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Tom Gurney BSc (Hons) is an art history expert with over 20 years experience
Published on June 19, 2020 / Updated on October 14, 2023
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Lorenzo Lotto was an Italian painter during the Renaissance and the 1st half of the Mannerist period and lived from 1480-1556. He is remembered for his rich-colored well-articulated portraits that sometimes featured fanciful characters.

The occasional majesty of his mature work is still evident in all his portraits. His works were not only convincing but seemed to be communicating a precise message to the sitters' souls. He is one of the greatest artists and portraitists that was well known during the Italian Renaissance. He uniquely portrayed an interrelationship of middle-class people, among them humanists, clerics, and merchants. As a gifted portraitist, he played a significant role in the art industry and left a large and unforgettable mark on it.

Achievements as an Artist

Lorenzo Lotto was among the leading painters of the early 16th century. His principal works were religious works and portraits. Since he was deeply religious, most of his paintings were intensely spiritual. He is one of the most individualistic painters among the great Italian painters. Lotto’s earliest dated pictures were the Portrait of Bishop Bernardo de Rossi and the Madonna and St. Peter Martyr, both in Naples. The later paintings of the artists are well recorded in a diary and account book that he kept from 1538. His greatest achievements were the two altarpieces, Santo Spirito and San Bernardino, which portray high competence in combining light, shade, and wealthy colors. These compositions exhibit his skillful abilities as a narrative painter.

His principal works were mainly portraits, altarpieces, and religious subjects. Though he was so active during the Renaissance and 1st half of the Mannerist period, his works were greatly influenced by the Renaissance style. His works portrayed distortions and eccentric poses that represented the transitional stage to the Roman and Florentine Mannerists. Lotto depicted women, men, and children in his compositions rich in symbolism and full of psychological depth. He added meaning to his work by adding objects hinted at the interests, social status, and aspirations of his middle-class subjects.

Lotto's Technical Skills

Lorenzo Lotto had a combination of technical skills that played a significant role in shaping his authentic artistic works. He was a deft student, a subtle colorist, a painter, an illustrator, and a draughtsman who schooled in the Venetian school. His provincial nature of the practice explains his status as an artist and carrier of extraordinary skills. The great artists and portraitists worked away from major centers, which helped him have sufficient practice time. With all these abilities, his paintings were very quirky and sometimes enigmatic. He carried complex messages that people found challenging to decode. That is why they seem to be so riveting.

Style of Painting

Lotto had an independent mannerist style that conveyed humanity, devotion, state of mind, and many other contemporaries that were considered to capture real-life appearances. The first altarpiece by Lotto was in 1506 for the parish church S Cristina al Tiverone. In 1506, he proceeded to paint another altarpiece for the baptistery Cathedral of Asolo (1506). Both artworks are still on display in the two churches. Later, in 1508, the artist began working on the Recanati Polyptych Altarpiece for Saint Domenico church. The works are mostly characterized by bold shadows, deeply saturated colors, and an outstanding expressive range, from caricatural to lyrical. His last masterpiece was one of the most sensitive titled, "Presentation in the Temple," that remained finished at his death.

Artists he was Connected

Little is known about the artist's training. However, as he lived in Venetia, he was connected with Giovanni Bellini, who greatly influenced his work. Bellini was so knowledgeable about contemporary Venetian painting. Though Bellini was not a direct teacher, his influence is clearly portrayed in the early paintings of Lotto, especially in Virgin and Child with St. Jerome.

Movements in which he was Involved

While he resided in the inland Veneto towns, Lotto formed a strong relationship with Bishop Bernardo De Rossi. He then formed a humanist circle of this Bishop from Parma. This movement gave him plenty of advantages that shaped his career. The group also provided him with profitable commissions that helped to facilitate his living. 1509-1516 marked a "dark age" in the life of this great artist and during this time, and on October 18, 1511, he signed an agreement with the "Brotherhood of the Good Jesus movement" for the "Deposition painting." While at Recanati, Lotto signed another agreement for the “Transfiguration and St. James Pilgrim for the Confraternity of the Nobles painting.”

Regions he Worked

Although the portraitist was born in Venice and chose to move to Treviso, he still had constant movements to and from Venice. The artist was a wanderer who traveled a lot. He took journeys to Treviso, Ancona, and the Marches. However, his main place of residence was Venice. The artist and portraitist was active in various places, and this traveling greatly impacted his works.

Type of Content he Covered

Lotto had a melancholy charm. His figures carried an intensity and seemed to be portraying a specific knowledge that surpassed words. In simple words, they depicted the solace artwork of the artist. As a painter, Lotto could present many elaborate inventions that had content featuring intricate designs. He had plenty of figure poses and gestures, and many other inventions that had a story behind. Additionally, he was also passionate about the depiction of psychological thoughts and emotions. This can be noted from most of his portraits that carry agitated figures, dramatic lighting, and swirling drapery. These characters are best portrayed in his portrait “Annunciation.”

Changes to his Style as he Developed

Much of Lotto’s career was spent in the North Italian cities, which helped him develop his styles. As he interacted with various skilled artists, his skills were polished, which, in turn, helped him grow. In particular, he was influenced by Giovanni Bellini, but as he was growing older, the two became detached, and Lotto’s style changed to a more vibrant and dramatic set-piece. He was less regarded in Venice as compared to the other towns that he worked. As a traveler, he depended less on the works of other artists making, and this also influenced his style, which is known as an idiosyncratic style.

Who Inspired Lotto?

Seemingly. his beginnings were with Bellini. However, by 1505 Lotto already showed unique originality. He visited Rome in 1509 and stayed until 1512. While here, he was exposed to the exemplary artwork of Michelangelo and Raphael, who were also working in Rome. These two were among those who inspired his works. Lotto’s vibrant paintings that were portrayed in Bergamo from 1513 - 1526 showed the influence of Raphael.

Other paintings also portrayed the art of Titian and the painting of Lombard. Additionally, his career was also a subtle attunement of his unique work. Lotto taught himself and mastered a gentle and soft but accurate style that had a similar manner with that of Correggio. His, however, bathed in a richer and more colorful charm of Venice. He also assimilated the works of Giovanni Bellini and other northern European artists like Hans Holbein and Albrecht Dürer.

Who he Inspired

The paintings of Lorenzo Lotto inspired the artwork of most catholic churches, some of which are still present even to this decade. In particular, is the series of paintings that depict the stories from the life of Jesus Christ. The three pieces from the artist that are in the Uffizi Gallery include; his Holy Family with Saints Jerome, Susanna and the Elders, Ann and Joachin, and the portrait of a Youth. Other than provincial museums and churches, Lotto's art was significantly forgotten. Even the globes' top galleries possess countable paintings. The work of Bernard Berenson helped to rediscover and acclaim the work of Lotto Lorenzo at the end of the 19th century.