Print Quarterly, December 2019

Posted in books, exhibitions, journal articles, reviews by Editor on December 4, 2019

The eighteenth century in the current issue of Print Quarterly:

Print Quarterly 36.4 (December 2019)

Étienne Fessard and Augustin de Saint-Aubin, after Charles Natoire, Gaetano Brunetti, and Paolo Antonio Brunetti, Perspective View of the Chapel of Enfants Trouvés in Paris, 1759, etching and engraving, sheet (trimmed) 80 × 59 cm (New York, Metropolitan Museum of Art).


Rena M. Hoisington, “Étienne Fessard’s Prints of the Chapel of the Hôpital des Enfants Trouvés in Paris,” pp. 404–25.

Soon after Charles Natoire (1700–1777) completed his cycle of paintings for the Chapel of the Hôpital des Enfants Trouvés in Paris, Fessard announced a subscription plan for a series of prints reproducing them. Often addressed merely for their documentary value, these prints are here analysed as objects in themselves. The article explores their complex publication history and assesses them in the context of Fessard’s career. Also analysed is the series’ repercussion on the reputation of the artists involved in their realization, Natoire included.

N O T E S  A N D  R E V I E W S

Colin Harrison, Review of Peter Whitfield, Oxford in Prints: 1675–1900 (Bodleian Library, 2016), p. 448.

The book explores how Oxford has been pictured between 1675 and 1922 by illustrating a selection of volumes in the collection of the Bodleian Library. The largest group consists of almanacks printed by the University, which took their definitive format of a topographical headpiece with a calendar beneath in the early eighteenth century.

Jean Michel Massing, Review of Cheryl Finley, Committed to Memory: The Art of the Slave Ship Icon (Princeton University Press, 2018), p. 484–88.

The book “focuses on the life, and afterlife, of  famous anti-slavery icon,” the 1788 engraved Plan of an African Ship’s lower Deck with Negroes in the proportion of only one to a Ton (484). Part One “considers abolitionist slave ship prints from the period 1788 to 1900; the remainder of the book is devoted to their stature as an icon reappropriated by twentieth-century African American, British and African artists” (488).

P U B L I C A T I O N S  R E C E I V E D

Mungo Campbell and Nathan Flis, eds., William Hunter and the Anatomy of the Modern Museum, exhibition catalogue (Yale Center for British Art, and The Hunterian, University of Glasgow, in association with Yale University Press, 2018), p. 472.

Exhibition | Portraying Pregnancy

Posted in books, catalogues, exhibitions by Editor on December 2, 2019

From the press release for the exhibition:

Portraying Pregnancy: From Holbein to Social Media
The Foundling Museum, London, 24 January — 26 April 2020

Curated by Karen Hearn

The Foundling Museum is proud to present the first major exhibition to explore representations of the pregnant female body through portraits from the past 500 years, Portraying Pregnancy: From Holbein to Social Media, which opens on 24 January 2020.

Until the twentieth century, many women spent most of their adult years pregnant. Despite this, pregnancies are seldom made apparent in surviving portraits. This exhibition brings together images of women—mainly British—who were depicted at a time when they were expecting (whether visibly so or not). Through paintings, prints, photographs, objects, and clothing from the fifteenth century to the present day, Portraying Pregnancy explores the different ways in which pregnancy was, or was not, represented; how shifting social attitudes have impacted on depictions of pregnant women; how the possibility of death in childbirth brought additional tension to such representations; and how more recent images, which often reflect increased female agency and empowerment, still remain highly charged. This exhibition is the first of its kind and provides an exceptional opportunity to situate contemporary issues of women’s equality and autonomy in a 500-year context.

The earliest portrait featured in the exhibition—and a major highlight—is Hans Holbein II’s beautiful drawing of Sir Thomas More’s daughter, Cicely Heron, made in 1526–27, lent by Her Majesty The Queen from the Royal Collection. Sketched from life, it is a rare, clear-eyed, observation of a pregnant woman. In many pre-twentieth-century works in the exhibition, however, the sitter’s pregnancy has been edited out. The mezzotint made after Sir Joshua Reynolds’s full-length portrait of Theresa Parker, for example, shows no visible sign of her pregnancy, in line with conventions of the time, despite rich documentary evidence that by her second sitting in February 1772, Theresa was heavily pregnant.

Today, women with access to birth control can expect to plan if, or when, they become pregnant. Prior to the 1960s, many women would have experienced, between marriage and menopause, a number of pregnancies—and their daily lives might alter little for most of the gestation period. This is exemplified in a portrait of the celebrated eighteenth-century actress, Sarah Siddons, shown in the role of Lady Macbeth, which she famously played up until the final weeks of pregnancy.

Russian style dress belonging to Princess Charlotte, ca. 1817, silk, gold, metallic and silk lace, gold metallic fringe (Royal Collection Trust, 74709).

