Archive for the 'pictorial arts' Category

The Week


The week in review

Another week, another several terrorist attacks. Today’s in Lahore was even worse than the one in Brussels a few days ago. They may be low tech and claim fewer dead than other forms of violence, but I don’t know how these actions won’t change our societies quite radically, and mostly for the worse. Here in London we’re increasingly waiting for the other shoe to drop. Yet, some of Palmyra still stands.

Happy Easter.

  • Stations of the Cross, London. At the National Gallery we participated in this psychogeographical art project with Jacopo Bassano’s Way to Calvary representing the seventh station. I found it a rich and rewarding experience not in small part because it encouraged one to explore various forgotten or at least dimly remembered parts of London. Very Iain Sinclair/Alan Moore, in some ways. Clearly, Apollo Magazine agreed.
  • Comics! Jen Lee had a great stint in The Comics Journal‘s diary section. Beautiful. Oh, and the same source delivered a fine interview with growing Wunderkind Michael Deforge. And Nummer9 presented some very promising webcomics work from the current students at the graphic storytelling programme at the Viborg Animation Workshop.
  • New hip hop! Aesop Rock is dope over Pusha-T’s “Untouchable”. Slime Season 3! Bob Rauschenberg.
  • Phife Dawg RIP. A great, underrated MC, part of one of hip hop’s seminal groups, left us this past week. Here’s a great oral history of the creation of A Tribe Called Quest’s second (and in my view narrowly best) album, The Low End Theory. And here’s the long-disbanded group’s last performance, on Jimmy Fallon, with The Roots, last autumn.
  • Image: Getty Research Institute.

    The Week

    Andrea Schiavone, the Marriage of Cupid and Psyche, c. 1550, New York, Metropolitan Museum of Art


    Just back from a quick trip to Venice for work. I had the opportunity to see the exhibition on Andrea Schiavone (1510-1563) currently on at the Museo Correr and will recommend it whole-heartedly. It’s the first exhibition ever devoted to this singular and very badly understood artist. The exhibition, curated by Lionello Puppi and Enrico Maria dal Pozzolo, makes a good attempt at establishing a chronology and a convincing account of his development as an artist. A difficult thing to do, since the first dated work we have from him is an etching of 1547, at which point he was well into his thirties and thus one would assume well into his career as an independent artist. It is possible to posit a small body of work that precedes this, but nothing datable to earlier than around 1540 — what was he doing before that? It’s anybody’s guess.

    Also, there are a number of works that don’t seem to fit anywhere, most notably the Palazzo Pitti Cain and Abel, which relates to the 1540s mannerist turn in Venetian art and consolidates a dramatic figural configuration derived, I think from Baccio Bandinelli (look at far right), continued by those giants of Venetian art Tintoretto (also in the show) and Veronese in the early 1550s. The attribution to Schiavone of the picture goes back to the seventeenth century and the general assumption is that it must be an early work, from before he started subverting perspective, anatomy and naturalistic colour to formulate his extraordinary — sometimes clumsy, sometimes exhilarating — explorations of expressive figuration. The thing is, there’s nothing else in his known oeuvre that looks like this picture, which is closer to (though probably not by) Pordenone, that muscular mannerist of 1530s Venetian painting, than anything else.

    Once we get into the 1550s, Schiavone’s development becomes somewhat clearer and some really fantastically original drawings, prints and paintings emerge. The exhibition makes a strong case for his adaptation of Parmigianino’s figural eloquence and Titian’s depth of colour his subversion of great central Italian figures — Salviati, to be sure, but more importantly, Raphael — into a distinctive idiom that, if one accepts the argument of the exhibition, actually anticipated and perhaps even inspired significant developments in the art of figures as great as Titian (who was clearly a close colleague), Tintoretto, and Jacopo Bassano.

    Anyway, there’s much more to say and I don’t have the time or wherewithal to do so right now, but if you’re around Venice sometimes over the next month or so, do go see this eye-opening exhibition. It closes 10 April.

