Exhibition | Portrait of the Artist

Posted in books, catalogues, exhibitions by Editor on November 22, 2016


Press release (6 September 2016) from the Royal Collection Trust:

Portrait of the Artist
The Queen’s Gallery, Buckingham Palace, London, 4 November 2016 — 17 April 2017
The Queen’s Gallery, Palace of Holyroodhouse, Edinburgh, TBA

The first-ever exhibition of portraits of artists in the Royal Collection examines the changing image of the creative genius through more than 150 paintings, drawings, prints, photographs and decorative arts. Portrait of the Artist explores themes such as the cult of the artistic personality, the artist at work, and artists’ self-portraits.

From the 16th century, artists rose from the ranks of skilled artisans to a more elevated social status, a change in part influenced by royal patronage. The medieval tradesmen’s guilds were replaced first by workshops run by a master and subsequently by the first art academies. The lives of the most successful artists were recorded for posterity in the new literary genre of artists’ biographies. One of the most important collections of biographies from this period was Giorgio Vasari’s Delle vite de’ piu eccellenti pittori, scultori et architettori (1568), which described the lives of over 150 artists including that of the author. As artists became more prominent in society, a market developed for images of those deemed to be exceptional by virtue of their artistic talent. At the same time, artists increasingly saw self-portraiture as a way of demonstrating their skills to potential collectors and asserting their new standing in the world.

Images of artists became a valuable commodity, keenly acquired by monarchs and other influential patrons. The inventory compiled by Charles I’s Surveyor of Pictures in the late 1630s shows that three of the most important artists’ portraits owned by the monarch, including self-portraits by Daniel Mytens (c.1630) and Sir Peter Paul Rubens (1623), hung outside the King’s Withdrawing Room at Whitehall Palace. The 1666 inventory of Charles II’s collection lists 24 portraits of artists in “the Pafsage betweene ye Greene Roome and ye Clofet.” In this most intimate part of the royal apartments, accessible only to the King’s closest acquaintances and family, were Artemisia Gentileschi’s Self-portrait as the Allegory of Painting (La Pittura) (c.1638–39), Rubens’s self-portrait (1623) and portrait of his former assistant Anthony van Dyck (c.1627–28).

During the 17th century, general advancements in optics and practical developments in the production of mirrors enabled artists to be increasingly experimental and ambitious in their self-portraits. Artemisia Gentileschi used two mirrors to capture herself from an unusual angle for her powerful self-portrait as the personification of Painting, a remarkably unorthodox representation of a woman at this early date.

Artists frequently incorporated their own image into their works, as major players in historical and mythological narratives or through more subtle means. In Judith with the Head of Holofernes (1613), the painter Cristofano Allori appears as the decapitated Holofernes, his former lover Maria di Giovanni Mazzafiri is the murderous Judith, and her mother is Judith’s maidservant. Jan de Bray’s The Banquet of Cleopatra (1652) is a thinly disguised family portrait in which the artist casts his father Salomon de Bray, also a successful painter, in the role of Mark Antony.


Jean-Étienne Liotard, Self-Portrait, ca. 1753, enamel (London: Royal Collection Trust, RCIN 421436).

Through the choice of costume, gesture, props and setting, a self-portrait enabled an artist to take on a variety of roles. After visiting the Levant in 1738–43, the painter Jean-Étienne Liotard adopted a style of clothing for which he was to become known as ‘Le Peintre Turc’. His unconventional appearance—the Moldavian fur headdress and long beard seen in his self-portrait miniature of 1753—was thought by some to have contributed to his commercial success.

For young artists without the funds to pay a professional model, self-portraiture was a convenient way to practice their drawing skills. Annibale and Agostino Carracci’s self-portraits of c.1575–80 were probably produced by the teenage artists to hone their talents in this way. Some self-portraits appear to have been produced solely for the purpose of self-scrutiny. In a chalk drawing, possibly executed at the age of 80 in the final year of his life, Gianlorenzo Bernini records his hooded eyes and sunken cheeks with unflinching honesty.