Fear of dying in childbirth was very real, and often justified. Until the early twentieth century, most births took place at home, often attended by family members, and consequently many women witnessed death in childbirth. Elizabethan and Jacobean portraits of visibly pregnant women, such as Marcus Gheeraerts II’s portrait of a heavily-pregnant unknown woman, dated 1620, appeared in the same era as the ‘mother’s legacy’ text—in which a woman wrote a ‘letter’ for the benefit of her unborn child, in case she should not survive her confinement. An example is the manuscript that the well-educated Elizabeth Joscelin wrote in 1622 for the child that she was carrying. Maternal mortality is also powerfully represented by George Dawe’s 1817 portrait of the pregnant Princess Charlotte, the heir to the British throne, wearing a fashionable loose ‘sarafan’ dress, as well as by the actual surviving garment, lent by Her Majesty The Queen from the Royal Collection, which will be displayed alongside it. Charlotte died in childbirth, in November that year.

While Christianity played a central role in everyday life, conceiving a baby (or not), was seen as a gift from God. Historically, the New Testament story of The Visitation—the meeting of the pregnant Virgin Mary and her cousin, Elizabeth—was a particularly inspiring and comforting one for pregnant women. Images of it had been widespread in England prior to the sixteenth- century Reformation, and reappeared in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. The Pre-Raphaelite artists’ doctrine of absolute realism saw them model their depictions of it on pregnant women among their own social circle.

Augustus John’s ca. 1901 full-length portrait of his wife, Ida, must have seemed astonishingly transgressive to viewers at the time, as it clearly depicts her as pregnant. It was not until the later twentieth century that pregnancy stopped being ‘airbrushed out’ of portraits. In 1984, the British painter, Ghislaine Howard, produced a powerful self-portrait of herself as heavily pregnant. However, the watershed moment occurred internationally in August 1991, when Annie Leibovitz’s photographic portrait of the actress, Demi Moore, naked and seven months pregnant, appeared on the cover of Vanity Fair magazine. This image was considered so shocking that some retailers refused to stock the issue. Nevertheless, it marked a culture shift and initiated the trend for more visible celebrations of pregnant bodies—especially nude ones. In 2017, Leibovitz returned to the theme, photographing the pregnant tennis champion, Serena Williams, naked, for Vanity Fair’s August cover.

The final photograph in the exhibition, by Awol Erizku, was commissioned by the singer, Beyoncé Knowles, who posted it on Instagram on 1 February 2017. Erizku’s iconographically complex portrait of Beyoncé, pregnant with twins, veiled and kneeling in front of a screen of flowers, became the most liked Instagram post of that year. Beyoncé’s image powerfully demonstrates how some women have succeeded in taking ownership not just of representations of their pregnant bodies, but also the distribution of their portraits.

This exhibition, curated by Professor Karen Hearn FSA, previously the curator of sixteenth- and seventeenth-century British art at Tate Britain (1992–2012) and now Honorary Professor at University College London, is the first of its kind and provides an exceptional opportunity to situate contemporary issues of women’s equality and autonomy in a 500-year context; it forms part of the Foundling Museum’s ongoing programme of exhibiting art that reflects its mission to celebrate the power of individuals and the arts to change lives. The exhibition is supported by the Drapers’ Company, Norland College and the 1739 Club.

Karen Hearn, Portraying Pregnancy: Holbein to Social Media (London: Paul Holberton, 2020), 112 pages, ISBN: 978-1911300809, £18.

Blake’s ‘Ancient of Days’ on St. Paul’s Dome

Posted in anniversaries, exhibitions, on site by Editor on December 1, 2019

A reproduction of William Blake’s The Ancient of Days from 1827 projected by Tate Britain onto St Paul’s Cathedral in London, 2019
(Photo by Alex Wojcik for Tate)

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There’s one more night to see Blake’s Ancient of Days projected onto the London skyline; the Tate Britain exhibition is on view until February 2; from the Tate press release (28 November 2019). . .

William Blake’s final masterpiece will illuminate the iconic dome of St Paul’s Cathedral to celebrate the artist’s birthday. The dramatic illustration The Ancient of Days (1827) was described by Blake as “the best I have ever finished” and will be visible across London this weekend. Tate Britain is currently staging the UK’s largest survey of works by Blake for a generation and has collaborated with St Paul’s Cathedral—home to the most visited Blake memorial in the UK—to recreate his vision on a monumental scale

Now renowned as a poet, Blake also had grand ambitions as a visual artist, proposing vast frescos that were never realised. Living and working in London for most of his life, the artist imagined adorning the walls of churches and public buildings in the city. The cityscape of London, dominated by St Paul’s Cathedral, inspired Blake’s powerful artworks and writing. His well-known poem Holy Thursday 1789 refers to “the high dome of Pauls.” Created as a frontispiece for the 1794 prophetic book Europe a Prophecy, The Ancient of Days is on loan to the exhibition at Tate Britain from the collection of the Whitworth, The University of Manchester and has become one of Blake’s best-known images. Through projections, Tate Britain will re-envision the small yet imposing illustration on an awe-inspiring scale, more than two centuries later.

