Colnaghi Foundation Journal 03 - Page 141

G I U LI O CAM PAG N OL A / Landscape, and Venetian illumination
GI U LI O CAMPAG N OLA / Landscape, and Venetian illumination
Giorgione and Benedetto Diana, the descriptions of
the miniatures relate most closely to extant prints,
and it seems clear that Giulio’s work as an engraver
was closely tied to his work as an illuminator.12 In
this regard, Christiansen’s suggestion of the Venus
and Mars (fig. 1) in the Brooklyn Museum of Art
perhaps appears a more viable candidate, given the
anatomical similarities between the figure of Venus
and Campagnola’s female nude in his engraving
of a Nude in a Landscape (fig. 2); also, in terms of
technique, Christiansen observed that the painting's
delicate brushwork recalled Giulio’s innovative use
of stippling in his engravings to render atmospheric
modelling of forms.13
Unfortunately, beyond Michel’s description, it is
impossible to know what Giulio’s little paintings
actually looked like, and, in the absence of a signed
or documented work in the medium, attributions
remain speculative. It is clear, however, that in addition
to making engravings and pitture piccole, Giulio was
also actively involved with book illumination. This
is confirmed by the Trevisan humanist Girolamo
Bologni’s praise of Giulio’s decoration of a manuscript
of Giovanni Aurelio Augurelli’s alchemical poem,
Chrysopoeia, of which Giulio was also evidently the
scribe.14 This text was printed in 1515, and the
manuscript described by Bologni may well have been
a presentation copy intended for the work’s dedicatee,
Leo X.15 Within the text of the poem Augurelli himself
offers a long descriptive passage praising Giulio’s
painting, singling out his depiction of landscapes
which included distant hills, valleys, mountains, plains,
rivers, streams, and flowering meadows; it seems highly
probable that Giulio’s illumination of Augurelli’s text
included landscape imagery.16
Giulio’s interest in landscape is of course evident in his
prints and drawings. As stated, this interest reflects his
involvement with contemporary Venetian painters,
but at the same time must have originated in his
intellectual background and artistic training in Padua.
The son of Girolamo Campagnola, a well-connected
Paduan notary who harboured an interest in the visual
arts, Giulio was humanistically educated and took
ecclesiastical orders at the age of thirteen,17 by which
point he had evidently mastered Greek, Latin, and
Hebrew.18 Through contemporary poet friends like
Giovanni Aurelio Augurelli and Pietro Bembo, Giulio
would have had, from a young age, ample exposure to
the vogue for ancient and modern pastoral poetry in
literary circles. According to members of this humanist
circle, Giulio was apparently no less prodigal in the
visual arts than in letters. Around 1500, Bembo wrote
a short epigram praising a self-portrait by Giulio,
and the Veronese humanist, Matteo Bosso lauded
the thirteen-year-old Giulio’s ability to produce exact
copies of Bellini and Mantegna.19 That Bosso was no
ignorant judge of artistic matters can be deduced from
the fact that he was the son of a goldsmith, owned at
least one work by Mantegna (with whom he seems
to have been on familiar terms), and was involved
in commissioning works from Lorenzo Costa and
Francesco Francia.20
Fig. 1 / Attributed to Giulio
Campagnola, Venus and
Mars, after 1510, oil on
paper mounted on canvas,
19.1 x 16.5 cm, The Brooklyn
Museum of Art.
Fig. 2 / Giulio Campagnola,
Nude in a Landscape, after
1510, engraving, 12.1 x
18.2 cm, London, British
Figs. 3 & 4 / Gaspare
da Padova, Nativity and
Saint Jerome, in Eusebius,
Chronici canones, ca.
1485-1488, London, British
Library, Ms. Royal 14 C III,
fols. 2r and .119v.
Given his Paduan origins Giulio’s training as an
illuminator is hardly surprising. In the second half of
the fifteenth century Padua became a major centre
of manuscript production with a flourishing tradition
of illumination, and Paduan illuminators widely
experimented with the representation of figures in
landscape settings. Notable examples include Gaspare
da Padova’s illuminations of Saint Jerome and a
Nativity in a manuscript of Eusebius commissioned
by Pietro Bembo’s father, Bernardo, (figs. 3 & 4) in the
late 1480s.21 Gaspare places his figures in a verdant
foreground setting and creates the illusion of distance
by modelling far off hills with shades of blue and
atmospheric light. The scribe responsible for Bernardo
Bembo’s Eusebius was his friend, Bartolomeo Sanvito,
who produced several volumes for the Venetian
patrician and often collaborated with Gaspare. Sanvito
was a native of Padua and known to have had links
with Giulio’s father as early as 1473, when the scribe,
leaving Padua for Rome, entrusted the administration
of his legal affairs to Girolamo Campagnola.22


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