The Protestant Reformation in Sixteenth-Century Italy

By Salvatore Caponetto; Anne C. Tedeschi et al. | Go to book overview

APPENDIX
LORENZO LOTTO PHILO-REFORMER?

by Carlo Papini

SCHOLARSHIP IS VIRTUALLY UNANIMOUS1 in recognizing the hand of the great Venetian painter Lorenzo Lotto ( 1480- 1556) in the images on the tide page of Antonio Brucioli's Bible ( 1st ed.: Venice: Luc'Antonio Giunti, 1532), especially in the depiction of Moses receiving the tablet of the Law. The three upper panels picture the creation of Eve, the fall of Adam and Eve and their expulsion from Eden. Below, at the left, there are three Old Testament episodes: Moses facing Pharaoh, the passage over the Red Sea, and Moses again receiving the tablet of the Law. The panels on the right depict the birth and resurrection of Jesus; below, the apostle Paul preaching to the Athenians. The entire cycle, intimately connected, culminates in this final scene (rather uncommon in Italian iconography), which is intended to emphasize the need to convey the Word of God to the people in the spoken language. This harmonizes perfectly with what Brucioli himself stated in the preface and dedication to the king of France with which the Bible opens, where he argues that the various categories of people who heard the living words of the Messiah at the time of Jesus now had the same right to read those same words in their own vernacular language (see above at p. 28).

In the face of the unwavering hostility on the part of the Roman Curia against any vernacular version of the Sacred Scriptures that did not literally follow the Latin Vulgate, but claimed to be based on the original Hebrew and Greek texts,2 Lotto's representations assume a disguised but controversial connotation. Moreover, in the opinion of a recent authority, "The close narrative 'continuum' framing the title and summary of the title page, quite rare in Italy, originated in northern books, suggesting a link, even by this channel, of the "heretic" Brucioli with the Protestant world."3

____________________
1
The only contrary opinion belongs to Pietro Zampetti, Lorenzo Lotto nelle Marche. Il suo tempo, il suo influsso ( Florence: Centro DI, 1981), 440-41.
2
The first instance of Roman censorship against Erasmus New Testament dates to 1526. Brucioli Bible was included in Paul IV Index in 1559.
3
F. Barberi, Il frontespizio nel libro italiano del Quattrocento e del Cinquecento ( Milan, 1969), 132.

-403-

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