Published: June 11, 2002
LOS ANGELES, CALIF. – The Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) will unveil a rare Eighteenth Century Spanish “Pieta” on display for the first time in Los Angeles as part of the exhibition “Trends: A New Presentation of LACMA’s Collection of European Art,” on view through July 28.
The “Pieta,” an iconic image of the Virgin Mary holding the body of Christ, will be presented within the exhibition organized by LACMA’s Center for European Art on the plaza level of the Hammer Building.
The nearly life-size work of art, which was likely originally made for religious processions during Holy Week, was recently acquired by LACMA and is the only known sculpture of its kind in an American museum. The “Pieta” is one of the few surviving examples of sculpture made from molded linen – possibly soaked in glue or gesso to make it rigid – with the surviving ones in Spain used primarily for religious purposes. Parts of the sculpture may also have been modeled from papier mache or a mixed medium called pasta de madera (literally, pine-paste, or a compound of various organic fibers similar to papier mache).
The Virgin’s mantle, made of freely draped, plaster-soaked linen, is spectacularly painted and gilded in the technique of estofado: after being covered in gold leaf, it was painted in brilliant colors that were then incised in patterns imitating a brocade fabric woven with gold threads. The light weight of these materials made them ideal for religious processions. The Virgin’s eyes, made of glass, heighten the realism of the figure, which simultaneously expresses sorrow, wonder, despair and awe.
The presentation of the “Pieta” is enhanced by related sculptures from LACMA’s permanent collection. An Eighteenth Century “Bust of a Sorrowing Female Saint,” made of polychromed wood with painted glass eyes, was originally probably part of an imagen de vestir – literally a “dressed image,” a kind of mannequin of which only the head and arms were treated as fully finished sculptures.
Also on view is another recent addition to the collection, “Corpus of the Expiring Christ,” a small crucifix figure that, like the Spanish “Pieta,” is made of pasta de madera and is particularly interesting because its crown of thorns is enhanced by actual fish-spines. The fourth sculpture in the gallery devoted to religious works is a recently restored, polychromed and gilded “Bust of the Sorrowing Virgin,” circa 1700, lent by the Huntington Library, Art Collections and Botanical Garden, made more passionate with exquisite glass eyes.
The “Pieta” and related works are presented within a larger exhibition entitled “Trends: A New Presentation of LACMA’s Collection of European Art.” This presentation of the museum’s European collection gives J. Patrice Marandel, curator and head of LACMA’s Center for European Art, the opportunity to present many extraordinary works — some on view for the first time — in new and thought-provoking ways.
Many of the Seventeenth and Eighteenth Century works of art are organized within individual galleries around such themes as: “Artists’ Families,” which presents paintings by several members of the same family, including the Jouvenet family of Rouen, Normandy; the van Loo, one of the most celebrated families of painters in Europe and active in Turin, Paris, and Madrid; and that of Francois Boucher, whose father was an embroiderer and two sons-in-law were painters.
Another theme is “Venice: a European Destination.” Venetian cityscapes occupy a peculiar place in the history of view painting (or vedute), at the crossroads of promotion and celebration. Not only did Venice draw artists from nearby countries, including Austria and Southern Germany, but Venice also exported several artists. In this gallery, several works are presented that have ties to the city on the lagoon.
There will also be a gallery devoted to the influence of Rome in the Eighteenth Century. At that time, the city worked as a magnet to artists and travelers from all over the world. Attracted by the beauty of the city, as well as recent archaeological discoveries nearby, artists, intellectuals and connoisseurs formed one of the most vibrant communities in the Western world. A lengthy stay in Rome became part of one’s artistic training.
The new Centers of Arts method of incorporating different media — painting, sculpture, textiles, furniture, prints and drawings — together in contextual installations furthers LACMA’s goal of presenting its collections in ways that cut across departments, and engage curators, scholars and the public to see works in new ways.
Highlights in “Trends: A New Presentation of LACMA’s Collection of European Art” include paintings by Luca Giodano, Georges de La Tour and Giovanni Tiepolo; a rarely displayed and recently restored Eighteenth Century tapestry designed by Francois Boucher, on view next to paintings by the artist that share similar aesthetics; relief sculptures that, when displayed near Old Masters’ paintings of the same period, give viewers further insight and enjoyment of the great masters of this era; several porcelains including LACMA’s newly acquired “The Great Lamentation” by Massimiliano Soldani-Benzi, modeled at the renowned Ginori porcelain factory in Doccia; and exquisite furniture and decorative arts that serve to enhance visitors’ overall knowledge of European art and life, all presented in galleries that hint at Seventeenth and Eighteenth Century European settings.
Museum hours are Monday, Tuesday and Thursday, noon to 8 pm; Friday, noon to 9 pm; Saturday and Sunday, 11 am to 8 pm. Call 323-857-6000 or visit www.lacma.org for information.
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