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Art Curatorial Exhibitions

From the Collection: The Annuciation by Hendrick Goltzius

The current exhibition in the European works on paper rotation space (on view until July 30) is Alluring Artifice: Mannerism in the Sixteenth Century. The show features 30 prints that explore Mannerism, a movement that emerged in European art around 1510–20 and lasted until about 1600. Characterized by densely packed compositions and a focus on the human form, the style resulted in images that are deliberately challenging in both design and technique. One of the prints featured in the show is The Annunciation, an engraving by the Dutch master printmaker Hendrick Goltzius (1558–1617).

Hendrick Goltzius (Dutch, 1558–1617), The Annunciation, from the series The Life of the Virgin, 1594. Engraving. Milwaukee Art Museum, Gift of Dr. and Mrs. Christopher Graf M1980.233. Photo credit: John R. Glembin.
Hendrick Goltzius (Dutch, 1558–1617), The Annunciation, from the series The Life of the Virgin, 1594. Engraving. Milwaukee Art Museum, Gift of Dr. and Mrs. Christopher Graf M1980.233. Photo credit: John R. Glembin.

Over the years, people that I meet have asked me what I am working on, and I usually reply that I was reading a book on art history. At one point I said that to my mathematics teacher from high school. He turned his head quickly and said confidently, “Like about Da Vinci?”

“Yes,” I replied. “More or less.”

“Do you know what drives me nuts about those guys?”

“No, what drives a math teacher nuts about the Renaissance?”

“Why would anyone attempt to make art after the Renaissance?”

What he meant, of course, was that the Renaissance solved many of the technical difficulties of capturing reality in art. The artistic drive to find ways to show human anatomy, depth of space, and emotional expression had resulted in masterful paintings and sculpture.

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Art Curatorial

From the Collection–Francisco de Zurbarán’s Saint Francis of Assisi in His Tomb

Francisco de Zurbarán (Spanish, 1598–1664). Saint Francis of Assisi in His Tomb, 1630/34. Oil on canvas. Milwaukee Art Museum, Purchase. Photo credit John R. Glembin
Francisco de Zurbarán (Spanish, 1598–1664). Saint Francis of Assisi in His Tomb, 1630/34. Oil on canvas. Milwaukee Art Museum, Purchase. Photo credit John R. Glembin

The Milwaukee Art Museum’s painting by Francisco de Zurbarán (Spanish, 1598–1664), Saint Francis of Assisi in His Tomb, has been popular with museum goers since it entered the collection in 1958. This is probably not surprising, since Zurbarán’s work is infused with a humanity that connects instantly with viewers.

Some of this power derives from the fact that Zurbarán based his painting style on traditional polychrome sculptures found in Spanish churches. Just like his better-known contemporary, Diego Velazquez (Spanish, 1599–1660), Zurbarán’s hyper-realistic paintings helped to inspire devotion in seventeenth-century Catholic Spain. In this post, we’ll take a closer look at how Zurbarán inspired devotion not only in seventeenth-century Spain, but also how he does it today.

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Art Curatorial Exhibitions

From the Collection–St. Dorothy by Antiveduto Gramatica

Antiveduto Gramatica (Italian, 1571–1626), St. Dorothy, late 16th–early 17th century. Oil on canvas. Milwaukee Art Museum, Gift of Dr. and Mrs. Alfred Bader M1971.23. Photo credit: John R. Glembin
Antiveduto Gramatica (Italian, 1571–1626), St. Dorothy, late 16th–early 17th century. Oil on canvas. Milwaukee Art Museum, Gift of Dr. and Mrs. Alfred Bader M1971.23. Photo credit: John R. Glembin

A number of artists featured in the special exhibition Of Heaven and Earth: 500 Years of Italian Painting from Glasgow Museums are represented in the collection of the Milwaukee Art Museum. This is the fourth in a series of blog posts that will highlight Milwaukee’s paintings during the run of the exhibition.

Italian baroque painting can be bold, dramatic—and downright gruesome.  Artememsia Gentileschi’s Judith Slaying Holofernes or Caravaggio’s David with the Head of Goliath are two great examples. The theatricality is in part a result of the demands of the Catholic Church, which was reacting to the Protestant movements spreading throughout Europe.  Their response was called the Counter-Reformation.  In order to encourage a return to Catholicism, the Church commissioned art that would capture the viewer’s attention with drama and emotion.

But not all Italian Baroque paintings are blood and guts.  Some can draw in the viewer with a quiet, contemplative air.  One such painting is the Milwaukee Art Museum’s St. Dorothy by Antiveduto Gramatica (Italian, 1571-1626).

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Art Curatorial

From the Collection–Nautilus Cup

Flemish or South German Nautilus Cup, 1575/1625 Shell, gilt bronze, copper, silver, and semiprecious gems 12 1/2 x 7 1/2 x 3 3/4 in. (31.75 x 19.05 x 9.53 cm) Purchase, with funds from Donald and Donna Baumgartner M2002.170 Photo credit John Nienhuis
Flemish
or South German,
Nautilus Cup, 1575/1625.
Shell, gilt bronze, copper, silver, and semiprecious gems;
12 1/2 x 7 1/2 x 3 3/4 in. Purchase, with funds from Donald and Donna Baumgartner, M2002.170.
Photo credit John Nienhuis.

At first glance, the Museum’s stunning Nautilus Cup looks like an impractical way to drink.  Tankards and beakers, which are also on display in the Museum’s Gallery #2, make sensible drinking vessels. In comparison the nautilus cup, a chambered nautilus shell mounted with elaborate metal work, perhaps could function as a drinking vessel, but seems more convincing as an aesthetic object.

Because it is gorgeous.

Would anyone use this stunning object to serve beverages? If not, why would anyone have this kind of odd-shaped cup? What did it mean?

In directly combing man’s art with God’s nature, a nautilus cup was the type of treasure that would have been housed in a Renaissance Wunderkammer

Wunderkammer were privately-owned collections that are considered the predecessor of the modern museum. German for “room of wonder” or “cabinet of curiosities,” Wunderkammer developed in mid-16th-century Europe and celebrated man-made arts and also natural arts, with minerals, ivory, ostrich eggs, coconut shells, nautilus shells, and other exotic objects.

The Museum’s own American Galleries on the Lower Level are installed as a type of Wunderkammer.

Categories
Art Exhibitions

From the Collection–Claude Mellan’s “The Sudarium”

Claude Mellan, The Sudarium, 1649, printed ca. 1720. Engraving. Gift of the Hockerman Charitable Trust. Photo credit John R. Glembin
Claude Mellan, The Sudarium, 1649, printed ca. 1720. Engraving. Milwaukee Art Museum, Gift of the Hockerman Charitable Trust. Photo by John R. Glembin

So your family members (or out-of-town friends, or in-laws, take your pick!) are in town for the holidays, presents have been opened, feasts eaten, and now you need to entertain them. Naturally, you bring them to the Museum, knowing that you’ll be able to impress them with the architecture, a work of art in and of itself. But you want to impress them in the galleries, too; you want to show them something so incredible that it’ll even stun the know-it-all of the group.

Look no further than Claude Mellan’s Sudarium, currently on view in the Museum’s exhibition, Framing a Decade: Acquisitions of Prints and Drawings, 2001–2011. Skim through this blog post, impress your family with a mini-tour, and prepare to watch jaws drop. Guaranteed!