LOTTO, Lorenzo
(b. ca. 1480, Venezia, d. 1556, Loreto)

Santo Spirito Altarpiece

Oil on canvas, 287 x 268 cm
Santo Spirito, Bergamo

Lotto's three great altarpieces for churches in Bergamo (the San Bartolomeo Altarpiece, the San Bernardino Altarpiece and the Santo Spirito Altarpiece), which were painted between 1516 and 1521, in the same periods as Titian's Assumption and Pesaro altar, are High Renaissance compositions, but closer, in their symmetrical arrangement, to Florentine painters like Fra Bartolommeo and Albertinelli, than to Titian himself. Yet for all the balance of their compositions, they remain restless in detail, and a passion for bright local colour, and smooth hard surfaces prevents Lotto from achieving, or even aiming at, the painterly unity of his contemporaries. This failure to integrate perhaps reflects, at the deepest level, the tensions of a neurotic personality.

The Santo Spirito Altarpiece offers further proof of the variety of Lotto's sources of inspiration. While the infant St John hugging the lamb can be linked to Leonardo, the variegated flight of angels above the Virgin's head can be seen in relation to Correggio's parallel inventions.

The represented saints in the Santo Spirito Altarpiece are Catherine of Alexandria, Augustine, Sebastian, Anthony the Abbot, and the Young John the Baptist.