Francesco Pittoni (c. 1654 − after 1724) is considered one of the main
representatives of Venetian tenebrism. The style, which became established in
Naples with the painter Jusepe de Ribera (1591–1652), got its name from the
dark, brownish color palette and strong contrasts between light and shadow,
which complemented the uneasy atmosphere of the somber death scenes and
depictions of martyrdom. This way of painting was brought to Venice in the
middle of the 17th century by the Neapolitan painter Luca Giordano (1634–1705) and
the Genoese painter Giambattista Langetti (1635–1676), where it was adopted by
a generation of painters such as Antonio Zanchi (1631–1722), Johann Carl Loth
(1632–1698) and Francesco Pittoni.
painter's evident role in the development of Venetian painting, only a few of
his artworks remain preserved. Consequently, his work is studied less than the
work of his contemporaries. Thus, the ovals depicting allegories of two
virtues, Christian Love and Caritas Romana (Cimon and Pero), are
all the more valuable examples of Venetian painting heritage in our territory.
traditionally believed to originate from the collection once held in the
Haasberg Manor (Planina pri Rakeku, Hošperk). According to past literature,
there were as many as 31 Pittoni paintings in the said collection. The fate of
the collection is closely related to the very fate of the Manor where quite a
number of noble owners changed, from the Eggenbergs, the Cobenzls, the
Corroninis to the Windisch-Graetzs. The latter retreated to Trieste during the
World War II and sold several paintings from the Manor to the antiquarians
there, and the paintings subsequently dispersed to several places. As a result,
part of them ended up in several private collections in Italy, while seven of
them remained in our territory and today are part of the collection of the
Notranjska Museum Postojna. Both ovals were bought by the National Gallery in
2017 at an auction in Milan.
Ovals are part of the recent acquisitions of the National Gallery of
Slovenia. Last year, both artworks were restored and exhibited, but their
detailed context had not yet been presented in public. The paintings were part
of a larger cycle painted by Pittoni, which once formed part of the furnishings
of the Planina Manor at Rakek (Haasberg, Hošperk).
During the removal of the overpainting, the number “63” was discovered
on the image of the Caritas romana. The discovery connects the
work with Pittoni's paintings from the Notranjska Museum Postojna, which are
also numbered, and further places the painting in the cycle that once was a
part of the Haasberg collection.
romana depicts an
incident from ancient history that is recorded by Valerius Maximus in his work Facta
et dicta memorabilia (Memorable deeds and sayings). The anecdote
tells of an Athenian statesman and general (Cimon), an opponent of democracy,
whom the Athenians had sentenced to death by starvation. Each day his daughter,
Pero, would visit him in his gaol cell and feed him with milk from her own
breast. The story and the motif call to mind virtues such as compassion,
gratitude, loyalty and filial piety.
Love (Caritas) is one of the three theological
virtues, the other two being Faith (Fides) and Hope (Spes).
Together with the four cardinal virtues of Prudence (Prudentia), Justice
(Iustitia), Fortitude (Fortitudo) and Temperance (Temperantia),
they represent the principal virtues of the human soul and are a popular
subject in art.
In his Iconologia (1593), a handbook of
personifications and allegories that was popular with artists, Cesare Ripa
described Love as the image of a woman dressed in red with a crown of flames on
her head. Her left arm holds a child to her breast. Two other children stand at
her feet. The flames indicate that Love is never passive but always active. The
three children represent the triple power of Love, since without Love, neither
Faith nor Hope mean anything.