    The week’s links:

  • Alan Moore! Craig Fischer had a great review up of Moore’s and Jacen Burrows’ first seven issues of the Lovecraft exegesis Providence up the week before last. It’s a great piece, which makes me look forward to reading the book, even if I’ve been largely disappointed with the direction Moore has gone in recent years. His previous Lovecraft book, Neonomicon, was mean-spirited and rather predictable horror-schlock and Crossed #100 was just plain drudgery. But it’s Moore, so it has to get a lot worse before I loose interest. Pagan Dawn had a terrific interview with Moore on magic. Holding out for Jerusalem
  • Hugh Eakin on Denmark, its immigration policy, and the refugee crisis. A great introduction to the political and social situation in Denmark that may help explain the depressing actions of the Danish government lately. Related: I found Oliver Guez’ call for increased European unity in the New York Times well stated.
  • Apple vs. FBI primer. Great one-stop guide to the specifics of the controversy. Was surprised to learn that an FBI mandated change of iCloud password landed them in this situation. What a screw-up.
  • My good colleague Xavier F. Salomon on Van Dyck’s great Portrait of Cardinal Bentivoglio, soon to be on loan from Palazzo Pitti to the Frick Collection for its exhibition Van Dyck: The Anatomy of Portraiture.
  • Bacchus and Ariadne: the Long and the Short


    Serendipity would have it that two separate digital initiatives at the National Gallery had me talking about one of my favourite paintings in the collection, Titian’s Bacchus and Ariadne, for two consecutive weeks. One was our #PaintedLovers campaign for the Valentine’s Day season, which consisted of a series of very short and (hopefully) to the point expositions on selected paintings with love as their theme by myself and colleagues (above). The other is a new initiative, #NGYouChoose, where the public votes for paintings in the collection to receive more in-depth facilitation from the curatorial staff. This consists of a public lecture of half an hour or so that is then posted to the Gallery’s YouTube channel (below).

    It was a fun exercise, and hopefully the lectures and videos have been useful to some of you. I’ve got to admit, however, how difficult I find it to talk to a camera. This is particularly evident in the #PaintedLovers video, where I was ad-libbing a presentation where everything had to be on point, i.e. clear, devoid of mispronounciations, uhs, digressions, etc. I come across (to myself, at least) as mannered and robotic. As such it is a pretty good reminder that I need to loosen up when speaking into the dark glass.


    The #NGYouChoose lecture was also improvised — which is the way I tend to prefer it — and its lack of tight coherence shows it, but at least I feel more relaxed. I am talking to an audience that is right there, and that helps. It doesn’t change the fact, however, that the camera mercilessly captures every nervous head scratch, every superfluous gesture, and my incessant shifting of feet. I get sea sick watching it.

    Sorry, this is mostly a bit of autocriticism. If nothing else, I hope it will help me do better videos in the future. In the meantime, I hope you enjoy at least some of what I have to say on this terrific painting. Do let me know, and thanks for watching.

    The Week

    The week in review.

    Sorry, I can’t let it go. Yesterday I filed an article on the media shit storm over Charlie Hebdo‘s provocation, Riss cartoon speculating that poor, dead Aylan Kurdi might have become an ‘ass-groper in Germany’, had he been given the chance to grow up in Europe. I guess this small cartoon, buried deep within an issue with David Bowie on the cover and with many other, very different cartoons (one of which is at least as offensive…) is newsworthy, in the sense that anything Charlie does these days is potentially so. But: this is a still rather marginal left-wing magazine we’re talking about and casting it as the reincarnation of Der Stürmer or whatever in the manner of many, mostly uninformed left-wing critics is not only hugely overblown, but ignorant of context. Not to mention insensitive to the multivalent qualities of even heavy-handed cartoons. Look, it’s perfectly legitimate to criticise this cartoon for bluntly furthering an anti-refugee agenda — it clearly does, whether intentionally or, more likely, not –but this is mostly because of the media treatment of it. Continue reading ‘The Week’

    Florentine portraiture in the Burlington!

    Jacopo Pontormo, Portrait of a young lute player, c.1529–30. Oil on panel, 81.2 by 57.7 cm. Private collection.


