Tag Archive for 'Raphael'

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.

The Week

The week in review

So, the Raphael drawing I mentioned back in September was sold at Sotheby’s London this week for a whopping £29.7 million, breaking even the astonishing record set by the previous Raphael drawing sold at auction, back in 2009. This is the highest sum ever paid at auction for a work on paper and the second-highest ever paid for an old master.

The prices of art are a nebulous issue, and this is clearly an incredible sum, but we are dealing with a masterwork of the highest order by one of the greatest artists of the Western tradition. In other words: if a drawing had to fetch this price, it could be a worse one. As I wrote in September, this drawing, preparatory for one of his greatest and most iconic works, the late Transfiguration (finished 1520), shows the master at his peak for this type of highly rendered study. To me is clearly of higher quality than the Head of a Muse sold in 2009.

There’s plenty of speculation online as to who bought it, with the famous Russian billionaire Roman Abramovich apparently being the main candidate. That Raphael should join Fernando Torres in Abramovich’s trophy room I find a little sad, especially considering that the drawing was previously available to the public at Chatsworth where it was part of the Devonshire collection. This is to great a treasure to have disappear from public view, but one can at least hope that whoever acquired it will be generous toward loan requests.

I can only kick myself for not having been able to get down and see it when it was on display in the Late Raphael show in the Prado this summer. I saw the exhibition in its current incarnation at the Louvre the week before last, and there they had unfortunately not been able to retain the section devoted to the Transfiguration. It is still a fantastic show however, that I urge you to go and see.

  • Andrew Nosnitsky on Nas’ classic album Illmatic (which will celebrate its 20th anniversary next year) and the forming of an hip hop album canon. Teaser: he regards Nas’ effort as a limited if brilliant one.
  • Very cool interview with visual futurist Syd Mead on his seminal work on Blade Runner.
  • Kailyn Kent on Bart Beaty’s new, exciting book Comics vs. Art, on the comics world and its uneasy relationship with that of fine arts, and on the great cartoonist Saul Steinberg’s equally uneasy positioning within same.
  • Oh, and Dave Brubeck RIP

    The Week


    The week in review

    Another great drawing by Raphael is coming up for sale. Like the Female Head, which broke all records when it sold for £29 million in 2009, it’s a so-called auxiliary cartoon for his last great, large-scale work, the Transfiguration (begun 1516, finished after the master’s death in 1520) now in the Vatican. Coming from one of the greatest private collections — accessible to the public — of drawings in the world, that of the Duke of Devonshire, it’s a well-known and justifiably famous drawing. It’s kind of sad that the Duke occasionally sells off his drawings in this way, potentially occluding great work such as this from public view.

    It shows the head of one of the apostles, and was probably used as a visual supplement to the drawn cartoon used in the studio to transfer the composition to the panel. Like the Female Head, it shows pounce marks (the little dots along the contours), which one would expect to be evidence that it was transferred off the present sheet, probably to the final panel (coal dust is pounced through little holes, transferring the composition in outline), but the marks do not seem at all to follow the contours of the drawing, which seems to me indication that an outline design was transferred onto the present sheet and then reworked into the drawing we see.

    Not having seen the drawing in the flesh, I’m far from certain about this, and I haven’t consulted the literature either, so I may just be talking nonsense here. I just find the drawing exciting, with its smoky chiaroscuro suggesting strong light falling from the right, picking out the cranial features and accentuating the melancholy aspect of the young man. Lips parsed, tussled hair, young beard, intelligent but passive.

    The drawing’s estimated price of between £10-15 million reflects the kind of drawing we’re dealing with here: a large, highly finished piece by one of the defining artists of the Western tradition — the kind of work that only comes up for sale extremely rarely, despite what the 2009 sale would seem to indicate. One question is whether it’ll reach the same, frankly unbelievable price that sheet fetched. Judging by quality I think it should: it appears to me a more finely rendered and subtly beautiful drawing than the Female Head, which is beautiful but slightly rote by Raphael’s standards. This is the same type of drawing, but shows more invention and, I think, carries a greater emotional charge.

    Anyway, let’s see what happens at the sale. I hope the Getty or some other wealthy public institution steps in.

    Links:

  • Salman Rushdie on the repressive culture of offense and fear. With the release of his memoirs coinciding fortuitously with the tragic international flare-up of unrest related to that idiotic video on the prophet Muhammad, Danish TV programme Deadline broadcast this interview with the author, recorded the week before. Also: read Bill Keller on Rushdie and the controversy.
  • The anniversary of hate at the Hooded Utilitarian continued this week, with some really good pieces, led by Isaac Butler’s savage critique of Alan Moore and David Lloyd’s V for Vendetta, which also sparked fascinating discussion. Craig Fischer’s piece on David Small’s Stitches was also good. Plus it was nice to see the inimitable Tom Crippen writing again.
  • Henry Sørensen interviewing Morten Søndergård on fifty years of Spider-Man. This now completed extended dialogue is a really great read, but is unfortunately only available in Danish. But do check it out if you can read the language, part one, two, three. Totally unrelated: Xavier Guilbert’s interview with Anders Nilsen is in English, and good!