Shaped by his personal struggles in a period of political terror and oppression, Blake’s radical beliefs meant he received little recognition in his own lifetime. November 28, 2019 would have been his 262nd birthday. In the almost two centuries since his death, Blake has become one of Britain’s most beloved artists and an inspiration to generations of musicians, writers, artists, and performers worldwide. Buried in relative obscurity in a common grave, the memorial to William Blake now installed in the crypt of St Paul’s Cathedral is visited by thousands each year.

Martin Myrone, Senior Curator, pre-1800 British Art, said: “Blake was an artist of gigantic imagination and vision, who has fired the creative ambition of generations. Seeing Blake’s work on a huge scale on this iconic building restores a sense of his towering presence in British culture.”

Paula Gooder, Chancellor of St Paul’s Cathedral, said: “St Paul’s Cathedral is delighted to continue our partnership with Tate by hosting this projection of The Ancient of Days onto the dome of the Cathedral. This collaboration is made even more special because of the memorial in our Crypt to William Blake. We hope that the projection of this iconic image will be an inspiration to all who see it.”

The projections will run from 28 November until 1 December 2019, from 16.30 until 21.00 each evening. The project has been realised by Tate in collaboration with St Paul’s Cathedral, projection partners EMF Technology Ltd, and with the kind support of the Whitworth Art Gallery, The City of London, City of London School, and animation director Sam Gainsborough. The exhibition William Blake at Tate Britain is curated by Martin Myrone, Senior Curator, pre-1800 British Art, and Amy Concannon, Curator, British Art 1790–1850.

Exhibition | The Golden Age of English Painting

Posted in books, catalogues, exhibitions by Editor on November 17, 2019

Press release for the exhibition:

The Golden Age of English Painting: From Reynolds to Turner
L’âge d’or de la peinture anglaise: De Reynolds à Turner
Musée du Luxembourg, Paris, 11 September 2019 — 16 February 2020

Curated by Martin Myrone and Cécile Maisonneuve

This exhibition, showing a selection of masterpieces from Tate Britain, highlights a key period in the history of painting in England, from the 1760s to around 1820, capturing the originality and diversity of the period. It takes visitors from the founding of the Royal Academy, with artists such as Reynolds and Gainsborough, to the turning point in the early 19th century, notably with Turner. The public will rediscover the great classics of British art here, all too rarely exhibited in France.

The reign of George III was preponderant for British art, with the founding of the Royal Academy of Arts, of which Joshua Reynolds (1723–1792), was the first president at the height of his career. This period also saw Thomas Gainsborough (1727–1788) join the Academy. In their own ways, Reynolds and Gainsborough, both masters of portraiture, brought novel visual and intellectual innovations to the genre, honouring the great masters while reinventing the wheel. With signs of an artistic golden age booming, this movement was also supported by major players in trade and industry, and then by the king himself.

The exhibition tackles the confrontation of the two portrait painters, through full-length paintings and intimate studies of members of the royal family or personalities of the day. Reynolds’s intellectual ambitions contrast with Gainsborough’s pictorial ease. Redefining British art alone, they raised the next generation to new heights. A selection of major portraits by their competitors and/or followers, such as John Hopper, William Beechey, and Thomas Lawrence, recall the influence of these two precursors. The exhibition also addresses the themes of lineage, family, and home with the genre painting that gave birth to a new approach to childhood. Reynolds’s extraordinary portrait The Archers puts the concept of wilderness at the service of a heroic representation of the British ruling class, while Gainsborough, George Stubbs, and George Morland focus their attention on the picturesque, through paintings depicting everyday life, especially in rural areas.

With the political and commercial exploitation of overseas territories as the basis for artistic progress, part of the exhibition addresses the presence of Great Britain in India and the Caribbean. Another section discusses the tremendous growth of watercolour, which allowed many artists to stand out by meeting the needs of a new amateur society. The last part of the exhibition shows how British artists such as Henri Fuseli, John Martin, P.J. de Loutherbourg, and J.M.W. Turner sublimated narrative figuration, paving the way for a new conception of art as a support for the imaginary.

Amandine Rabier, L’âge d’or de la peinture anglaise (Paris: Gallimard / Réunion des musées nationaux, 2019), 56 pages, ISBN: 978-2072859595, 10€.