    Just a quick heads up: the latest issue of the Burlington Magazine January 2016, No. 1354, vol. 158) includes my review of the excellent exhibition of Florentine sixteenth-century portraiture. Curated by Carlo Falciani, it is showing at the Musée Jacquemart-André in Paris till 26 January. Do go see it if you can, it’s a real treat.

    An excerpt, on the amazing portrait reproduced above:

    …Pontormo’s rarely seen and excellently preserved portrait of a Portrait of a young lute player from a private collection (c.1529–30…) Everything is shaped by the artist’s peculiar temperament: the globular head, the swelling torso, the voluminous lute and the tubular pink sleeves that billow as though hot hair were blowing through them: a picture as much about circular movement as it is about the boy behind
    the mask.

    The Week


    It’s been forever since I did one of these. Such is the half dormant life of this blog. But anyway, the itch is still occasionally there so here we go.

    The above video was made a few months ago to coincide with the opening of the Sansovino Frames exhibition at the National Gallery. We had just successfully acquired the beautiful Venetian (non-Sansovino) frame which now adorns Titian’s Allegory of Prudence, partly through crowdfunding, and which features in the clip. I think it encapsulates well some of the very real pleasures of working with great artworks: the fact that details count; the kind of holistic thinking the works demand of you when you plan their display; and not least the passion and expertise that they demand. I appear for a brief moment and contribute nothing, but do watch the video for the insight it gives into our framing department and the great work Peter Schade and his staff do there.

    OK, here are some links:

  • London Art Week. I haven’t yet really done the rounds, but I did have a chance to look at this drawing attributed to Sebastiano del Piombo. I’m unsure about the attribution, but it doesn’t make it any less beautiful. And while we’re talking Sebastiano, there’s what I do believe is bona fide painting by him in Christie’s day sale.
  • Mikkel Sommer. A rising star on the Danish comics scene. He hasn’t yet delivered a work really delivering on his great talent, but if he keeps dropping gems like this brilliant GIF he’ll keep at least this reader watching him.
  • Roskilde 2015. No, I’m not there this year, sadly, but if you read Danish, you can follow the coverage of the hip hop at the festival by my homies at Rapspot here. Prominent in the line-up was El-P and Killer Mike’s by now ubiquitous-in-hipsterdom-but-no-less-awesome-for-that project Run the Jewels. They surely killed it, if their performance last weekend at Glastonbury is anything to go by.
  • Moroni in the Burlington Magazine

    Giovanni Battista Moroni, Portrait of Giovanni Gerolamo Albani, c. 1568+70, private collection


    This month’s issue of The Burlington Magazine includes my review of the Royal Academy’s exhibition of the work of sixteenth-century Italian painter Giovanni Battista Moroni, curated by Simone Facchinetti and Arturo Galansino. It really is an excellent show of a now overlooked painter and I cannot recommend it enough. It closes this Sunday , so you still have a chance of seeing it, if you haven’t already.

    Arcadia in Print Quarterly

    Giulio and Domenico Campagnola, Musicians in a Landscape, c. 1517, engraving, Berlin, Kupferstichkabinett


    In the latest issue of Print Quarterly (vol. XXXI, no. 4), I’ve reviewed the catalogue of the exhibition “Arcadia — Paradies auf Papier, Landschaft und Mythos in Italien”, displayed at the Kupferstichkabinett of the Staatliche Museen in Berlin earlier this year.

    The exhibition was based entirely on the Kupferstichkabinett’s incredibly rich holdings and provides a stimulating overview of Arcadian imagery in Italian graphic art from c. 1440-1640.The catalogue is written by Dagmar Korbacher, Christophe Brouard and Marco Riccòmini. It contains innovative takes on especially the Venetian drawings and engravings of Giulio and Domenico Campagnola and related artists, like the above masterpiece by the two of them.

