Tag Archive for 'The National Gallery'

Raphael Portraits at the National

Baldassare Castiglione, 1519


I gave a Facebook Live tour of the last room of the Raphael exhibition at the National Gallery the other night, devoted to the artist’s late portraits. You can see it here. You’re welcome!

Raphael at the National Gallery


It is here! After six years of planning: the great Raphael exhibition that I’ve co-curated with Tom Henry and David Ekserdjian has opened at the National Gallery in London. It presents a comprehensive overview of Raphael’s entire career and charts his creativity across media and art forms, beyond drawing and painting to architecture and to design for tapestry, print, sculpture and the applied arts, as well as his activities as an archaeologist and art theorist. Even his essays in poetry are included. Need I say that the loans we have received from across Europe and the United States are incredible?

Originally planned for 2020, to mark the 500th anniversary of Raphael’s death on 6 April, Good Friday 1520, it was postponed due to the pandemic. I’m relieved that it is finally happening. Raphael feels so urgent today, not least after two years of pandemic and the outbreak of the war in Ukraine and with the sometimes crushing awareness of the challenges posed by climate change and environmental destruction. Raphael’s art and whole ethos is the opposite of that — a passionate assertion of human dignity, community and civilisation. Art doesn’t change the world, of course, but it still reflects it.

Do go, often and repeatedly, if you can. I promise you won’t be disappointed. Book here.

New Book out!


I have a new book out! Several years in the making, The Compass and the Mirror — Sebastiano del Piombo and Michelangelo is an anthology of scholary articles on the two great artists and their collaboration and relationship between 1511 and 1547. Inspired by the exhibition Michelangelo & Sebastiano that I curated at the National Gallery in 2017, it gathers a to my mind stellar group of scholars, conservators and scientists in what I hope will be a standard reference volume for anyone researching the field in the years to come. Published by Brepols, you can find more information, including how to order, on their website. Here is the table of contents: Continue reading ‘New Book out!’

Merry Christmas!

Guido Reni, The Adoration of the Shepherds, about 1640, London, The National Gallery

On Vasari’s Allegory of Patience

In The National Gallery’s ongoing offering of online ten-minute talks, I’m chipping in with 6 and half minutes on Giorgio Vasari’s great Allegory of Patience, which we have on loan from The Kletsch Collection. Enjoy!

See more ten-minute talks and other video content from the Gallery here.

On the Road


I recently had the pleasure of sitting down (online) with Howard Burton of Ideas Roadshow podcast to discuss my life and work, particularly at The National Gallery in London. The resulting podcast is now online! Clocking it at over two hours, it’s rather wide-ranging covering in particularly how my life in comics intersects with that in art and how hip hop changed my life. Check it out here:

Titian in Boston


The exhibition of Titian’s six great so-called poesie for King Philip II (c. 1551-1562) that I helped organise at the National Gallery in London, and which showed in modified form at the Prado earlier this year, has now opened at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston under the title Titian: Women, Myth & Power.

From what I’ve seen in the press and online, I’m greatly impressed with their installation and didactic material they’ve put together, and it pleases me greatly to see these great Titians united in my American home away from home in Boston. I can’t wait hopefully to see it later in the autumn.

If you’re anyway near it, do go see it. It is truely and without hyperbole a once-in-a-lifetime chance. These are some of the great paintings of the Western tradition and they haven’t been seen together since the 1570s.

The Shape of Time in Milan


Postponed by Covid, the exhibition La forma del tempo (‘The Shape of Time’) at the Poldi Pezzoli in Milan finally opened last month and runs till 27 September. Centred around the museum’s extraodinary collection of sixteenth- and seventeenth-century clocks, it examines conceptions of time in the renaissance as expressed in the visual arts. The National Gallery has lent Titian’s Allegory of Prudence, a picture that grapples with issues of family, succession, memory and time through a creative interpretation of a traditional iconography that represents time in the form of three heads, either human or animal. Anyway, I wrote the entry for the painting and would encourage readers who are in MIlan or find themselves there to go see the show. It looks fascinating. Check our Works section for info on the catalogue.

Lorenzo Lotto’s Monte San Giusto Crucifixion


One of Lorenzo Lotto’s greatest altarpieces can be found in the small church of Santa Maria della Pietà in the town of Monte San Giusto in the Marche. Painted in 1528-29, it is a stunningly ambitious representation of the Crucifixion, conceived by a master at the height of his powers, but also an artist who was increasingly struggling to find work in his native Venice leading him to seek employment elsewehere, especially in the Marche where many of the greatest of his later works can still be seen today.

In preparation for the twin Lotto exhibitions of 2018-19, Lorenzo Lotto Portraits at the Museo del Prado and the National Gallery and Lorenzo Lotto: Il richiamo delle Marche, Prof. Enrico Maria Dal Pozzolo and I visited Monte San Giusto to see the altarpiece in July 2018. It was a great experience and we susequently agreed to help produce videos on the work for the Commune. These have now been released to the public and will hopefully help attract people to the altarpiece, the town and the region. I cannot recommend it highly enough. For help, check this guide to seeing Lotto in the region.
Continue reading ‘Lorenzo Lotto’s Monte San Giusto Crucifixion’

Titian Poesie at the Prado

Titian, The Rape of Europa, 1559-62, Boston, Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum


This week, the Museo del Prado in Madrid opened their exhibitions Passiones Mitológicas, or Mythological Passions. The show is their version of the exhibition I helmed at the National Gallery, which gathers for the first time since the sixteenth century Titian’s six mytholgical paintings, so-called poesie, originally painted for the Spanish king Philip II between around 1551 and 1562.