Exhibition | The Torlonia Marbles

Posted in books, catalogues, exhibitions by Editor on November 13, 2019

From the Fondazione Torlonia . . . (In 1866 the Torlonia family bought the Villa Albani and its collection):

The Torlonia Marbles: Collecting Masterpieces
Musei Capitolini at Palazzo Caffarelli, Rome, 25 March 2020 — 10 January 2021

Curated by Carlo Gasparri and Salvatore Settis

From 25 March 2020 to 10 January 2021, ninety-six marbles from the Torlonia Collection will be on view to the public at a major show in Rome, in the new exhibition venue of the Musei Capitolini at Palazzo Caffarelli.
 The exhibition The Torlonia Marbles: Collecting Masterpieces is the first step of the agreement signed the 15th of March 2016 between the Ministry for the Cultural Heritage Activities and Tourism and the Torlonia Foundation, and is a result of the institutional agreement signed by the Directorate General for Archaeology, Fine Arts and Landscape and the Special Superintendency of Rome with the Torlonia Foundation itself. The scientific project for enhancing the collection is entrusted to Salvatore Settis, who is curating the exhibition with Carlo Gasparri; both are archaeologists and academics of the Accademia dei Lincei. The exhibition is organized by Electa, publisher of the catalog. The sculptures selected have been restored thanks to the contribution of Bvlgari.

This will be the opportunity to inaugurate the new prestigious exhibition venue in Roma Capitale of the Musei Capitolini at Palazzo Caffarelli. The choice of the location was dictated by the intention to focus the exhibition on the history of collecting. In this respect, the history of the Torlonia Museum at the Lungara (founded by Prince Alessandro Torlonia in 1875), with its 620 catalogued works of art, appears of outstanding importance. This collection is the result of a long series of acquisitions and some significant shift
 of sculptures between the various residences of the family.
 We can even say that the Torlonia Marbles constitute a collection of collections or rather
 a highly representative and privileged cross-section of the history of the collecting of antiquities in Rome from the 15th to the 19th centuries. The items on display are not only outstanding examples of ancient sculpture (busts, reliefs, statues, sarcophagi, and decorative elements), but also a reflection of a cultural process—the beginnings of the collecting of antiquities and the crucially important transition from the collection to the Museum, a process where Rome and Italy have had an indisputable primacy. In this way the exhibition traces the formation of the Torlonia Collection. The last of its five sections eloquently relates to the adjacent exedra of bronzes and the statue of Marcus Aurelius 
in the Musei Capitolini, bringing out the ties between the beginnings of private collecting
 of antiquities and the significance of the donation of the Lateran bronzes to the city of Rome by Sixtus IV in 1471.

The project to organize the exhibition of the Torlonia Collection in the renovated spaces
 of the new venue of the Musei Capitolini at Palazzo Caffarelli, restored to life by David Chipperfield Architects Milan. 
The March 2020 event is the first stage of a traveling exhibition, for which agreements are in progress with major international museums and which will conclude with the identification
 of permanent exhibition spaces for the opening of a new Torlonia Museum.

Also see the article by Elisabetta Povoledo from The New York Times (28 October 2019).


Exhibition | Dutch Masters Revisited

Posted in exhibitions by Editor on November 5, 2019

Now on view at the Amsterdam Museum:

Dutch Masters Revisited
Amsterdam Museum, Hermitage Amsterdam, 30 September 2019 — 2 February 2020

Curated by Jörgen Tjon a Fong

Humberto Tan, Ruud-Gullit as Jacob Rühle, photograph.

This fall the Amsterdam Museum wing of Hermitage Amsterdam presents Dutch Masters Revisited. Curated by Jörgen Tjon a Fong (Urban Myth), this exhibition complements the Amsterdam Museum’s permanent exhibition at Hermitage Amsterdam Portrait Gallery of the 17th Century (formerly known as Dutchmen of the Golden Age). Surrounded by the huge group portraits in the grand hall, Dutch Masters Revisited shows thirteen portraits of prominent Dutch citizens posing as people of colour who, based on historical research, are known to have lived in the 17th- and 18th-century Netherlands.

Viewing the subjects depicted in the works presented in Portrait Gallery of the 17th Century, one could easily (and erroneously) assume that at the time the Netherlands’ entire population was white. After all, everyone included in these group portraits is white. But while they may not be depicted in these works, the city of Amsterdam was also home to people of colour. White people and people of colour have been living together in the Netherlands for centuries. And in the 17th and 18th centuries, Amsterdam in particular was a home to people from all corners of the globe.

Theatre maker Jörgen Tjon A Fong, who curated Dutch Masters Revisited notes: “I was amazed to discover this vibrant community of people with non-Western roots living in 17th-century Amsterdam. They could be found in all walks of life. A lot of people aren’t aware of this. So far, these individuals’ stories have been left untold. It’s important that we start doing so—to paint a more complete picture of our past. In the photo exhibition Dutch Masters Revisited various historical people of colour who so far have remained hidden from view are given a face. By doing so, this part of our history can become visible to all citizens of Amsterdam and the rest of the Netherlands.”

In Dutch Masters Revisited, prominent Dutch people of colour—including footballer Ruud Gullit, rapper Typhoon, comedian/presenter Jörgen Raymann, singer Berget Lewis, politician Sylvana Simons, and hospitality tycoon Won Yip—take on the role of historical Dutch citizens of colour. Photographers Humberto Tan, Ahmet Polat, Stacii Samidin, and Milette Raats portrayed their well-known sitters in the style of Rembrandt and his contemporaries, against the backdrop of special locations like the Rijksmuseum, Internationaal Theater Amsterdam, Museum van Loon, Hortus Botanicus, and the Amsterdam Museum’s own building.

