Saturday, December 29, 2012

The Brilliance and Grace of Federico Barocci

If you will be in London between  February 27 and May 19, 2013, you might want to check out the special exhibit, Barocci: Brilliance and Grace at the National Gallery. 

Dedicated to the art of Federico Barocci (1535-1612), the show will assemble some of his greatest altarpieces and paintings, including his famous Entombment from the seaside town of Senigallia, and Last Supper from Urbino Cathedral, neither of which has ever left Italy before. And from Rome, The Visitation from the Chiesa Nuova and the Institution of the Eucharist from Santa Maria Sopra Minerva will also be displayed.

In total 14 of his most important altarpieces and devotional paintings, four of his finest portraits, and his only secular narrative (Aeneas' Flight from Troy' will be on display. Alongside these, more than 65 preparatory drawings, pastel studies and oil sketches will be on view. His exceptional preparatory drawings will demonstrate how Barocci’s pictures evolved, showcasing the fertility of his imagination and the diversity of his working methods. He was an accomplished and prolific draughtsman, planning every composition with studies in various different media, pioneering numerous techniques long before they became standard artistic practice.   

Barocci was highly esteemed during his lifetime. His work combined the beauty of the High Renaissance with the dynamism of what was to become known as the Baroque. From his earliest work, in the 1550s, he began to challenge convention by positioning his figures in dynamic spatial arrangements, anticipating by almost half a century the innovations of Baroque art. Fascinated by human and animal forms, he fused compositional harmony with a superb sensitivity to color. 

The National Gallery tells us that “Barocci was predominantly a painter of religious subjects, his approach epitomizing the clarity and accessibility required by a Catholic church, then in crisis. Barocci’s unique warmth and humanity transformed familiar gospel stories and more unusual visions into transcendent archetypes with universal appeal.”

Federico Barocci was one of the most talented and innovative artists of late 16th-century Italy. He was born in Urbino, a town that had become one of the great cultural centers of the Renaissance, and was the birthplace of his famous predecessor Raphael, by whom he was much influenced. 

According to Art News, “He emerged as a promising young painter and, in the 1550s, moved to Rome for further study. During a second trip to Rome in the 1560s, Barocci lived and worked with a number of Rome’s leading painters. After participating in a fresco project for Pope Pius IV in the Vatican, he was allegedly poisoned by jealous rivals during a picnic. Suffering severely and in need of recuperation, Barocci returned to Urbino in 1563, where he remained for the rest of his career. 

"When he died in 1612, he was not only among the highest paid painters in Italy, but also one of the most influential. Many of Barocci’s most accomplished works remain in his home region of the Marches, Italy, on the altars for which they were made. Consequently, his name has not acquired the broad recognition of distinguished predecessors such as Raphael and Michelangelo, or successors such as Rubens, who, with other Baroque artists, drew inspiration from his sumptuous color palette, expressive compositions and innovative techniques.”

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Attribution Ups Portait's Value Ten-fold!

 Apologies for the very poor quality of this image!  To better see this painting, go to Christie's website.

I was delighted this Fall to take a Renaissance art history course with Prof. Elizabeth Pilliod at Princeton’s Italian club. A very entertaining lecturer, Elizabeth is also the author of  Pontormo, Bronzino, and Allori: A Geneaologyof Florentine Art

During our penultimate class she told us about having been asked by Christie’s to write a catalog entry about a Portrait of Francesco I de' Medici that was to go up for auction at their Old Masters and British Paintings Evening Sale in London on Dec. 4th.

Heretofore the painting had long been attributed only to an anonymous 16th century Florentine, but after doing some research, Elizabeth concluded that it was painted by FrancescoMorandini, called il Poppi (Poppi 1544-1597 Florence?). Morandini was a student of and collaborated with the artist and biographer, Giorgio Vasari (1511 – 1574).    

I was fascinated to learn about Elizabeth’s research process and to hear that her attribution of the work to Morandini caused Christie’s to put aside their original sale estimate of around $25,000 in favor of a new estimate of $96,180 - $128,240! Brava!

I went straight home and looked up Christi’s sale catalog to read her essay. Really interesting stuff … right up my alley! Unfortunately, I’m not able to find the pre-sale catalog on-line anymore, but the article is reproduced in the Lot Notes, without the accompanying secondary images, which added dimension to the intriguing tale. 

The sale took place during the ensuing week, and Elizabeth opened our last class by telling us the actual price realized … $253,015 … double the revised estimate ... and ten times the original estimate! Too bad she received a fixed fee for her work – as any honest professional art historian would – rather than a percentage!