Tag Archive for 'Sebastiano del Piombo'

The Compass and the Mirror in Rome!


Last week I had the pleasure of attending the book presentation at the Accademia di San Luca in Rome of The Compass and the Mirror – Sebastiano del Piombo and Michelangelo that I have edited and contributed to. Based on research conducted and insights gained during the 2017 exhibition Michelangelo & Sebastiano that I organised at the National Gallery, the book presents a wide variety of new research on the two artists and the context of their collaboration. It is published by Brepols and you can read more here.

It was a real privilege to be able to organise a book presentation of this sort and to hear the critiques of my esteemed colleagues Professor Alessandro Zuccari of the Sapienze University of Rome and Cecilia Frosinini, faculty member at the Opificio delle Pietre Dure in Florence. Both had pointed and important remarks that I will take forward in future work. You can see the entire presentation above, but note that the two respondents speak in Italian and only I, out of necessity, respond in English at the end.

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!’

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:

Raphael and His Contemporaries


The video posted here is my contribution to a lecture series on Raphael, organised to mark the 500th anniversary of his death in 1520 by the Istituto Italiano di Cultura of Toronto. Partly by happenstance, it turned into a series of lectures on Raphael and his relationship with or significance for other Italian renaissance artists, all of them Venetians. My talk, given in early October, was on his fraught relationship with Sebastiano del Piombo, who became Raphael’s main competitor in painting after he arrived in Rome in 1511, not least because he quickly allied himself with Raphael’s most severe rival, Michelangelo. Anyway, do check it out.

Do also tune into the contributions by my colleagues Thomas Dalla Costa and Giorgio Tagliaferro who talked about Raphael and Titian and Raphael and Paolo Veronese, respectively.

Flashback: In Conversation about Sebastiano & Michelangelo

Michelangelo & Sebastiano, with Dr Matthias Wivel and Dr Piers Baker-Bates from Colnaghi Foundation on Vimeo.

It’s Christmas time, so here’s a treat for the two and half people who might care. I was searching for something else and happened upon this video through the Colnaghi Foundation website. It records a conversation I had at their premises in London in the spring of 2017 with my colleague Piers Baker-Bates on Sebastiano del Piombo, his relationship to Michelangelo and his fortuna critica in Spain (a particular specialty of Piers’). Of course the impetus was the exhibition I had organised at the National Gallery, to which Piers had provided invaluable assistance.

I was aware at the time that it was being filmed but forgot all about it, so it’s nice to see it’s been online for a while. It’s very nerdy, but that was also kind of the brief, and frankly a relief at a time when I was doing many more general — and also enjoyable! — introductions to the subject. Plus, it’s always nice to chat with Piers. Enjoy!

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.

Hype: New Reviews

Krazy Kat Sunday page 6 October, 1940


Over at The Comics Journal I’ve just had my rather long, unfocused… er, discursive review of Michael Tisserand’s major new biography Krazy: George Herriman, A Life in Black and White published. Herriman’s Krazy Kat is widely, and for pretty good reasons, regarded as one of the greatest comics of all time, and really should also be considered on of the great, distinct works of art of the twentieth century, in my opinion. I have some thoughts about the strip, as well as assorted other comics embedded in the review. Anyway, check it out.

Oh, and in the latest issue of The Burlington Magazine you can read my review of Claudia Bertling Biaggini’s book on Sebastiano del Piombo, Felix Pictor.

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.

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.