The sitters have certain things in common with the individuals they portray. For example, Humberto Tan has photographed footballer Ruud Gullit in the role of Jacob Rühle (1751–1828). Jacob Rühle was the son of WIC employee and slave trader Anthony Rühle and the African woman Jaba Botri. In 1798 the fabulously wealthy Jacob moved to Amsterdam. Here, he eventually headed the family business—with great success. Like Ruhle, Ruud Gullit is the son of a white and a black parent. Dutch Masters Revisited puts a face to Rühle’s name, telling his story together with twelve other people of colour who lived in the Netherlands during the 17th and 18th centuries.

Since November 2014, the Amsterdam Museum and the Rijksmuseum have jointly presented the largest collection of group portraits in the world, in the permanent exhibition Portrait Gallery of the 17th Century at Hermitage Amsterdam. Displayed on the walls of an impressive grand hall, these group portraits of Amsterdam militiamen and regents form the heart of a presentation dealing with life in the Dutch cities and towns of the 17th century. In this setting, the thirteen photo portraits of 17th-century people of colour enter into dialogue with the group portraits, which feature exclusively white men and women.

The grand hall at the Hermitage Amsterdam, where the Amsterdam Museum’s ‘Portrait Gallery of the 17th Century’ is on display; it was formerly called the ‘Portrait Gallery of the Golden Age’ (Photo by Joel Frijhoff, via Amsterdam Museum).

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Nina Siegal recently wrote about the installation and its larger context in the article, “A Dutch Golden Age? That’s Only Half the Story,” The New York Times (25 October 2019).

Exhibition | Canova and Thorvaldsen

Posted in books, catalogues, exhibitions by Editor on October 31, 2019

Antonio Canova, The Three Graces, 1813–16
(St. Petersburg: State Hermitage Museum)

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From the press release (via Art Daily) for the exhibition:

Canova and Thorvaldsen: The Birth of Modern Sculpture
The Gallerie d’Italia—Piazza Scala, Milan, 25 October 2019 — 15 March 2020

Curated by Stefano Grandesso and Fernando Mazzocca

The Gallerie d’Italia—Piazza Scala, Intesa Sanpaolo’s museum in Milan, presents Canova and Thorvaldsen: The Birth of Modern Sculpture, on display from 25 October 2019 to 15 March 2020. The exhibition tells the story of the two great sculptors, Italian Antonio Canova (1757–1822) and Danish Bertel Thorvaldsen (1770–1844), focusing on their rivalry and how they transformed the very idea of sculpture and its techniques to create works of art that inspired their contemporaries and generations of artists that followed. Italy played a central role to both sculptors’ lives, and careers and the exhibition brings over 150 works together from across Italy and further afield to Milan with key works from the Intesa Sanpaolo collection to be shown together for the first time.

The city of Rome was particularly important to both artists. Canova arrived in 1781 and remained in the city until his death in 1822, while Thorvaldsen settled in the city in 1797, spending the next forty years there. It was in Rome that the two great masters began engaging in one of the most famous and fruitful instances of artistic competition in history, interpreting identical themes and subjects to create a number of masterpieces: classical mythological works, such as Psyche Revived by Cupid’s Kiss, Venus, Paride, Hebe, and The Three Graces—which embodied some of life’s great themes, from the brevity of youth, the enchantment of beauty, to temptation and heartbreak. Canova and Thorvaldsen brings together the fruits of this historic competition and ongoing rivalry for the first time, including Canova’s celebrated Graces from the State Hermitage Museum alongside Thorvaldsen’s Cupid and The Graces from the Thorvaldsen Museum, offering visitors the unique opportunity to compare each of these masters’ approach and style.

Both Canova and Thorvaldsen were celebrated by their contemporaries and by critics of the era for their appreciation for the classical world and ability to reinterpret classical themes through the lens of the modern day. Canova was seen as a revolutionary artist in Italy and abroad who gave sculpture precedence over all other forms of art by confronting ancient works and reinterpreting them for a contemporary audience. Keeping a close eye on the work and strategy of his rival, Thorvaldsen was inspired by a stricter and more conservative adherence to classical norms, beginning a new period of Nordic art inspired by Mediterranean civilisations.

Both artists not only revolutionised an approach to classical ideals in sculpture but also advanced new techniques. Each established large studios the size of complex workshops with numerous colleagues, and students and were able to break free from the constraints that clients typically placed on sculpture due to the high costs of marble or bronze. Thanks to the technical innovations like the use of preparatory plaster models, introduced by Canova and used on a large scale by Thorvaldsen the sculptors had—for the very first time—the freedom to express their own poetic vision through statues designed without being commissioned.

