A New Work by Sebastiano del Piombo, Great But Disappointing

THE DAILY PIC: The Art Institute of Chicago acquired a newly discovered Sebastiano – it's important, but flawed.

THE DAILY PIC (#1590): A bit more than a week ago, the Art Institute of Chicago announced that it had acquired this newly-discovered painting of Christ carrying the cross by the great Italian painter Sebastiano del Piombo. As the (accurate) cliché would have it, in the years around 1520, Sebastiano married the illusionistic life-drawing of Florence with a Venetian’s touch for paint. He’s one of a handful of Renaissance masters who made major contributions to art but still can’t crawl out from under the shadow of Leonardo, Raphael, Michelangelo and Titian. (Fra Bartolommeo is another such artist who comes to mind, for the way he enlarged the figures in 15th-century paintings, turning them into the kind of monumental draped saints that then became standard in Christian altarpieces.)

But the truth is that, despite my vast admiration for Sebastiano, there are really only a tiny handful of his paintings that come together perfectly into tight, coherent works of art – and the Chicago picture is not one of them. Sebastiano is in a very special, very important, utterly fascinating category of artist that exists in every discipline: The genius whose actual works disappoint.

For a full survey of past Daily Pics visit blakegopnik.com/archive.

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