Exhibition | Paintings on Stone

Posted in books, catalogues, exhibitions by Editor on August 8, 2021

Looking ahead to next year at SLAM (the catalogue is available now) . . .

Paintings on Stone: Science and the Sacred, 1530–1800
Saint Louis Art Museum, 20 February — 15 May 2022

Curated by Judith Mann

In 2000 the Saint Louis Art Museum purchased Cavaliere d’Arpino’s Perseus Rescuing Andromeda (ca. 1593–94), an exceptional painting on lapis lazuli. The acquisition of the small, stunning work of art spurred extensive research that culminates in Paintings on Stone: Science and the Sacred 1530–1800, the first systematic examination of the pan-European practice of this unusual and little-studied artistic tradition.

By 1530 Italian artists had begun to paint portraits and sacred images on stone. At first artists used slate and marble. By the last decades of the sixteenth century, the repertoire expanded, eventually including alabaster, lapis lazuli, onyx, jasper, agate, and amethyst. In addition to demonstrating the beauty of these works, Paintings on Stone explains why artists began using stone supports and the role that stone played in the meaning of these endeavors. Bringing together more than 90 examples by 58 artists, the exhibition represents major centers of stone painting and features 34 different stones, nearly the full range that were used. The exhibition is curated by Judith W. Mann, curator of European art to 1800.

Judith W. Mann, ed., Paintings on Stone: Science and the Sacred, 1530–1800 (Munich: Hirmer Publishers, 2021), 320 pages, ISBN: 978-3777435565, $50.

Paintings on Stone examines a fascinating tradition long overlooked by art historians—stone surfaces used to create stunning portraits, mythological scenes, and sacred images. Written by an international team of scholars, the catalogue reveals the significance of these paintings, their complex meanings, and their technical virtuosity. Using a technique perfected by Sebastiano del Piombo (1485–1547), sixteenth-century Italian artists created compositions using stone surfaces in place of panel or canvas. The practice of using stone supports continued to engage European artists and patrons well into the eighteenth century. This volume reveals the beauty of these works and examines the complexity of using materials such as slate, marble, alabaster, lapis lazuli, and amethyst. Illustrated with more than one hundred examples, and with essays on topics ranging from importing stone to its relationship to alchemy, Paintings on Stone will become the essential reference on this little-studied practice.


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