In Venice Christianity was looked upon rather as a civic function than as the ruling influence in life. Her inhabitants were too proud and self-minded to consider anything seriously but their own prosperity and elevation. The paintings of Venice were not therefore intended to instruct in the gospel, but were rather representative of the actual city life, which was material and majestic. Commerce was what built up the city and maintained it in luxury, and on the whole it is natural that its art should show a development cerresponding to its surroundings.
In Venetian architecture and painting alike, the eye meets color everywhere, a marvel of beauty even after the lapse of several centuries. This love of color Venice imported from Constantinople along with its luxurious habits of living.
Gentile de Fabriano is an artist of great repute at this period, and his personality is strongly impressed upon Venetian art. His most distinguished pupil was Bellini. The two Bellinis, father and son, lived and worked in Padua, and were influenced strongly by its art. Yet they are the real founders of Venetian art. Color is still predominant; hardness of line and statuesqueness of form melt away before its influence. Bellini attracts on account of his honest and earnest painting of saints and madonnas. His characters are dignified and possessed of angelic qualities. Truth and elegance mark his style, but not fire or splendor.
Carpaccio, a less distinguished contemporary of Bellini, but one who has been praised highly by Ruskin, was not exactly a religious or devotional painter, but he leads us rather to the historic, the legendary and the chivalric. His pictures are the first attempt to get the out-of-door effect in nature. In all the Italian art of the fifteenth century there is no affectation, but sincerity, simplicity and purity.
The concluding lecture of the course will be delivered this evening.