Tag Archive for 'Michelangelo'

Lazarus explained


At the National Gallery we’re currently running a series of half-hour lunchtime lectures on the history of the Gallery told through six key paintings. I kicked off the series a couple of weeks ago with a talk on a painting that has become near and dear to me for perhaps obvious reasons, The Raising of Lazarus by Sebastiano del Piombo, from partial designs by Michelangelo. It was an ideal place to start since it was the first painting inventorised at the founding of the National Gallery in 1824, with the number NG1. See it above. The talks are all available at the National Gallery’s YouTube page.

Michelangelo in the Burlington


This month’s issue of The Burlington Magazine (vol. 60, #1378) includes my lengthy review of Michelangelo: Divine Draftsman and Designer, still on for another week at the Metropolitan Museum in New York (until 12 February). Here’s a short, summary excerpt:

A curatorial triumph, with individual exhibits
selected with confidence and intelligence, the exhibition
offers an exceptional opportunity to understand and appreciate
Michelangelo’s art and creative mind at the most intimate level.
However, while this well suits those ready to devote a long
time to it, one wonders whether, for the more casual visitor, so
comprehensive an approach through sheer accumulation might
flatten the impact of individual objects – many of which would
be centrepieces in other displays.

In it, I also discuss the very forceful attribution to Michelangelo that curator Carmen C. Bambach advances for the picture illustrated above, from the Kimbell. Ostensibly Michelangelo’s first painting — executed in when he was a pre-teen or in his early teens — it is a compelling work that could be by him, but about which I am not alone in habouring certain doubts.

Anyway, read the Burlington at your local art library!

Michelangelo i Weekendavisen

Siddende mandling model, ca. 1510+12, Wien, Albertina


I dennes uges udgave af Weekendavisen anmelder jeg den store Michelangelo-udstilling på The Metropolitan Museum of Art i New York og gør mig i den forbindelse nogle tanker om Michelangelos næsten eksklusive fokus på kroppen i sin kunst. Læs avisen, hvis I har mulighed for det!

Christmas odds and ends


So it’s nearly Christmas and I realise that I’ve been running behind even on the self-promotion (such as it is) in here. Fear not, I’ll have you caught up in no time, or just in time to wish you a merry one.

ITEM My exhibition Michelangelo & Sebastiano, which showed at the National Gallery last spring, was nominated for Exhibition of the Year at the Apollo Awards. Although we were beaten for the award by the amazing Raphael exhibition at the Ashmolean Museum, it was needless to say an honour to be considered. I am proud of the work we did, warts and all, and hope some of you had the chance to come see it.

ITEM Speaking of Michelangelo and Raphael, they are — of course — two parts of the ‘Big Three’ constellation we are currently showing in room 20 at the National. The Royal Academy generously lent us Michelangelo’s Taddei tondo for Michelangelo and Sebastiano and have let us keep it till the end of January while they’re renovating and preparing its new display in time for their anniversary. For various reasons, my full online interpretation treatment on went live a few weeks ago. You can look at it here, and you can of course watch my Facebook Live introduction — previously posted – here.

Cornelis Cort after design by Titian, The Annunciation, second state, c. 1566, engraving


ITEM I reviewed Peter Lüdemann’s Tiziano. Le botteghe e la grafica in the December issue of The Burlington Magazine. on the use of graphic media in the Titian workshop. A stimulating if slightly incoherent book, which at times skirts the difficult issues but nevertheless collates little-studied material in enlightening ways. Here are my concluding remarks:

Lüdemann’s book is a welcome
addition to the literature. In addition
to providing the first analytical overview of
print production both in Titian’s workshop
and outside it, its central argument about
collaboration is strong. Titian himself never
cut, engraved or etched, which means that
any consideration of prints relating to his
output necessarily involves his workshop
practice and his arrangements with fellow
artists, printmakers and printers. It should
be obvious to any reader of this flawed but
fascinating book that the prints, and indeed
the drawings relating to them or otherwise
analogous to their function, are a particularly
illuminating key to a better understanding
of Titian’s work as a whole.

Read it at your local art library!

ITEM Our Christmas video series at The National Gallery this year focuses on gold as its theme. I participated briefly (see above) in the section devoted to the gilding of frames, discussing with our Head of Framing Peter Schade the spectacular altarpiece frame he created for the Gallery’s Raising of Lazarus by Sebastiano and Michelangelo, which debuted in the aforementioned exhibition and is now on view around the painting in the Gallery’s room 8.

Merry Christmas!

The Big 3 at The National Gallery


With the Michelangelo and Sebastiano exhibition closed at National Gallery we are privileged to hold on to Michelangelo’s marble Taddei Tondo from the Royal Academy until the end of January, while they complete the bicentennial refurbishment. This has given us the opportunity to show the sculpture along with a number of paintings from our collection by Leonardo, Michelangelo and Raphael, the three foundational figures of what we have come to know as the High Renaissance.

