National Geographic : 1952 Jan
102 National Geographic Photographer Ernest J. 'ottrell "Look! A Fly on the Picture!" A 16th-century Artist's Joke Still Fools Beholders Sebastiano del Piombo, perhaps at the request of his subject, Cardinal Sauli, added a rare touch of realism to this painting-a housefly so carefully drawn that many persons try to shoo it away (pages 79 and 101). Guards watch to see that they do not actually brush the painting. to the rescue of the drowning St. Placidus. Though the scene is dramatic, its mood is serene, timeless, with even the colors subdued to the grays and blacks of monastic life. How explosive by contrast seems another painting, two centuries later! Elijah is car ried to Heaven in a chariot of fire (page 96). Giovanni Battista Piazzetta in this ceiling decoration represents every figure as if tossed by a whirlwind of flame. But in all this turbulence a wonderful clarity of draftsman ship is maintained. The hands of Elisha are among the most beautiful in art. Later in the 18th century the tempo again changes, becomes slower, as if people were weary from excess of thought and emotion. Taste turns to the charm of "far-off things and battles long ago." Robert's nostalgic love of the crumbling monuments of the Campagna, as in his Ponte Salario, heralds the coming vogue of Romantic sentiment (pages 74, 81). Venice was the pleasure resort of the 18th century world. Its popularity fostered an insatiable desire for paintings of the more fa mous views, such as the Grand Canal and the Basin of St. Mark's (page 82). Antonio Canaletto painted these scenes so often and so vividly that, after looking at many of his works, actuality and fantasy merge in the mind until, sight-seeing in Venice, I have sometimes admired the perspective and reached out to touch the canvas before realizing that I was myself standing inside the picture. But while Canaletto painted, Venice was dying; and with the end of its independence the center of Italian life moved to the Vatican. It is appropriate that the most recent painting (page 80), done by Ingres and dated 1810, shows a scene in the Vatican with Pius VII surrounded by ecclesiastical dignitaries, each carefully portrayed.