(b. ca. 1480, Venezia, d. 1556, Loreto)
The Alms of St Antoninus1542
Oil on wood, 332 x 235 cm
Basilica dei Santi Giovanni e Paolo, Venice
The scarlet curtain is drawn aside to reveal a sacred scene with a social and historical content. The confusion of indiscriminate need meets the discriminating order of assistance. The hierarchical configuration of the altarpiece leaves the viewer on the lower plane, with the noisy, beseeching poor, to look enviously up at the rich carpet.
Right through his life Lotto found the Dominican order to be generous patron. Even during the extremely tormented period he spent in Venice the only commission of particular importance that he obtained was from the Dominicans. At the bottom of the altarpiece the pathetic throng of the poor who hope to receive alms is particularly moving. The layout of the composition is wholly innovatory, but was destined not to leave its mark on later Venetian painting.