Colnaghi Foundation Journal 03 - Page 138



137
For Jennifer Fletcher
Giulio Campagnola, landscape, and Venetian
illumination
I R EN E B RO OKE
One of the defining elements of Venetian painting in the
early sixteenth century is the emergence of landscape as
a predominant form of imagery.1 Giulio Campagnola
was an important protagonist in the evolution of
landscape as a genre, initiating in Venice a tradition of
pen and ink drawings in which landscape is treated as an
independent subject, a tradition subsequently elaborated
with great success by Giulio’s adopted son, Domenico.2
Giulio’s investigations of landscape are usually connected
to his exposure to the art of Giorgione and the young
Titian in Venice towards the end of the first decade of
the sixteenth century.3 While the work of these artists
undoubtedly had a profound impact on Giulio, the
origins of his interest in landscape surely originated in
his humanistic intellectual background and his training
as an illuminator in the Paduan milieu at the end
of the fifteenth century. Patricia Fortini Brown has
observed that, in the realm of the visual arts in the
Veneto, pastoral landscapes first appear in the “minor
arts”, particularly in manuscript illumination.4 In fact,
Kenneth Clark identified the first pastoral landscape in
Western art after antiquity in an illumination by Simone
Martini in Petrarch’s Virgil manuscript.5 Therefore, a
consideration of the relationship between Giulio’s known
oeuvre and contemporary illumination, exploring his
family’s links to prominent illuminators and comparing
imagery and style, sheds important light on his artistic
personality. Furthermore, given the artist’s engagement
with the work of painters like Titian and Giorgione, a
more complete understanding of the range of his activity
can help to elucidate the cultural intersections between
the visual arts, the new markets of prints and printed
books, and collectors in early Cinquecento Venice.6
In September 1497, Ermolao Bardolino, an
adviser to Francesco Gonzaga, received a letter of
recommendation on behalf of the fifteen-year-old,
Giulio Campagnola, who was seeking a place at the
Mantuan court. Among the multitude of Giulio’s
skills, the letter mentions the art of engraving and
specifies the young artist’s interest in Mantegna.7
Although Giulio is known for a limited number of
very fine, technically innovative engravings, as well
as a small corpus of drawings, it appears from the
letter addressed to Bardolino that Giulio’s greatest
proficiency at the time lay in the art of illumination.
In this medium Giulio was apparently no less skilled
than the recently deceased Jacometto, who is declared
to have been first in the world in this art.8 While there
is ample evidence of Giulio’s work as a painter and
illuminator in contemporary sources, there have as
of yet been no universally accepted attributions of
painted works to the artist.
Keith Christiansen and David Alan Brown have
both made compelling proposals for paintings by
Giulio.9 Unlike many earlier attributions, both of
the works suggested by these scholars correspond in
scale to Giulio’s extant oeuvre. Both can be qualified
as “miniatures” or perhaps more precisely as pitture
piccole.10 In scale they recall the works seen by the
Venetian art aficionado, Marcantonio Michiel, in
the Paduan house of the Venetian patrician, literary
theorist, and eventually cardinal, Pietro Bembo,
who owned two miniatures by Giulio depicting
female nudes in landscapes.11 Although Michiel
specifies that these little paintings copied works by

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