Lorenzo Lotto and adversities

Adoration of the Child was shown in Kraków for the first time in 1882. Under the painting, there is a plate with the name of the author — Gaudenzio Ferrari. As it turned out later, the exhibition organised as part of a charity campaign by Katarzyna Potocka contributed not only to increasing the funds of the Charitable Association…
Soon after, in the discussion of the works published in Czas (Time) daily, Marian Sokołowski — a prominent scholar and founder of the Department of the History of Art at the Jagiellonian University — identified the artist differently, pointing to Lorenzo Lotto.
The traces of his works date back to early 16th-century Italy when Lotto realised, among others, the commission for the polyptych for the main altar of Dominicans’ Church in Recanati. He made portraits and devotional paintings. In 1508, at the height of his career, he was given a very considerable commission to decorate a part of the apartments in the Vatican Palace. However, history played a trick on him. His work was not approved by the pope and in a few years’ time the same walls would be covered by frescoes created by Raphael Santi (history treated his work more favourably; his paintings are admired up to this day in the interior of the palace).
The peer of Raphael and Titian (at the side of whom Lotto sat in a guild for painters) would stay in their shadow till his very end. Their stars would shine brighter on the firmament and for several centuries they would effectively outshine the brightness of his genius.
Lotto died in 1556 or 1557.

Following traces — notes on everyday life

He left more than only scattered paintings. From 1540 he meticulously wrote a personal account book — the Libro di spese diverse. He probably did not expect that the notes, which were to put order into his household expenses, would become a guidebook for searchers and discoverers of his output.
Many researchers claim that his technique, based on expression and distorted proportions, was far ahead of his times. Lotto’s genius would be discovered only later. Over time the paintings created by him would start to return to him. The works were regained by Bernard Berenson (outstanding researcher of the Renaissance), who in 1901 added Adoration of the Child to Lotto’s monograph (Berenson placed Adoration… in the series of the master’s works although he was only acquainted with the photograph of the painting). It was previously regained by Professor Sokołowski.
The work, which has been part of the collection of the National Museum in Kraków since 1971, with the correct name of its author, still hides many secrets.
During conservation works it was discovered that the board on which Lotto painted his picture had been cropped by 2 cm. Was a valuable part of the work lost in this way? It is not clear who the mysterious figure of an old man is. Lorenzo Lotto still struggles with adversities. Will it be possible, after five centuries, to decode all the contexts?

Elaborated by Editorial team of Małopolska’s Virtual Museums,
Licencja Creative Commons

 This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Poland License.

The text based on P. Drabarczyk, Klejnot cierpieniem podszyty [Suffering jewel], “Art&Biznes2011, issue 6.