Palma, Giacopo (1)
Palma, Giacopo (1), called Il Vecchio ("the elder"), to distinguish him from his great-nephew, a celebrated Italian painter of the 16th century, was a native of Serimalta, in the Vaila Brembana, in the Bergamese territory. There is uncertainty as to the exact time when this artist flourished. Lanzi, in his last edition, says, "Jacopo Palma, called Il Vecchio, was invariably considered the companion and rival of Lorenzo Lotto, who was born about 1490, and died in 1560, until M. La Combe, in his Dictionnaire Portatif, confused the historical dates relating to him. By Ridolfi we are told that Palma was employed in completing a picture left unfinished by Titian at his death in 1576. Upon this and other similar authorities, Combe takes occasion to postpone the birth of Palma until 1540, adding to which the forty-eight years assigned him by Vasari, he places the time of his death in 1588. 'Others put it 1596 and 1623. In such arrangements the critics seem neither to have paid attention to the style of Jacopo, still retaining some traces of the antique, nor to the authority of Ridolfi, who makes him the master of Bonifazio Veneziano, who died in 1553; nor to the testimony of Vasari, who, in his work published in 1568, declares that Palma died at Venice several years before that period, aged forty-eight." Lanzi still further settles the matter by the date 1514, which he read on one of his pictures at Milan, representing the Saviour with several Saints, which he pronounces a juvenile production. Palma's manner, at first, according to Ridolfi, partook of the formality and dryness of Giovanni Bellini. He afterwards attached himself to the method of Giorgione, and aimed at attaining his clearness of expression and rich and harmonious coloring, visible in his celebrated picture of St. Barbara, in the church of S. Maria Formosa at Venice. In some of his other pieces he more nearly approaches Titian in the tenderness and impasto of his carnations, and the peculiar grace which he acquired from studying the earlier productions of that great master. Of this kind is his Last Supper, in the church of S. Maria Mater Domini at Venice, and a Holy Family in S. Stefano at Vicenza, esteemed one of his happiest productions. Lanzi says, "The distinguishing character of his pieces is diligence and a harmony of tints so great as to leave no traces of his pencil; and it has been observed by one of his historians that he long occupied himself in the production of each piece, and frequently retouched it. In the mixture of his colors, as in other respects, he often resembles Lotto, and if he is less animated and sublime, he is, perhaps, generally more beautiful in the forms of his heads, especially of those of women and boys. It is the opinion of some that in several of his countenances he expressed the likeness of his daughter Violante, very nearly related to Titian, a portrait of whom, by the hand of her father, was to be seen in the gallery of Sera, a Florentine gentleman. A variety of pictures intended for private rooms, met with in different places in Italy, are attributed to Palma, besides portraits, one of which was commended by Vasari as truly astonishing for its beauty; and Madonnas, chiefly drawn along with other saints on oblong canvas, a practice in common' use by many artists of that age." The genuine pictures of Palma are exceedingly scarce, and highly prized. They are found in all the principal collections on the Continent, particularly at Paris, Dresden, Munich, Berlin, and St. Petersburg. But, above all, England is richest in works of his that are considered genuine; and they are not only to be found in the royal collections, but in many of those belonging to the nobility. It is evident that many of these are spurious, for he never could have executed half of them, even had his process been less tedious. Lanzi explains this: "The least informed among people of taste, being ignorant of his contemporary artists, the moment they behold a picture between the dryness of Giovanni Bellinit and the softness of Titian, pronounce it to be a Palma; and this is more particularly the case when they find the countenances well rounded and colored, the landscape exhibited with care, and roseate hues in the drapery occurring more frequently than those of a more sanguine dye. In this way Palma is in the mouths of all, while other artists, also very numerous, are only mentioned when their names are attached to their productions." Vasari describes in high terms of commendation a picture of his in the church of S. Marco at Venice, representing the ship in which the body of St. Mark was brought from Alexandria to Venice exposed to a frightful tempest. "The picture is designed with great judgment; the vessel is seen struggling against the impetuous tempest, the waves burst with violence against the sides of the ship, the horrid gloom is only enlivened by flashes of lightning, and every part of the scene is filled up with images of terror, so strongly and naturally that it seems impossible for the power of art to rise to a higher pitch of truth and perfection." Lanzi says Palma's most beautiful work is a picture preserved at the Servi. It represents the Virgin, with a group of beautiful spirits and a choir of angels, and other angels at her feet engaged in playing in concert upon their harps. "It is an exceedingly graceful production, delightfully ornamented with landscape and figures in the distance, very tasteful in tints, which are blended in an admirable manner, equal to the most studied productions of the contemporary artists of Bergamo." Another admirable picture is his Adoration of the Magi, formerly in the Isola di S. Elena, now in the I. R. Pinacoteca of Milan.