turn of the century, whereas Filippino, endowed with tanto ingenio and a vaghissima e copiosa invenzione, as Vasari tells us, was hardly able to keep up with commissions.
Hats off, ladies and Gentlemen! A conductor! And a great symphony! Vasily Petrenko's recent electrifying week with the San Francisco Symphony reminds the listener that Gustavo Dudamel is not the sole "conducting animal" to be found on the musical circuit these days. Esa-Pekka Salonen coined the term a while back, with the impassioned Venezuelan in mind. And indeed, Dudamel is the sort of refreshing performer who has the winds jumping to their feet like jazz musicians and bass players twirling their instruments. He is all about emotion as vitality. But physically, apart from the energy with which he beats time, his manner is unremarkable. The fascination of Petrenko, by contrast, is his ability to reflect every quivering moment of the music somewhere on his face or body, as though he were a disembodied hologram. We joke about people who are "double-jointed." But Vasily Petrenko might as well be quadruple-sprung and then some...this is a man who'd have no trouble tapping three heads, rubbing five tummies and signalling with numerous eyebrows at the same time!
“If I were an artist,” the art historian and connoisseur Bernard Berenson wrote in 1894, “I would resemble Lorenzo Lotto.” The following year, he published a monograph on Lotto, which marked the beginning of the painter’s return from three hundred years of obscurity. Berenson first saw in Lotto (1480-c.1556) what most admirers have found subsequently: an outlier in Italian Renaissance art, a portrait painter capable of capturing the soul on canvas, a man whose religious art struck a note of sincerity in an age bound by ritual and dogma, a figure overshadowed in life by Titian and Raphael and condemned to poverty and relative failure in his own day. Lotto’s time had come with the twentieth century because what had been seen as defects and eccentricities by his contemporaries turned into objects of fascination in an age dominated by Freud and artistic rebellion. Lotto’s unorthodox altarpieces were embraced for that very reason: they broke with convention and spoke from the heart. By the same token, his portraits veered away from the patterns established by Leonardo, Raphael, and Titian to articulate a different kind of sensibility because he engaged with less exalted and at times rather shopworn specimens of humanity.