    Hype: Titian’s Early Portrait of a Man in Copenhagen


    And they keep coming… although this is probably the last one in a while. Part of my core research as a fellow at Statens Museum for Kunst in Copenhagen centred on the early Titian portrait of an elderly man (above), which is on long loan to the gallery from Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek. That the sitter might just be his teacher, the great painter Giovanni Bellini, doesn’t make this sensitive portrait less interesting. The results of my research, and — crucially — that of restorer Troels Filtenborg, are now published (in Italian) for all to see in the storied journal Arte Veneta, published by the Fondazione Giorgio Cini in Venice.

    Here’s the English abstract:

    The article provides a thorough examination of the Portrait of a Man by Titian in the collection of Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek, on permanent loan to Statens Museum for Kunst, Copenhagen. Its provenance is laid out in unprecedented detail. A thorough technical examination reveals that the portrait was painted on top of another, cancelled one, showing a figure dressed in a red garment. It further reveals that the landscape view at left was added to what was originally a plain background. The painting’s attribution to Titian, which has been occasionally disputed, is considered and affirmed with reference to the technical evidence as well as comparable works in his oeuvre. This also provides a likely date of completion around 1512. Lastly, it is proposed that the first, overpainted sitter may have been the Venetian senator Andrea Loredan di Nicolò, for whom Titian worked his early years. As for the person portrayed in the finished picture, the long-standing if controversial hypothesis that he may be the painter Giovanni Bellini is discussed. While this identification impossible to affirm conclusively, the authors consider the arguments in favour sufficiently strong that it should not be dismissed.

    The volume can be acquired directly from The Fondazione Cini, as well as from Mondadori. Or any self-respecting art library, I should think, for those understandably reluctant to fork out the big bucks.

    Hype: Titian and Bonasone


    Here’s another one. In the latest issue of Zeitschrift für Kunstgeschichte (vol. 77, no. 3) I have an article on Titian’s collaboration with the printmaker Giulio Bonasone in the early 1560s. Examining their collaboration not only sheds new light on Titian’s active involvement in printmaking, but also on the chronology of his paintings for Philip II and the Spanish court during these years. And then there’s the above drawing, always placed in the Titian studio but never convincingly attributed. I think I’ve made a decent case that it’s by Bonasone (with retouching just possibly by Titian himself).

    Read it at your art library! TOC here.

    Hype: Titian’s Venus and Adonis in prints

    Giulio Sanuto after Titian, ‘Venus and Adonis’, 1559, engraving, 538 x 415 mm. Copenhagen, Statens Museum for Kunst.


    In the latest volume of the Marburger Jahrbuch für Kunstwissenschaft the interested reader will find my article on the permutations of Titian’s famous Venus and Adonis composition in sixteenth-century prints, and through them in painting. It turns out that careful examination of the sources and the prints yields fascinating information on how the master developed this, one of his most enduring compositions through multiple versions during the course of a long career.

    Here’s the abstract:

    Titian’s Venus and Adonis was one of Titian’s most successful compositions and remains among his most iconic. Around a dozen painted versions are known today, the most famous being the canvas painted for Philip II around 1552–54 (Prado). Less well-known are the seven prints made of the composition in the latter half of the sixteenth-century. This article demonstrates that at least two of these were made with Titian’s approval and that they provide valuable insight not only into his work with printmakers, but also his production of replicas, reflecting as they do intermediate stages in his development of the composition through the 1550s.

    More information here.

    Hype: Titian caricaturing Michelangelo and Raphael painting the Pope’s Beard

    No, these aren't the caricature mentioned, but they're also by Titian (and/or his assistants), and they're on the back of the Ancona Pala Gozzi.


