An example of one such request was recently discovered.Tullio Lombardo monument to Doge Andrea Vendramin (r. 1476‒78) in SS Giovanni e Paolo (completed photographs illustrated above). The letter mentions that The Frick wanted "to have photographed the details numbered in red No. 2 through 11 if they are not covered by photographs listed above [by Alinari and Anderson].”was stored alongside the finished photographs by Sansoni. Undoubtedly, the letter and the tracing predate the identification of the sitter in the Bellini portrait (illustrated at left) as Doge Giovanni Mocenigo.
Since 1933, when the photographs of the Vendramin monument were requested, scholars have convincingly identified the sitter of the Bellini portrait as Mocenigo. The Frick's 1968 catalog, Paintings in the Frick Collection, affirms this identification, pointing to the frieze of the doges in the Palazzo Ducale, in which Mocenigo’s “wrinkled brow and folds of flesh around the eye, mouth, and chin . . . would seem to be based directly on the [Bellini] painting."in 1817.
Looking at these images from the 1930s and the early 2000s suggests the way in which “[a] photograph is rarely a work of individual seeing, but almost inevitably a (potential) unit in an archive,” as Susan Sontag wrote in a review of the exhibition catalog Italy: One Hundred Years of Photography, organized by the Alinari Archives in 1988. The photographs of these monuments are useful records in their own right, yet due to their precise renderings of the faces of the doges, they take on an additional function as aids in identifying the sitter in the Bellini portrait.
Top: Tullio Lombardo (ca. 1455‒1532), Monument to Doge Andrea Vendramin. Marble. SS Giovanni e Paolo, Venice
Middle right: Tracing of the Monument to Doge Andrea Vendramin by Frederick Mortimer Clapp
Middle left: Gentile Bellini (1429–1507). Doge Giovanni Mocenigo, 1478-1485. Tempera on poplar wood, 64.9 × 18.7 in. The Frick Collection (1926.1.02)
Middle right: Tullio Lombardo (ca. 1455‒1532), detail of Monument to Doge Giovanni Mocenigo. Marble. SS Giovanni e Paolo, Venice
Lower left: Tullio Lombardo (ca. 1455‒1532), Monument to Doge Giovanni Mocenigo. Marble.
SS Giovanni e Paolo, Venice