The unprecedented pairing of these two great sculptors is made possible through Intesa Sanpaolo’s partnerships with the Thorvaldsen Museum in Copenhagen and the State Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg, as well as the contribution of major works loaned by museums and private collections in Italy and abroad including the Vatican Library, the Uffizi Galleries in Florence, the J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles, the Museo Nacional del Prado in Madrid, the Pinacoteca di Brera gallery and Pinacoteca gallery of the Ambrosian Library in Milan, the Metropolitan Museum in New York, the Museo e Gypsotheca Antonio Canova in Possagno, the National Gallery of Ancient Art in Rome, and the Gallerie dell’Accademia in Venice.

Stefano Grandesso and Fernando Mazzocca, Canova e Thorvaldsen: La nascita della scultura moderna (Milan: Skira, 2019), 408 pages, ISBN: 885724252, €42.

More information about the exhibition (in Italian) is available here»

Exhibition | Inspired by the East

Posted in books, catalogues, exhibitions by Editor on October 30, 2019

Now on view at The British Museum:

Inspired by the East: How the Islamic World Influenced Western Art
The British Museum, London, 10 October 2019 — 26 January 2020
Islamic Arts Museum Malaysia, Kuala Lumpur, 20 June — 20 October 2020

Curated by Julia Tugwell and Olivia Threlkeld

Levni (active ca. 1703–1730), leading artist at the court of Sultan Ahmet III, A European Gentleman in a Red Coat, Ottoman School painting, Turkey, early eighteenth century (London: The British Museum, 1960,1112,0.2).

Charting the fascinating history of cultural and artistic interactions between East and West, this exhibition explores the impact the Islamic world has had on Western art for centuries. Artistic exchange between East and West has a long and intertwined history, and the exhibition picks these stories up from the 15th century, following cultural interactions that can still be felt today. Objects from Europe, North America, the Middle East, and North Africa highlight a centuries-old tradition of influence and exchange from East to West. The diverse selection of objects includes ceramics, photography, glass, jewellery, and clothing, as well as contemporary art, showcasing how artistic exchange influenced a variety of visual and decorative arts. The exhibition concludes with a 21st-century perspective, through the eyes of four female artists from the Middle East and North Africa who continue to question and subvert the idea of Orientalism in their work and explore the subject of Muslim female identity.

The show takes a deeper look at the art movement of Orientalism—specifically the way in which North Africa and the Middle East were represented as lands of beauty and intrigue, especially in European and North American art. Reaching its height during the 19th century, this genre often blurred the lines between fantasy and reality—and as Palestinian-American scholar Edward Said argued—often misrepresenting life in the so-called ‘Orient’. This exhibition seeks to demonstrate a longer, more complex history of influence and inspiration from 1500 through to present day. An exchange of art and ideas which may have been driven by interests such as pilgrimage, warfare, diplomatic encounters, colonial interests, or simply an interest in adapting artistic techniques.

Conceived and developed in collaboration with the Islamic Arts Museum Malaysia, Inspired by the East: How the Islamic World Influenced Western Art includes generous loans from their extensive collection of Islamic and Orientalist art. The exhibition and collaboration highlight centuries of cultural exchange between East and West and its continuing importance today. It will be on display at the Islamic Arts Museum Malaysia (IAMM), Kuala Lumpur, from 20 June to 20 October 2020.

Curators Julia Tugwell and Olivia Threlkeld provide more information here»

William Greenwood and Lucien de Guise, eds., Inspired by the East: How the Islamic World Influenced Western Art (London: British Museum Press, 2019), 256 pages, ISBN: 978-0714111933, £30.


Exhibition | Luca Giordano (1634–1705)

Posted in exhibitions by Editor on October 28, 2019

Luca Giordano, Ariane abandonnée (Ariadne Abandoned),1675–80, 203 × 246 cm, oil on canvas
(Verona: Museo di Castelvecchio)

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Opening next month at the Petit Palais:

Luca Giordano: The Triumph of Neapolitan Painting / Le triomphe du baroque napolitain
Petit Palais, Paris, 14 November 2019 — 23 February 2020

The Petit Palais presents the first ever retrospective in France of works by the Neapolitan painter Luca Giordano (1634–1705), one of the most brilliant European artists of the 17th century. The exhibition highlights the exceptional virtuosity of this illustrious Seicento painter with nearly ninety works, monumental paintings and drawings, assembled thanks to exceptional loans from the Museo di Capodimonte, Naples, the main churches in Naples, and numerous European institutions, including the Museo del Prado. Following the exhibition of works by the sculptor Vincenzo Gemito (1852–1929), this retrospective is part of the season that the Petit Palais is devoting to Naples this autumn in partnership with the Museo di Capodimonte.