    In the latest issue of the scholarly journal Artibus et Historiae, I have an article on a caricature found on the back of a Titian canvas, seemingly depicting Michelangelo. It’s fairly speculative, I suppose, but that’s the nature of such things, and in any case it engages a number of issues — caricature, cartooning, the grotesque — that have been chronically under-examined in the history of art and the humanities in general. Oh, there’s also an extensive excursus on Pope Julius II’s beard, and Raphael and Leonardo are implicated…

    Here’s the abstract:

    The article examines drawings found on the back of the canvas of the recently surfaced Portrait of a Man (Girolamo Cornaro?) painted by Titian around 1511–1512. Drawn with the point of the brush, they depict a large head in profi le and two smaller figures. Loose and broad in execution, at least the former belongs to the domain of caricature. By comparison with similar drawings, on paper as well as the versos of other paintings, the drawings are here attributed to Titian. Further, the possibility that the head might be a portrayal of Michelangelo is explored, as is its value as evidence of the reception of Michelangelo’s outsize public stature and self-fashioning as an imperfect, Socratic artist whose work carried palpable overtones of the grotesque. The two figure studies, in themselves acutely Michelangelesque, are related to inventions by other contemporaries. Next, the fact that the caricature wears a beard, but no moustache, occasions an excursus on contemporary facial hair generally and specifically that of Michelangelo’s patron, Julius II. Ecclesiastical beards were a controversial issue at the time, and shaving one’s upper lip carried liturgical significance. Julius was the fi rst Renaissance pope to grow a beard, as is famously charted by Raphael in his portraits of him in the Vatican frescoes and elsewhere. By focusing on the depiction of his beard, the article sheds new light on the iconography of these pictures and potentially their confused chronology. Lastly, Titian’s drawings are examined in the context of contemporary grotesques with reference to Leonardo’s explorations of exaggerated physiognomies. On this basis, it proposes a reevaluation of Renaissance caricature.

    The issue is second of two dedicated to Professor Peter Humfrey in his retirement. I am very happy to thus take part in the celebration!

    Artibus et Historiae vol. 68 is available now in a specialist library near you!

    The Week

    The week in review

    OK, I’ll try again. As should be evident, I’m not finding much time to blog these days, but I refuse to let go entirely, and who knows if times might not turn more propitious, Bunker-wise in the not-too-far future? Also, the National Gallery internet presence, which I’ve previously hinted at, is still in the works. So, not much to say right now, but I have some links to share!

  • In-depth interview with Jean-Luc Martinez, the recently appointed director of the Louvre. Excellent, critical interview in which the director at Tribune de l’art takes his time to answer Didier Rykner’s not always easy questions. In three parts: one, two, three.
  • Pharoahe Monche interviewed. Another in-depth interview, this one with one of the greatest rap lyricists. Candid and insightful.
  • T.J. Clark on Veronese’s Allegories of Love at the National Galleries. Clark takes a close look at four wonderful pictures that just happen to be on display in one of the great exhibitions of the decade right where I work. Clark does tend to go on a little long, but it is still highly worthwhile to follow his eye.
  • How Not to Make a Graphic Novel. Fine piece by Sean Michael Robinson on the creative process as it pertains to long-form comics.
  • Raphael’s Influence on Titian 1508-1520. Kiril Penušliski examines the evidence and adds a few good observations. Now, somebody should examine more closely Titian’s influence on Raphael…
  • At the National


    It’s been a month already, and it’s been the blast. This is my new workplace — I’m doing my best to be steward to a mind-blowing collection of Italian paintings, with some really big shoes to fill. (Wish me luck). It’s still a little unreal, not the least because I’m still segueing between Copenhagen and London, moving only in January. In between at the National.

    Kurt Trampedach RIP


    One of the great painters of his generation, in Denmark and internationally, Kurt Trampedach died a few days ago at age 70. When he was good, he painted the human condition as lonely and traumatic, but ever inquisitive and seeking. He was a close friend of my father’s, so his images came to mark my childhood, as did his voice and occasional alert presence. My best memories of him are from a childhood summer vacation spent in his mountainside home in the Basque Country, and seeing him ecstatic, wielding a huge wine glass filled with Schweppes Bitter Lemon, at the reception for the retrospective exhibition my father organized of his work at Sophienholm, Lyngby in 2001. He was talking his head off, hugging friends and strangers, high on life and art.

    Rest in peace.

    For those with Danish: My dad on his friend, Peter Michael Hornung’s fine obituary,and Peter Laugensen’s, Steen Baadsgaards excellent 1995 documentary on Trampedach’s life at that immensely fertile point in his career. Oh, and you could own the above picture.