The relationship between contemporaries in the art world is explored in the exhibition through representations of artists by their friends, admirers and pupils. Francesco Melzi’s chalk drawing of the aged Leonardo da Vinci (c.1515) is thought to be the most reliable surviving likeness of his teacher. Rubens’s portrait of his former assistant and lifelong friend Van Dyck shows the artist in three-quarter profile, his gaze averted to make him appear reflective, in contrast to the confident figure presented in Van Dyck’s self-portraits. The friendship between the engraver Francesco Bartolozzi and the painter Giovanni Battista Cipriani, Italian artists working in London, is recorded in charming pencil sketches that the pair made of each other in 1770—one painting, the other dozing in a chair.

In the 19th century, romanticised episodes from the lives of famous artists from the past were popular subject-matter. Johann Michael Wittmer’s Raphael’s First Sketch of the ‘Madonna della Sedia’ (c.1853) depicts the fable of how the Renaissance master came to create one of his best-known works on the base of a wine barrel. Frederick Leighton’s monumental work Cimabue’s Madonna Carried in Procession (1855) encapsulates the Victorian artist’s belief that, during the Renaissance, great art was appreciated at all levels of society and artists were held in high esteem, their genius widely acknowledged.

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In the US and Canada, the catalogue is distributed by The University of Chicago Press:

Anna Reynolds, Lucy Peter, and Martin Clayton, Portrait of the Artist (London: Royal Collection Trust, 2016), 240 pages, ISBN: 978-1909741324, $48.

9781909741324Dürer’s Self-Portrait at Age Twenty-Eight. Hockney’s Self-Portrait with Cigarette. Melzi’s drawing of Leonardo da Vinci, widely regarded as the most reliable surviving likeness of this most famous Old Master. Throughout history, many of the world’s most renowned artists have made portraits to represent themselves and others.

The first book to focus on images of artists from within the Royal Collection, Portrait of the Artist brings together paintings, drawings, prints, and photographs by artists from across the centuries, including works by Rembrandt van Rijn, Peter Paul Rubens, David Hockney, and Lucian Freud. While some of the portraits included in this book were created to showcase the artist’s talent, others were motivated by more personal reasons, to preserve the images of cherished friends. Anna Reynolds, Lucy Peter, and Martin Clayton explore the miscellany of themes running throughout the discipline of portraiture, from the rich symbolism found in images of the artist’s studio to the transformation of styles with which artists depicted themselves, changing their portrayals to align with their changing status. They also explore the relationships between artists and patrons, including the important role of the monarchy in commissioning and collecting portraits of artists.



New Book | Chinese and Japanese Works of Art in the Royal Collection

Posted in books, museums by Editor on November 22, 2016

Published by the Royal Collection Trust and distributed in the U.S. and Canada by Chicago:

John Ayers, Chinese and Japanese Works of Art in the Collection of Her Majesty The Queen, 3 volumes (London: Royal Collection Trust, 2016), 1296 pages, ISBN: 978-1905686490, £150 / $250.

9781905686490The Royal Collection includes some of the most important examples of Eastern applied art in the Western world, reflecting the West’s long-standing appetite for rarities from distant lands. With more than 2,000 objects distributed across the royal residences in England and Scotland, the collection represents a rich cross-section of Chinese and Japanese porcelains, jades, lacquers, and other works of art.

This three-volume catalogue raisonné covers this substantial and important collection in comprehensive detail. It includes for the first time the many eighteenth- and nineteenth-century bronze mounts that are such a striking feature of the collection. Made in French and British workshops to enhance the objects they display, the mounts themselves are often of superb quality and of great historical importance.

More than 2,400 colour images are used to illustrate the collection, including intricate decorative details and makers’ marks. Introductory essays cover the history and development of the collection and the ways in which these works of art have been displayed in the royal palaces and adapted according to the fashions of the day.

Volume One presents the Chinese ceramics of the Ming and Qing dynasties in chronological order (continued in Volume Two). In addition, due to their unique historical significance, the contents of the collection at Hampton Court Palace are presented here separately. Volume Two continues the works of the Qing dynasty, and ends with the Japanese works; the volume also contains a special focus on the European mounts that were added to works of Chinese and Japanese porcelain during the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. Volume Three contains non-porcelain works, namely lacquer, jade and other hardstones, carved ivories, textiles and metalwork. Many of these works came into the Royal Collection as Imperial gifts, to George III, Queen Victoria, King Edward VII, and Queen Alexandra, with the exception of the Japanese lacquer wares, which were acquired for George IV to furnish the Royal Pavilion at Brighton. Although not much studied, these pieces were admired by the royal family, and Chinese rooms were created at Windsor and Sandringham House, decorated with an eclectic mixture of European chinoiserie and authentic works of Asian art.






