Friday, 14 November 2008

Renaissance Faces at the National Gallery (London)

Any guesses about which portrait was painted first?

My parents are in town, so we went to the"Renaissance Faces" exhibit at the NG.  It includes a nice collection of portraits from their permanent collections as well as several on loan from other institutions. 

Highlights from the exhibit were:
  • Arcimboldo's portrait of Emperor Rudolph II as Vertumnus.  Essentially, a still life of fruit, arranged to make a portrait.  Sheer genius, and amazingly entertaining to look at.  Loved this.  I didn't know much about Arcimboldo before seeing this piece, but I did some googling, and it seems like this was his trademark style.  Quite innovative for the 16th Century! (And, to answer my own question, roughly the same age as the Titian portrait also shown above.)
  • Nice collection of Durer prints and sketches in the penultimate room, which I really enjoyed.  There's also a particularly mediocre Durer painting where the sitter's hands are bizarre and unnatural and his entire neck area is out of whack, and it was fun to compare his skill as a draftsman and printmaker with his overall mediocrity as a painter.  
  • Quinten Massys' "The Old Woman (Ugly Duchess)" - an exercise in the grotesque as art.  Really an engaging painting.
  • Highlights from the permanent collections in this exhibit include the Arnolfini Portrait (van Eyck), Raphael's painting of Pope Julius II, and several exceptional Titian portraits.  
The Guardian also ran a nice review of the exhibit.

It will be up until January 18.  Tickets are £10 (or £5 for students) and I highly recommend visiting if you find yourself with a free hour in central London!

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