Published: December 28, 2010
A special exhibition of European portrait painting, featuring works by master artists from the late Fifteenth Century through the early Nineteenth Century, will be on view at the Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute January 23⁍arch 27 in “Eye to Eye: European Portraits 1450‱850.”
Representing the range of styles and themes in Old Master portraiture as practiced in the Netherlands, Germany, Italy, Spain, England and France, the 29 paintings and one sculpture in the exhibition include remarkable works by Memling, Cranach, Parmigianino, Ribera, Rubens, Van Dyck, Greuze and David, as well as other extraordinary works by lesser-known painters. This exhibition is the first opportunity for the public to see many of these works, which have been lent exclusively to the Clark from a private collection.
The exhibition brings to light a number of rarely known paintings, including “Portrait of a Man” by the brilliant Mannerist artist Parmigianino, painted around 1530 in Bologna. The glamorous and arresting “Portrait of a Young Woman” by Giovanni Battista Moroni †a Sixteenth Century portrait specialist famous for his penetrating depictions, and widely considered one of the most talented portrait painters of all time †will be shown publicly for the first time.
Among the early Nineteenth Century works are a pair of portraits of a husband and wife painted by Jacques-Louis David while in exile in Brussels, and a portrayal of a dashing young cavalry officer in Napoleon’s army by David’s great follower Baron Antoine-Jean Gros.
The fully illustrated catalog will include many works published for the first time outside auction and gallery catalogs. These works include “Portrait of a Young Man,” a remarkably fresh portrait painted by the Flemish master Peter Paul Rubens around 1610‱5, and two canvases by the great Spanish painter Jusepe de Ribera. The paintings in the exhibition are complemented by an extraordinary sculptural relief portrait attributed to Baccio Bandinelli, a Sixteenth Century Italian artist deeply influenced by Michelangelo.
In his catalog essay, David Ekserdjian, head of the department of history of art and film at the University of Leicester and a trustee of the National Gallery, London, points out that the tradition of portraiture was dormant in Europe for approximately 1,000 years after the end of the Roman era.
During that millennium, he writes, “Only scattered and occasional attempts were made to represent the features of notable individuals realistically, most successfully in sculpture. In consequence, and perhaps rather unexpectedly, we have a perfectly clear sense of what King Jayavarman VII, who ruled Cambodia from 1181 to around 1215, looked like, but are infinitely less certain about the appearance of his European contemporaries.”
European portraiture came into its own, he notes, only in the Fifteenth Century †which is where “Eye to Eye” begins.
The Clark is at 225 South Street. For general information, www.clarkart.edu or 413-458-2303.
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