Exhibition Curators
• Christophe Leribault, director of the Petit Palais
• Sylvain Bellenger, director of the Museo e Real Bosco di Capodimonte
• Stefano Causa, teacher at the Università degli Studi Suor Orsola Benincasa, Naples
• Patrizia Piscitello, leader of the Exhibitions and of Loans Department of the Museo e Real Bosco di Capodimonte

From the press release:

À partir du 14 novembre, le Petit Palais présente pour la première fois en France une rétrospective consacrée au peintre napolitain Luca Giordano (1634–1705), l’un des artistes les plus brillants du XVIIe siècle européen. L’exposition met en valeur l’exceptionnelle virtuosité de cette gloire du Seicento à travers la présentation de près de 90 œuvres, tableaux monumentaux et dessins, réunis grâce aux prêts exceptionnels du musée de Capodimonte à Naples, des principales églises de la ville et de nombreuses institutions européennes dont le musée du Prado. Avec l’exposition sur le sculpteur Vincenzo Gemito (1852–1929), cette rétrospective constitue le second volet de la saison que le Petit Palais consacre à Naples cet automne en partenariat avec le musée de Capodimonte.

Organisée selon un axe chronologique tout en ménageant des rapprochements avec des toiles majeures d’autres peintres, le parcours de l’exposition souhaite apporter une vision renouvelée de l’artiste et montrer comment Giordano a su tirer le meilleur des différents courants stylistiques de l’époque pour aboutir aux formules qui séduisirent son siècle.

Formé dans le sillage de Jusepe de Ribera (1591–1652), espagnol de naissance mais napolitain d’adoption, Giordano assimila avec maestria son génie ténébriste tout en commençant sa carrière à succès par des quasi-pastiches d’œuvres de Raphaël, de Titien comme de Dürer. Un séjour de formation à Rome vers 1653 le mit toutefois en contact avec la modernité baroque et les innovations d’un Rubens comme d’un Pierre de Cortone. C’est grâce à sa capacité à intégrer les innovations de son temps comme des maîtres du passé que l’œuvre de Giordano évolua continuellement depuis le naturalisme jusqu’à des mises en scène baroques d’une fougue inégalée.

Très vite reconnu dans toute la péninsule italienne, il reçoit de très nombreuses commandes et exécute près de 5 000 tableaux et ensembles de fresques d’où son surnom de « Luca fa presto » (Luca qui va vite) ! Il reste le peintre par excellence des églises de Naples qui sont remplies de ses toiles d’autel dont l’exposition présentera une sélection. Ces immenses compositions frappent par leur dramaturgie complexe, mettant en scène les saints de la Contre-Réforme comme les patrons tutélaires de la ville, notamment San Gennaro (saint Janvier). L’immense tableau San Gennaro intercédant pour les victimes de la peste rappelle le contexte terrible de cette période qui vit la plus grande ville d’Europe méridionale perdre la moitié de ses habitants à la suite de la peste de 1656.

L’exposition met en valeur le contraste entre des compositions tourmentées, Crucifixion de Saint Pierre (par Giordano et par Mattia Pretti), Martyr de saint Sébastien (idem), terrible Apollon et Marsyas (par Giordano et par Ribera) et, dans un registre sensuel hérité du Titien, de langoureuses Vénus, Ariane abandonnée ou Diane et Endymion.

Son rayonnement dépassa l’Italie et, s’il refusa les sollicitations royales pour l’attirer à Paris, il s’installa à la cour de Charles II d’Espagne à partir de 1692, où il réalisa d’immenses fresques notamment, pour le Cazón del Buen Retiro à Madrid, le monastère de l’Escorial ou encore la cathédrale de Tolède. L’exposition évoque d’ailleurs cet aspect majeur de son œuvre en proposant aux visiteurs une expérience immersive dans une salle de projection.


Exhibition | Flesh and Blood: Italian Masterpieces

Posted in books, catalogues, exhibitions by Editor on October 27, 2019

Guido Reni, Atalanta and Hippomenes, ca. 1620–25, oil on canvas, 76 × 104 inches
(Naples: Museo e Real Bosco di Capodimonte)

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Press release (via Art Daily) for the exhibition:

Flesh and Blood: Italian Masterpieces from the Capodimonte Museum
Seattle Art Museum, 17 October 2019 — 26 January 2020
Kimbell Art Museum, Fort Worth, 1 March — 14 June 2020

The Seattle Art Museum presents Flesh and Blood: Italian Masterpieces from the Capodimonte Museum, featuring 40 Renaissance and Baroque works of art (39 paintings and one sculpture) drawn from the collection of one of the largest museums in Italy. Traveling from the Museo e Real Bosco di Capodimonte in Naples, the exhibition offers a rare opportunity to see works by significant Italian, French, and Spanish artists who worked in Italy including Artemisia Gentileschi, El Greco, Parmigianino, Raphael, Guido Reni, Jusepe de Ribera Titian, and more.

The Capodimonte Museum is a royal palace built in 1738 by Charles of Bourbon, King of Naples and Sicily (later King Charles III of Spain). The core of the collection is the illustrious Farnese collection of antiquities, painting, and sculpture, formed in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries and inherited by Charles of Bourbon. Italian and Spanish masterpieces of the Baroque period, grounded in realism and produced in Naples, build on this foundation. The Farnese collection traces a century of creativity, inspiration, and a constant search for beauty, followed by masterpieces of the Baroque era characterized by grandeur, dramatic realism, and theatricality.

