Masters of the Italian Renaissance. Bellini. Titian. Bassano

The Wawel Royal Castle invites you to a unique show of Italian painting by eminent Italian artists, such as Bellini, Titian and Bassano. This is an extraordinary opportunity to learn about the craftsmanship of masters and their workshops operating in Venice and Florence during the Renaissance. 
In the same year when the renowned exhibition Giovanni Bellini: Influences croisées ended in Paris, the Wawel Royal Castle announces that a significant work by the Renaissance master Madonna and Child will be on permanent exhibition in the Wawel collection. It is one of the most outstanding Italian paintings of the early Renaissance period to be found in Poland. Visitors will see it for the first time during a unique show Masters of the Italian Renaissance. For this occasion, paintings by Jacopo Bassan and Ross Fiorentino were brought to Krakow. The show will be complemented by Titian and his Allegory of Love combined with the work of Padovanino from the Kunsthistorisches Museum in Vienna.

– All the works presented in our museum demonstrate the greatness of the royal residence, referring to its historical splendour. I am glad that we managed to prepare an extraordinary show where we present large-scale painting works by important and unique Renaissance masters. We present for the first time "Madonna and Child" by Giovanni Bellini, one of the most outstanding painters of this period, but we also compare two "Allegories of Love" by Titian and Padovanino (ours and from the collections of the Kunsthistorisches Museum in Vienna), which further increases the prestige of the Wawel collections. Moreover, these works are a perfect complement to one of the most valuable collections of Italian paintings from the 15th and 16th centuries in Poland, which can be admired here – says Prof. Andrzej Betlej, director of the Wawel Royal Castle.

The curator of the Masters of the Italian Renaissance show is Joanna Winiewicz-Wolska, PhD – head of the Painting Department of the Wawel Royal Castle. The art historian and researcher points out that Giovanni Bellini introduced light and colour, poetic, atmospheric landscape and realistically painted figures to Venetian painting. Great painters such as Giorgione and Titian drew abundantly from his achievements.


Giovanni Bellini (1430–1516) and workshop
Madonna with Child
Venice, after 1487
oil on wood, 74.6 × 57.3 cm, signed IOANNES BELLINUS P

Purchased in May 2023 from the Maison d'Art in Monaco by ZKnW, Bellini's painting was most likely painted in the late 1580s or early 1590s. It is a repetition of Giovanni Bellini's composition entitled Madonna degli alberetti from 1487 in the Gallerie dell'Accademia in Venice. It differs slightly in the details – among others, landscape: in the Venetian painting, two symmetrically placed slender trees are visible in the background, and in the Wawel painting, one, on the left side – faithfully repeating the pose of the Madonna and Child. Another composition in which the painter repeated the poses of both figures and their mutual relationships is Madonna and Child with Saint George and Saint Peter – also in the Gallerie dell'Accademia.

It is possible that the Wawel painting was created with the participation of a workshop. This practice – duplicating successful paintings, i.e. repeating their composition and colours according to the original prepared by the master, with slight changes – was common in 15th- and 16th-century Venice. This is not only how the Bellini workshop worked (it was composed of Jacopo Bellini and his two sons – Giovanni and Gentile), but also Titian. The authors of these repetitions were the masters themselves, and sometimes they left certain parts to be completed by their collaborators.
The composition is of a devotional nature – it was probably intended for the interior of a wealthy home. It has a very rich frame, the form and decoration of which are similar to the frame of a Venetian painting.


Tiziano Vecellio (TITIAN, 1488/1490–1576) and workshop
Allegory of Love
circa 1530
oil on canvas, 96.8 × 108 cm

Among Venetian painters of the 16th century, Titian (Tiziano Vecellio, 1488/1490–1576) gained the greatest prestige. Paintings were ordered from him by Emperor Charles V and his son Philip II. The painter portrayed the pope and cardinals of the Roman curia, doges and patricians of Venice, and the rulers of other Italian city-states.

The artist creatively developed the colour achievements of Bellini and Giorgione. His realisations include works on various topics: from religious and mythological scenes to portraits of exceptional stature. A special place is occupied by poems – performances inspired by both ancient and Renaissance literature, often containing hidden allegorical meanings relating to the person of the client. Titian’s allegories are not always easy to decipher today, especially when there are no archival sources. The content has not yet been convincingly explained of Allegory of marital love in the Musée du Louvre, considered – incorrectly – to be a portrait of Marquis Alfonso d'Avalos. This is important because this composition, dating from around 1530, was repeated many times, maintaining the arrangement of the figures but modifying their mutual relationships and changing details. Its version is both the Wawel‘s Allegory of Love, considered to be the work of Titian and his workshop, and a composition with a similar title from the Kunsthistorisches Museum in Vienna, hypothetically attributed to Alessandro Varotari, called Il Padovanino, a late follower of Titian. Both belonged to the Habsburg imperial collection in the Belvedere Palace in Vienna.


Rosso Fiorentino (Giovanni Battista di Jacopo di Gasparre, c. 1494–1540) is one of the most original Florentine painters of the 16th century. His paintings are characterised by an unprecedented expression of both form and colour, creative freedom and incredible compositional inventiveness, as well as realism bordering on the grotesque. Certain stylistic features of his works lead to the conclusion that he was a student or collaborator of Andrea del Sarto. However, Rosso abandons a regular, clear compositional arrangement – where the figures are enclosed in the form of a triangle – in favour of a complication of poses and gestures of figures shown in motion, often in dramatic poses and bold perspective foreshortening, in an abstract space, tightly packed, completely filling the entire frame.

At the Wawel show is featured his Madonna and Child with Saints John the Baptist, Elizabeth and Joseph. This is a painting probably painted for a private client, hence the calming of the forms, although the typical features of Ross’s compositions are clearly visible: large, close-up figures, tight space, as well as dynamic poses of the figures facing each other: little Jesus and Saint John the Baptist. A comparison with Bellini’s Madonna and Child, painted 30 years earlier, shows not only the differences between the painting environments of Venice and Florence, but also indicates the direction in which 16th century painting would go.


The subject matter of the paintings by Jacopo dal Ponte (ca. 1510–1592), called Jacopo Bassano after his birthplace (although this nickname appears only at the end of the 16th century), is diverse. Religious scenes dominate, including those taken not only from the Gospel, but also from the Old Testament. Their characteristic feature is their generic character – the biblical characters look like peasants from Bassano del Grappa, the painter also depicts everyday objects, and instead of an indefinite, abstract landscape, he introduces views reminiscent of the native surroundings, with the Monte Grappa hill dominating. He often repeats the same motif, slightly modifying it and adapting it to a performance on a different topic. In many paintings we can see the silhouette of a bent, kneeling man: sometimes it is a shepherd or one of the three kings bowing to Mary and baby Jesus, another time the Good Samaritan tending to a traveller, and the pose of the injured man is also repeated in other compositions.

Notes about the paintings: Joanna Winiewicz-Wolska, PhD, head of the Painting Department of the Wawel Royal Castle
Co-financed by the Minister of Culture and National Heritage
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