Roderick Conway-Morris

Sense and sensuality

Correggio and the Antique National Gallery and other locations in Parma, until 25 January 2009 Unlike the other leading artists of the Italian High Renaissance — Leonardo, Raphael, Michelangelo, Titian — Correggio lived a life of provincial obscurity. Unable to find any likeness of him, Vasari was obliged in his Lives of the Artists to

Lost and found

Josef Maria Auchentaller (1865-1945): A Secessionist on the Borders of the Empire Palazzo Attems-Petzenstein, Gorizia, Italy, until 30 September The story that unfolds in this fascinating exhibition is a strange and poignant one. The Viennese-born Auchentaller was a contributor to the Munich Secession of 1892 and a key player in the Vienna Secession of 1897,

Brave new world

All empires eventually bite off more than they can chew. Rome and the Barbarians, the latest exhibition under the new management at Palazzo Grassi in Venice, suffers from the same syndrome. It aims to cover the entire first millennium of the Christian era by displaying more than 2,000 artefacts, from 200 collections in 23 countries,

Saints on the move

In August 1766, the printmakers of Augsburg brought a case of plagiarism against the Veneto publishers and printmakers Remondini. One of the witnesses they summoned was Giuseppe Fietta, an itinerant pedlar, who was then doing the rounds of Bavaria selling Remondini’s Santi, or prints of saints. They were very popular with country-folk, Fietta explained, because

Lessons from the East

Venice and Islam: 828–1797 Gazing up at the walls of the Sala dello Scrutinio in the Doge’s Palace, at the enormous canvases depicting tumultuous scenes of colliding fleets, flashing armour and swords, flying arrows, broken spars, burning and sinking ships, and waters congested with enemy dead and dying, you could be forgiven for thinking that

Fount of all gardens

According to an Hellenic historian, Nebuchadnezzar built the Hanging Gardens of Babylon in the 6th century BC to make his wife, who was from a mountainous region of Iran, feel at home. In fact, he and other rulers of Mesopotamia before him (the first such gardens were probably at Nineveh) were seeking to impress a

Sins of commission

‘They order, said I, this matter better in France.’ It is the norm at the national pavilions (a record 76 nations are present this year) for a new commissioner to be appointed for each edition, who selects the artist, or artists, to represent their country, or heads a committee that does so. A dozen years

Saint for all ages

‘His clothes are drenched in brine, his beard drips with seawater, and his brow is covered in perspiration due to his continual efforts to reach sinking ships to save them from the angry waves.’ Such is the lively picture of St Nicholas recorded by an anthologist of popular Greek calendar customs, contrasting somewhat with the

Fear of failure

The ‘Michelangelo Buonarroti, Florentine, Painter, Sculptor and Architect’ of Giorgio Vasari’s Lives, the only living artist to be included in this compendious work, at one time or another denied he was any of the above, except ‘Florentine’. The only formal training he ever received was as a painter. But when Julius II called on him

An ancient modernist

In 1944 an Allied bomb fell into the circular courtyard of the ancient Roman-inspired house that Andrea Mantegna had built for himself in Mantua, bouncing off its frescoed frieze. It failed to detonate. On 11 March of the same year, another landed on the Eremitani church in Padua, blowing the Ovetari chapel, whose walls were

Papal travels

In 1435 a young Tuscan poet and diplomat visited the court of James I in Edinburgh. The purpose of his mission remains something of a mystery. But he was impressed by the women of the country, whom he described as ‘fair, charming and easily won’. It also did not take him long to discover that

Sales hype

An ancient Roman sceptic wondered how, when two augurs passed in the street and caught one another’s eye, they managed not to burst out laughing. A Damien Hirst bisected lamb suspended in a glass tank of formaldehyde was sold for $3.37 million at Christie’s in New York early in May. Works by Donald Judd, who

Adventures of the gods

The Christian Church sought to banish the ancient gods, but their fascination proved too strong. Their reappearance in their many manifestations during the Renaissance transformed Western visual culture, reviving, nourishing and sustaining the nude and the erotic as legitimate subjects of art. How the antique gods and demigods descended to earth again, enlivening panels, canvases,