Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Renaissance Portraits

In New York City today; saw a very excellent exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum: The Renaissance Portrait from Donatello to Bellini. The exhibition focused entirely on Italian work from the 15th century: paintings, drawings, sculptures, and medallions.

I was especially happy to see Idealized Portrait of a Lady ("Simonetta Vespucci") by Botticelli; on loan from the Städel Museum in Frankfurt, I'd only seen it previously in photographs. A very beautiful painting ... exquisite color and lyrical line ... and strikingly large for a portrait of that period, bigger than life.

ca. 32” x 21”   tempera   1475 /1480

The image is believed to be of Simonetta Cattaneo  Vespucci, a young Florentine woman much celebrated for her beauty. She captivated Lorenzo and Giuliano de Medici, was muse to poets and artists, and is said to be the model for the goddess in Botticelli’s Birth of Venus -- though that painting was made eight or nine years after her death and the notion is dismissed by some scholars. She is also believed to be the model for the figure of Venus in Botticelli's Primavera.

She died in 1476 at the age of twenty-two and was buried at the Chiesa di Ognissanti in Florence. In 1510, Botticelli was buried near her, as he had requested.

The Birth of Venus
ca. 68” x 110”    tempera and oil    ca. 1485  

Also exhibited was one of my favorite paintings from the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C.: Profile Portrait of a Young Man.

A reproduction of that painting (as well as one of the Madonna and Child by Giotto, also at the National Gallery) has always hung near the easel in my studio. I always thought it was by Masaccio, but now it seems that scholars are no longer so sure. In the exhibition, the attribution says "Florentine artist (Paolo Uccello?)" ...

Profile Portrait of a Young Man
ca. 17” x 13”    tempera    1430/1450 
Florentine painter       

1 comment:

  1. Andrew,

    It's so interesting to now see the similarities with your portraiture to this time period. I really can see the influence.




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