This exhibition marks the first time that this many works from the Capodimonte Museum will travel together at the same time. The New York Times called the museum an “under-visited treasure trove” with a “staggering collection of art,” and Conde Nast Traveler called it “the most underrated museum in Italy.”

The paintings in Flesh and Blood center on the human figure, whether featured in portraits or mythological and religious scenes. They explore the intersection of physical and spiritual existence, with an emphasis on the human body as a vehicle to express love and devotion, physical labor, and tragic suffering.

“I am thrilled that we have the rare opportunity to see these incredible works in Seattle,” says Chiyo Ishikawa, SAM’s Susan Brotman Deputy Director for Art and Curator of European Painting and Sculpture. “Epic and intimate, divine and brutally realistic, these paintings speak to the complexity of human experiences in a timeless way that will resonate with our visitors.”

A 160-page softcover exhibition catalogue will be available for purchase in SAM Shop ($30). It features essays by Sylvain Bellenger, General Director, Museo e Real Bosco di Capodimonte; James P. Anno, American Friends of Capodimonte Curatorial Fellow; and Christopher Bakke, American Friends of Capodimonte Curatorial Fellow.


Flesh and Blood is presented chronologically, tracing a 200-year period from the 16th through the 18th centuries. Here are nine highlights:

Parmigianino, Antea, 1524–27
With the identity of the sitter a mystery, this striking portrait most likely represents a vision of idealized beauty typical of the Renaissance. Girolamo Francesco Maria Mazzola, known as Parmigianino (1503–1540), has his subject look directly out at the viewer, adorned with furs and jewelry that may have signified fertility or lust.

Titian, Pope Paul III, 1543
Titian (1488/90–1576) established strong ties with the powerful Farnese family, beginning with Pope Paul III. In this official portrait, Titian delivers a vivid likeness that conveys both the elderly human being and the shrewd statesman.

Titian, Danaë, 1544–45
This overtly erotic painting is one of the most celebrated nudes of the Renaissance. It depicts the mythological princess Danaë, whose father locked her in a chamber so that no man could reach her. The God Zeus gained access by transforming himself into a golden cloud, showering down upon her. Painted for Cardinal Alessandro Farnese, it probably portrays his mistress Angela as the goddess and was intended only for private viewing.

El Greco, Boy Blowing on an Ember, 1571–72, oil on canvas (Naples: Museo e Real Bosco di Capodimonte).

El Greco, Boy Blowing on an Ember, 1571–72
This painting by Doménikos Theotokópoulos (1541–1614), commonly known as El Greco, may reference an antique painting mentioned by the Roman writer Pliny the Elder. Depicting a boy blowing on an ember to light a candle, El Greco uses that as the work’s sole source of light, illuminating the concentrated face of the boy.

Annibale Carracci, Pietà, 1599–1600 
Annibale Carracci (1560–1609) was one of the most influential painters and teachers in Bologna and Rome. This effective expression of maternal grief at the death of her son was inspired by Michelangelo’s Pietà in Saint Peter’s Basilica in the Vatican.

Artemisia Gentileschi, Judith and Holofernes, 1612–13
Artemisia Gentileschi (1593–1653 or later) may be the most celebrated female painter of the Baroque period. In her work, she often painted dramatic scenes featuring women subjects from the Bible and mythology. With this painting, she depicts the story of the Jewish heroine Judith slaying the Assyrian general Holofernes, who was threatening to destroy her village. Gentileschi’s decision to focus on the violent act has been associated with her traumatic experience in 1611, when she was raped by the painter Agostino Tassi.

Guido Reni, Atalanta and Hippomenes, ca. 1620–25
The influential Baroque painter Guido Reni (1575–1642) was known for both Biblical and mythological subjects. In this painting, he depicts the story of Atalanta, who had taken a vow of chastity. Under pressure from her father, she agreed to marry the first man who could outrun her in a footrace. Hippomenes won by distracting her with three irresistible golden apples given to him by Venus.

Jusepe de Ribera, Drunken Silenus, 1626
This unusual depiction of a classical bacchanal centers on Silenus, companion to the wine god Dionysus. Ribera (1591–1652) renders his rotund body with loaded, vital brushstrokes typical of his naturalistic style. Painted for a private collector, this reclining, unglamorous male nude seems to send up the physical beauty and erotic appeal of Renaissance Venuses.

Jusepe de Ribera, Saint Jerome, 1626
Saint Jerome is one of Ribera’s most frequently painted subjects. In this monumental altarpiece, the emaciated, aged hermit is startled by the angel that appears in the upper right blowing the trumpet of the Last Judgment. The saint’s withered body, which reflects the divine light above, dominates the composition and is as palpable as human flesh.