National Geographic : 1940 Jul
The National Geographic Magazine Long interested in Italian art, he generously provided funds for the restoration of numerous historical and artistic monuments in Italy, in cluding rooms in the famous Ducal Palace of the Gonzagas at Mantua and, more recently, for the renowned Mantegna frescoes in that edifice. Historic monuments in Ravenna, Spoleto, and other places have been restored with funds furnished by Mr. Kress, and he has given more than 75 fine paintings to museums and colleges throughout the United States. He followed with interest the building of a national gallery in Washington and the opportunity it offered as a center of culture for the whole country. In offering his collection to the Gallery, Mr. Kress explained: "Because the Gallery and the works of art which it will contain will be for the benefit of all the people of the United States and will be accessible to so many citi zens of this and other countries visiting our National Capital, it seems most suitable that others should contribute to the collection being formed there; and it is my wish, therefore, that the works of art which I have acquired should become part of the National Gallery collection and be exhibited in the Gallery build ing now being erected in Washington." Rarely has a gift of such magnitude been given during the lifetime of the donor. President Roosevelt, in his letter of thanks to Mr. Kress of July 7, 1939, said: "Not only are the treasures you plan to bestow on the Nation incalculable in value and in interest, but in their bestowal you are giving an example which may well be followed by others of our countrymen, who have in their stewardship art treasures which also happily might find a home in the National Gallery." A Great Renaissance Painting Perhaps the foremost painting in the Kress Collection is the celebrated "Adoration of the Shepherds," by Giorgione, which formerly be longed to Lord Allendale of England (Plate VII). This is one of the most beautiful and important paintings in America. It shows the softness and richness of coloring and the pas toral, Arcadian beauty that make Giorgione a figure entirely apart in Italian Renaissance art. Much of Giorgione's work has been lost or destroyed through the centuries, and barely a score of his paintings are known to exist today. In Venice Giorgione and Titian were students of Bellini and later formed a sort of partner ship, sometimes painting a picture jointly. The young artist from Castelfranco became involved in a controversy that attracted the attention of the whole country. Verrocchio, also working in Venice, com pleted a bronze horse for the splendid Colleoni Monument, and his admirers proclaimed that sculpture was superior to painting because it showed all sides of the figure. Giorgione took up the challenge, painted a nude figure near a clear pool with a mirror in the background and a polished corselet at one side. He thus proved that all sides of the figure could be seen in a painting without the trouble of walking around it-and won the argument! Giotto an Early Naturalist Giotto's majestic "Madonna and Child" was formerly in the Henry Goldman Collection (Plate I). Giotto, born about 1266, was a shepherd boy who later laid the foundation for Florentine art. He was the first of the Gothic painters to dramatize human figures and to depict action. He painted jagged cliffs, barren hills, and trees almost devoid of leaves. These touches of landscape were innovations in those early days and he was hailed as an amazing naturalist. Boccaccio writes in the Decameron: "Giotto was such a genius that there was nothing in nature which he could not have represented in such a manner that it not only resembled, but seemed to be, the thing itself." Also a famous architect, Giotto planned the Cathedral at Florence as well as its bell tower. In the tower, which still exists, he carved the first course of stone, depicting arts and indus tries, with his own hand. Few of his works are to be seen outside of Italy. Exceptionally well represented in the Kress Collection is the work of Giovanni Bellini, with eight paintings. Bellini's father, Jacopo, and his brother Gentile were both great art ists, and his sister married another leading master, Mantegna. For many years the two brothers helped their father do his large historical scenes, but Giovanni later became one of the most im portant men in the development of the Vene tian style of painting. "St. Jerome Reading," done in 1505, show ing the Saint at the entrance to his cave in a romantic landscape of Venetian hills, is an interesting example of his work (Plate IX). Among other outstanding masterpieces are the "Madonna and Child," by Filippo Lippi, which formerly hung in the Kaiser Friedrich Museum in Berlin (Plate III), and the "Meet ing of St. Anthony and St. Paul," by Stefano di Giovanni, who was known as Sassetta (Plate II). In this picture the landscape was supposed to represent a desert, but Sassetta pictured it full of hills, lovely trees, and shining stones.