By Iris Conlay.
LORENZO LOTTO. Complete edition with 400 illustrations. Text by Bernard Berenson (Phildon, 63s.). HERE is a magnificent picture book produced in the best Phaidon tradition, which takes the viewer seriously as a reader and gives us a text worthy of the pictures.
In this case the text is by that Lotto enthusiast Berenson, who first wrote about the artist as a personal kind of discovery in 1893. And this much-revised version still preserves that rare and elusive thing-excitement-and communicates it to the reader.
Lotto needs an introduction over here. We have few examples of his work in this country. Most of us were not able to see the 1953 f,otto exhibition in Venice, and Bergamo is. not on the Italian tourist map.
This collection of reproductions comes with a sense of revelation. Lotto has much more to say to us than we realised. As a portraitist he was so much more psychological than we had dreamed; as a landscape painter, more poetic and observant; as an interpreter of mythology, more intriguingly mysterious.
He has a rare feeling for children: were any Christ Child interpretations more sympathetic than his in the many versions of the Nativity theme?
HIS FAITH His religious paintings are among his greatest. Indeed, Lotto was a man of great religious conviction which coloured his way of life. At the end he went to Loreto, four years before his death, and made Over to the Holy House himself and all his belongings. asking that after he had been cared for, he could have a florin a month to do what he liked with.
But Mr. Berenson suggests that Lotto's religion was.of too personal a nature to find acceptance under the Council of Trent or by what he describes as the tyranny of Spain and the Vatican. With the evidence of his whole book, packed with altarpieces and sacred pictures commissioned by churches, it is difficult to believe that the disapproval was very strong.
Without completely suggesting that Lotto had a personal brand of religion that made him a Protestant fellow-traveller, Berenson thinks that Lotto might well have rivalled Titian had it not been for this stumbling block of his individual approach.
By heaving a brick at the Council of Trent, Berenson has not advanced Lotto. Nothing kept him from being another Titian btit the lack of that extra width of vision. It is, surely, as simple as that.