Published: October 5, 2004
Richly colored, highly detailed paintings by a mysterious Fifteenth Century Netherlandish master are the focus of an exhibition at the Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute from October 9 to January 2.
“Medieval Mystery: Who is the Master of the Embroidered Foliage?” will bring together a group of related paintings believed to be by an artist known only as the Master of the Embroidered Foliage. With loans from museums in France, Belgium and the United States, the exhibition marks the first time these works, which all depict a nearly identical image of the Madonna and Child against different settings, have been examined as a group.
The exhibition has been organized by the Musee des Beaux-Arts, Lille, and the Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute in association with the Minneapolis Institute of Arts, under the auspices of FRAME (French Regional and American Museum Exchange).
“This exhibition is a detective story about some great works of art, bringing to light new information about this artist – if it is one artist,” said Michael Conforti, director of the Clark Art Institute.
The inspiration for the exhibition is the Fifteenth Century oil on panel “The Virgin and Child Enthroned” from the Clark’s collection. The painting was part of a major gift from the estate of New York Governor Herbert Lehman and the Edith and Herbert Lehman Foundation in 1968. The gift, which included other early Netherlandish and Italian Renaissance paintings, is one of several important collections acquired by the Clark over the decades.
The Clark’s painting will be joined by “Virgin and Child in a Landscape” from the Minneapolis Institute of Arts, “Triptych of the Virgin and Child Surrounded by Angel Musicians” from the Musee des Beaux-Arts, Lille, and “Virgin and Child Crowned by Two Angels,” from the Groeningemuseum in Bruges, Belgium. Rare illuminated books from the Chapin Library of Rare Books and a medieval textile will also be on view.
The Master of the Embroidered Foliage is the name given to the painter active in the southern Netherlands from around 1495 to 1500. The late art historian Max Friedlander chose the name because of the artist’s meticulous technique in painting foliage, with small, raised marks that resemble embroidery stitches. While the show will explore the possible identity of the Master of the Embroidered Foliage himself, it will also question whether all four paintings are indeed by the same artist.
The installation will include a “questions room” where various theories and problems will be presented along with scientific analysis and conservation information that reveals new information about the paintings.
Throughout the show, curators, conservators and art historians from the Clark and other institutions around the world, as well as visiting scholars participating in the Clark’s Research and Academic Program, will gather to view the exhibition and discuss its themes. In order to take advantage of what is learned throughout the exhibition, a catalog will be published at the end of the show’s tour in 2005 in Lille.
“Medieval Mystery: Who is the Master of the Embroidered Foliage?” will travel to the Minneapolis Institute of Arts (January 22-May 1) and to the Musee des Beaux-Arts, Lille (May 13-July 24).
The museum is at 225 South Street and will be open Tuesday-Sunday, 10 am to 5 pm. Admission is $10. For information, 413-458-2303 or www.clarkart.edu.
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