The display is on in room 20 of the North Galleries, smack dab in the middle of our new display of Dutch and Flemish seventeenth-century paintings, incongruously but necessarily because of logistics. If you’re in London, I encourage you to visit what I think is a compelling display telling the story of the creative and, to a lesser extent, personal interrelations of these three very different giants of art.

If you wish to know more, do check my introduction to the display via Facebook Live.

Happy Easter


I hope you are all well. If you’re in London, do consider visiting my exhibition, Michelangelo & Sebastiano, at the National Gallery. It includes the juxtaposition, above, of Michelangelo’s two Risen Christs. I naturally recommend it.

Michelangelo & Sebastiano


In a couple of weeks’ time, on 15 March, the exhibition Michelangelo & Sebastiano opens at the National Gallery (trailer above). As its curator, I’ve worked on it for the past two and a half years and of course look forward to people seeing it.

Briefly, it aims to be a focused show, examining the extraordinary friendship and collaboration between Michelangelo (1475-1564) and the Venetian painter and expat to Rome Sebastiano Luciani, known to posterity as Sebastiano del Piombo (1485-1547). Michelangelo is not known for his ability or willingness to collaborate, in part due to his own efforts in his later years to play down any such activity, but also because he genuinely worked best alone, or with assistants who were essentially subservient to him.

Remarkably, the partnership with Sebastiano, which started in late 1511 and lasted on-off, and mostly in long-distance form — Michelangelo in Florence and Sebastiano in Rome — between 1516 and 1534, was essentially a collaboration among equals. Yes, it was asymmetrical, as one would expect of any collaboration involving one of the greatest artists who ever lived, but each of the two men brought their unique ideas and sensibilities to their joint projects. Essentially, Michelangelo would provide Sebastiano with drawings which he would use in his paintings, but in many different ways and often quite independently of any oversight from Michelangelo. Sebastiano was hugely influenced by Michelangelo and spent most of his career assimilating his example, but he did so in his own, highly original fashion.

At the time of their falling-out in 1536, apparently over the choice of medium (oil or fresco) that Michelangelo would use for the Sistine Last Judgment — the great project that had brought him back to Rome, Sebastiano had developed a monumental, uniquely still and intensely spiritual style of painting that would prove immensely influential of painters of the following generations, not just in Rome but across Europe, from Caravaggio to Poussin and even Zurbarán.


Anyway, all this and much more — including the dramatic historical context, one of upheaval, war, schism and theological and artistic rejuvenation — will be explored in the exhibition and in its catalogue, which is shipping from its distributor as of yesterday. Edited by me, it features scholarship by, among others, Costanza Barbieri, Paul Joannides, Piers Baker-Bates, Silvia Danesi Squarzina and Timothy Verdon. Read more (and purchase) here.

Picks of the Week

The picks of the week from around the web.

  • ‘New’ old masters. This seems to be the season of sensational (and ‘sensational’) discoveries. Headlining is the long-lost Salvator Mundi by Leonardo da Vinci, which has turned up in an American collection and will be exhibited publicly for the first time at the sure-to-be-unmissable National Gallery show in London this fall. Several highly respected specialists vouch for its authenticity and it does looks like an extraordinary painting — look at the refinement of the right hand, the translucence of the sphere and the distant expression, the almost non-presence, of Christ. It fits well into the master’s modus operandi, better than, say, that pretty drawing from a couple of years ago.

    In other news, the Italian conservator, champion of the “Buffalo Madonna,” of which I wrote a while ago, has now made another find, this time in Oxford, which he also claims is by Michelangelo. And again, it seems obvious that his optimism knows few bounds.

  • The Illustrated Wallace Stevens at Hooded Utilitarian. The next week will see more than twenty artists illustrating selected poems of that great American master. I’m willing to bet already that few of them will be as hauntingly great as Anke Feuchtenberger’s, but am very much looking forward to seeing them all.
  • Ryan Holmberg on Shimada Kazuo and Tatsumi Yoshihiro. This is a bit old now, but I would be remiss not to link to the latest, and in some ways most impressive installment in Holmberg’s series on the birth of gekiga, in which he unearths an important missing link with what went before.
  • Picks of the Week

    The picks of the week from around the web.

  • This is a well-written piece on the sometimes hermetic and puzzling vagaries of art world authentication. It doesn’t change, however, that there is no way the Buffalo Pietà at its center was painted by Michelangelo. Look at it. The provenance may be compelling, though the argument about the wax seal on the back seems iffy. And the underdrawing could of course be by the master, as the owner and his conservator champion claim, but the cropped infrared published in the interactive section of the article (look right) is hard to judge by. Nothing about it yells Michelangelo at this viewer though.
  • The passing of Gil Scott-Heron brought this fine personal tribute from one of his talented heirs, Michael Franti of Spearhead, but if you only read one thing about him, make it this profile by Alec Wilkinson, written last year for the New Yorker.
  • Comics links. Two excellent pieces up at The Comics Journal this week: the latest installment in Ryan Holmberg’s history of gekiga and Ken Parille’s analysis of creation as a motif in Jack Kirby and Chris Ware.