Ponte, Jacob Da

, called also IL Bassano, and IL Bassan Vecchio, was born at Bassano, 1510, and initiated in the first principles of the art by his father, of which the proofs are his earliest works in the church of S. Bernardino. He went to Venice, recommended to Bonifazio, a master not less jealous of his ‘ mystery’ than Titian or Tintoretto so that Jacob saw little more of his method than what he could discover through a key-hole or a crevice. The short time he staid at Venice was employed drawing from the designs of Parmegiano, and in making copies from the pictures of Bonifazio and Titian, whose scholar he is even called in some ms. and not without probability, if conformity of manner were sufficient to prove it, so much does his second style resemble that of Titian. The death of his father obliged him to return and to fix himself at Bassano, a small opulent town surrounded by a picturesque country, abounding in cattle and pastures, and conveniently situated for markets and fairs: from which objects arose his third style, natural, simple, and pleasing, the Italian prelude to that which afterwards distinguished the Flemish school. In the handling of the pencil he had two methods: one highly finished in blended tints, and only at last decided by bolder touches; the second, which must be the result of the first, was formed of simple pencilstrokes, and dashes of gay and lucid tints, laid on with conscious power, and a kind of contemptuous security, which, on close inspection, appear a confused mass, at a distance from a magic charm of colours. His composition in both is the same, and peculiar to himself, blending circular with triangular forms, and the most contrasted postures with parallel lines. He veils his light, and by its sober distribution, the frequent use of demi-tints, and little or no black, contrives to produce harmony from the most opposite colours. In the degradation of his lights, he often makes the shade of an interior figure serve for the ground of an exterior one, and strikes the strongest lights on the most angular parts, such as the top of the shoulders, the knee, the elbows. His drapery, simple in appearance, is | disposed with great art for this purpose, and the folds are varied according to the difference of the stuffs with unusual refinement. His colours even now have the brilliancy of gems, especially the green, which has an emerald lustre peculiar to himself.

In the beginning he aimed at grandeur of style, and left some traces of it in certain pictures still existing in front of the house Michieli, chiefly remarkable for a figure of Samson slaying the Philistines, with a fierceness not unworthy of Michael Angelo. But whether prompted by nature or judgment, he soon confined himself to smaller proportions and subjects of less energy. Even in altarpieces his figures are generally below the natural size, and seldom much alive so that socne one said, the elders of Tintoretto had all the rage of yocith, and the youth of Bassano all the apathy of age. His situation, the monotony and meanness of the objects that surrounded him, limited his ideas, debased his fancy, and caused frequent repetitions of the same subjects without much variation. He had contracted the habit of working at his ease in his study assisted by his scholars, and of dispatching the produce to Venice, or the most frequented fairs. Hence those swarms of pictures of all sizes, which make it less a boast for a collector to possess a Bassan, than a disgrace not to have one. The Banquet of Martha and the Pharisee, the Prodigal Son, Noah’s Ark, the Return of Jacob, the Annunciation to the Shepherds, the Queen of Sheba, the Three Magi, the Seizure of Christ, and the taking down from the Cross by torch-light, nearly compose the series of his sacred subjects. The profane ones consist chiefly in markets, rustic employments, kitchens, larders, &c. His daughters generally sat for his females, whether queens, Magdalens, or country wenches. The grand objection to his works is a repetition of similar conceits; but these, it must be allowed, he carried to a high degree of perfection. He lived equally employed by the public and the great, and highly esteemed, if not by Vasari, by the most celebrated of his contemporaries and rivals, Titian, Tintoretto, Annibal Caracci, and Paul Veronese. He died in 1592, aged eighty-two, leaving four sons, Francis, Leander, John Baptist, and Jerom all of whom preserved the reputation of the family, in a considerable degree, for many years. 1

1 Pilkington, by Fuseli. D’Argenville, vol. I. Sir J. Reynold’s Works.