ST ANTONINUS GIVING ALM

LORENZO LOTTO: 1542

Commissioned in 1525/6 to Lorenzo Lotto by the friars of Santi Giovanni e Paolo, this altarpiece celebrates the canonisation of Antoninus, (Archbishop of Florence), in 1523. Antoninus founded a confraternity for respectable people in reduced circumstances’ who were ashamed to beg. In this painting Lotto depicted Antoninus instructing his deacons to give alms to the poor (widows, orphans and beggars) and to receive their requests.

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1. ST ANTONINUS: 1389-1459

The saint, who in 1442 founded a charitable brotherhood for aiding the poor, is placed on a throne in the higher part of the painting. He reads a scroll, possibly a plea, and listens to the advice of two angels.

Antoninus was consecrated Archbishop of Florence on 13 March 1446, at the Dominican priory in Fiesole. He came to win the esteem and love of his people, especially by his energy and resources in combating the effects of the plague and earthquakes in 1448 and 1453.

There is a debate whether he was called Antoninus because he was physically small or because of his humility. His body which is preserved in Florence is not really small at all.

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2. MITRE AND ARCHBISHOP HAT

Behind the deacons is depicted a kind of still life, with the mitre of the archbishop, the pastoral staff, money bags and books.

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3. ASSISTANT/DEACON

Of the two assistants in the lower registrar, the one on the right takes the supplications of the poor.

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4. ASSISTANT/DEACON

The assistant on the left takes money from a bag and below him, the poor extend their hands to receive the charity.

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5. "LOTTO" CARPET

A Lotto carpet is a pile floor covering handwoven in Turkey. Renaissance artists like Carlo Crivelli and Lorenzo Lotto used carpets frequently in their works, so much so that they even have distinct carpet patterns named after them. Lotto's are characterised by a lacy arabesque repeated field pattern, usually in yellow upon a red background. This pattern was a 16th and 17th century favourite for carpets. They were produced somewhere along the Aegean coast of Anatolia.

Notice the 2nd rug in the background placed over a table, which was a common use for rugs at this time.

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6. SELF PORTRAIT

Some say Lotto painted a self portrait into his painting. The image above is another possible self portrait by Lotto from the 1540's to compare (it is hanging in Madrid).

Lotto was only in Venice from 1540 to 1542. This painting was his chief commission. His art was out of fashion in Venice or possibly the competition for a young painter was too great (with established names such as Giorgione, Palma the Elder, and Titian). In 1542 Lotto moved to Treviso, searching for a more appreciative clientele.

Lotto worked often for Dominicans, but they paid him little for this painting- his fee had 35 ducats deducted in exchange for a 'free' funeral, which we have no record of ever having happened.

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7. PERSPECTIVE

Lotto puts the viewer at the bottom of the hierarchy with the needy and the beggars.