The show at the Prado is a kind of homecoming for these masterworks, a return to the royal Spanish collection to which they belonged and in which they became a cornerstone, influencing generations of artists. The Prado is therefore uniquely positioned to tell a broader story of the development of European painting in the early modern era and Titian’s crucial role in it. They have also taken the opportunity to tell the story of the development of secular, mythological genres of painting in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, as kind of liberating format that encouraged experimentation.

Diego Velázquez, Las hilanderas (The Spinners), 1655-60. Madrid, Museo del Prado


It is of course incredibly difficult to travel at the moment, but if you’re in Madrid this exhibition is a rare treat, showing as it does the great poesie with masterworks by Veronese, Velázquez, Poussin, Rubens, Ribera and others. It is on until 4 July, so I for one am hoping for a summer visit! In the meantime, I believe they will be offering a virtual tour.

Giorgio Vasari’s Allegory of Patience


It seemed to come out of nowhere. Thought lost, Giorgio Vasari’s Allegory of Patience of 1542 popped up on the art market. It was acquired by the Klesch Collection in London where I first went to see it. Greatly impressed with the picture, we expressed an interest in taking it on loan at the National Gallery and the owners kindly agreed: it has been on display at Trafalgar Square since March last year, finding a natural place among the Florentine sixteenth-century pictures and significantly complementing the collection. In my opinion, it’s as good as Vasari gets as an easel painter — a monumental picture with great wall power. This may in part be due to the probable involvement in its design by Michelangelo, but it is in any case a bravura piece of painting.

Now, the Klesch Collection has published a small book on it, authored by the distinguished scholar of Florentine renaissance art Carlo Falciani. He, my colleague at the Gallery Caroline Campbell, and I also contributed to a short film on it. Check it out, and do come see the picture if you’re in London when the Gallery is open again!

Order the book via its publisher, Paul Holberton.

Merry Christmas!

Dosso Dossi, The Adoration of the Kings, about 1527-9, London, The National Gallery


 

Poetry in Paint: A Titian Conference at the National Gallery


This November, we staging a large virtual conference devoted to Titian’s late mythological paintings at the National Gallery. Organised by Thomas Dalla Costa and myself on the occasion of the exhibition Titian: Love Desire Death, which is still on view at Trafalgar Square (until 17 January), it will bring together scholars, conservators and scientists from Europe and North America to speak on a wide variety of topics relating to Titian and his mythological paintings, from technique to meaning and the wider context: from politics and identity to sex and violence!

The conference It will also feature four artist’s talks, with Nalini Malani, Michael Armitage, Phoebe Gloeckner and Tom de Freston — all reflecting on what Titian means to their practice and how they grapple with the enduring issues so central to his work.

The dates are 3, 10 and 17 November. You can see the full programme and register here.

Titian Behind Closed Doors at the BBC


The BBC2 documentary Titian Behind Closed Doors, directed by Matthew Hill, aired on the BBC on Saturday night. It’s a treatment of Titian’s relationship with Philip II, the king of Spain, and the series of mythological paintings, the so-called poesie, that he painted for him. It coincides with our now-shuttered exhibition, Titian Love Desire Death, at The National Gallery. I was involved in pitching it to the BBC and gave an interview for it, but have not otherwise been involved. I recommend taking a look if you’re interested in the subject — it covers a lot of ground on a complex and rich topic. If you have access to the BBC iPlayer, you can watch it here for the next twenty-odd days.

Titian at the National Gallery


Before the world went sideways, I was working on an exhibition, Titian Love Desire Death, uniting seven masterpieces of mythological paintings by Titian (about 1488-1576) at the National Gallery. We managed to open the exhibition on 16 March. Three days later it closed along with the rest of the Gallery which was one of the last European institutions of its kind to do so. We have no idea when we will be able to reopen again and therefore whether we will be able to share this extraordinary collection of paintings with the public before they have to be packed and shipped onwards. I wrote about this situation for Apollo Magazine last week.


Titian called these pictures poesie in order to emphasise the inspiration he had taken from classical poetry and the ambition to have them work as visual poems. The group of six canvases were executed for Philip of Habsburg, King Philip II of Spain from 1556, between about 1551 and 1562, while a seventh was never sent and only completed towards the end of the artist’s life. The six have not been seen together since, probably, the 1570s, and the seventh has never been displayed with the rest of the group. This was a dream project, not just of mine but any Titian or Italian renaissance enthusiast for generations.


I have been privileged to play a part in its realisation and hope you will want to take a closer look, if not in person at the National Gallery, then perhaps at one of our partnering venues: the Scottish National Gallery in Edinburgh, the Museo del Prado in Madrid or the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston, to where the paintings will tour, if all goes well and the pandemic doesn’t get in the way of that too. And if not there, then perhaps virtually — we will doing our best to share our knowledge and appreciation online over the next months, in part under the #MuseumFromHome tag. Also, there will be a documentary dedicated to Titian and the poesie, in which I participate, broadcast on BBC 2 on 4 April and I believe Mary Beard will be featuring the works on Front Row Late sometime soon as well. Will post links in here when and if.

Our exhibition film is based on the BBC’s footage, a taster of which can be seen in the following short video on the paired Diana and Actaeon and Diana and Callisto:

Here is a Facebook Live I did on 16 March, before we opened to the public. It was done under the worrying shadow of Covid-19 so bear with the slight incoherence. In the run-up to the exhibition my colleagues and I also did a series of FacebookLives on the individual paintings — they can be accessed here.

A creative decision that we made early in the process and which I was particularly happy with was to reframe Philip’s six pictures in matching frames in order to harmonise the display. Handcarved in the National Gallery framing department by Peter Schade, our Head of Framing and his team, they are based on the original sixteenth-century frame around Titian’s late Pietà at the Accademia in Venice. Check out this nice video the Gallery produced on the project:

They *are* such wonderful paintings.