Buckingham Palace Slated for £369Million Renovation

Posted in museums, on site by Editor on November 22, 2016


Buckingham Palace, London. The East Front, originally constructed by Edward Blore and completed in 1850, acquired its present appearance following a remodeling in 1913 by Sir Aston Webb (Photo by David Iliff, April 2009, License: CC-BY-SA 3.0, Wikimedia Commons).

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As reported by Stephen Castle for The New York Times (19 November 2016) . . .

The boilers are shot, the water pipes sag, and the 60-year-old cabling is a fire hazard. Buckingham Palace, home to Queen Elizabeth II, may not exactly be falling down, but it badly needs refurbishing, the British government said on Friday, citing “a serious risk of fire, flood and damage.” Renovations on the building will start in April and will take a decade to complete, at a cost of £369 million ($456 million). The announcement adds to the list of prestigious structures in Britain that need work, including the crumbling Palace of Westminster, home of the British Parliament.

The building that would become Buckingham Palace was built in the early 1700s and became a royal residence when George III bought it in 1761. The queen carries out most of her official ceremonial and diplomatic duties as head of state in the palace. She would not have to move out while the work was in progress, officials said. . . .

The full article is available here»

Writing for The Guardian, Caroline Davies addresses in more detail the financial arrangements, including the controversies around spending £369 million in a time of austerity.



The Morgan Launches Refreshed Website

Posted in museums by Editor on November 22, 2016


Press release (17 November 2016) from The Morgan:

The Morgan Library & Museum today announced the launch of a refreshed website. The updated look for themorgan.org offers a sleek, contemporary design, and also introduces features that make the site more compatible across platforms: mobile, tablet, and desktop computers. The unveiling of the new design coincides with the ten-year anniversary of the Morgan’s 2006 expansion, and is the first major makeover since then.

Digital initiatives at the Morgan are part of a larger strategic undertaking to expand access to the institution’s holdings. The upgrades to the Morgan’s website represent a significant development for scholars, students, and members of the general public interested in accessing the Morgan’s vast collections. Prior to undertaking digitization initiatives, the Morgan’s collection had been available on a select basis onsite at the museum’s New York headquarters, while some of the works have been published in various museum catalogs. Digitization efforts enable access to the collection from anywhere in the world and includes a zoom feature to study individual works in detail.

In recent years, almost 700 music manuscripts from its extraordinary collection—represented by such masters as Mozart, Beethoven, Bach, and Handel—have been digitized and made available on its website. The museum’s most ambitious undertaking—the digitization of its collection of over 14,500 drawings —began in Fall 2013, and as of today over 95% of this undertaking is complete, including a cache of over 500 Rembrandt prints and etchings. Additionally, the Morgan offers online access to illuminations from 823 Medieval and Renaissance manuscripts (including over 20,000 illuminations) and thousands of highlights from literary and historical manuscripts, rare books, and ancient near eastern seals and tablets, which can be rotated and zoomed. In the past six months, highlights that have been added include the entire collection of the Morgan’s Coptic bindings and the Lindau Gospels.

Looking ahead, the Morgan plans to continue sharing more objects from its vast collections through the website. Collections ranging from early Mesopotamian and Egyptian through Greco-Roman culture, the Middle Ages, the Renaissance, and beyond, will be further represented on the website. The music manuscripts pages will also be upgraded to provide more download options and improved navigation.

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Luigi Valadier, Drawing of an inkstand in Rococo Style, 1764, pen and brown ink, with brown and red wash, over graphite, on paper, 37.5 × 52.4 cm (New York: The Morgan Library & Museum, 1991.15, purchased on the Sunny Crawford von Bülow Fund 1978). Multiple filters (including ‘centuries’) accommodate collection searches.




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