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Art Curatorial Exhibitions

From the Collection–The Mocking of Ceres

The current exhibition in the European works on paper rotation space (on view until April 2) is Gods and Heroes: Classical Mythology in European Prints. The show features 21 prints that cover the Renaissance through the early twentieth century and are by artists from Germany, Holland, France, Italy, and England. Each print offers insight into why European artists used the narratives of classical mythology. This is the second in a series of posts focusing on the exhibition.

Hendrik Goudt (Dutch, 1583–1648), after Adam Elsheimer (German, 1578–1610). The Mocking of Ceres, 1610, published 1633. Milwaukee Art Museum, Gift of Friends of Art, from the collection of Philip and Dorothy Pearlstein M2000.136. Photo credit: Larry Sanders.
Hendrik Goudt (Dutch, 1583–1648), after Adam Elsheimer (German, 1578–1610). The Mocking of Ceres, 1610, published 1633. Milwaukee Art Museum, Gift of Friends of Art, from the collection of Philip and Dorothy Pearlstein M2000.136. Photo credit: Larry Sanders.

We’ve already seen how the ancient sculpture of Italy inspired a French Rococo artist in the four prints of the Bacchanals. In this post, we’ll explore another artist’s use of Classical mythology.

The Mocking of Ceres shows Ceres, the goddess of the earth and agriculture, taking a drink. She has been searching the world for her daughter Persephone, who was abducted by Pluto, the ruler of the underworld. Coming upon a small cottage, she asks an old woman for some water. Because Ceres is drinking quickly, a little boy mocks her for her greediness. Angry, Ceres throws her drink at the boy and turns him into a lizard.

This story is just one of the many told by the Roman poet Ovid (43 BC–AD 17) in his work called Metamorphoses. The book-length poem, written in Latin, collected together Greek mythological stories that had some element of transformation as a plot point.

Categories
Art Curatorial

From the Collection–Jacques de l’Ange’s “Gluttony”

Jacques de l'Ange (Flemish, active in Antwerp 1631–1642) Gluttony, ca. 1642 Oil on canvas 49 1/4 x 40 1/4 in. (125.1 x 102.24 cm) Gift of Frank A. Murn M2006.45 Photo credit John R. Glembin
Jacques de l'Ange (Flemish, active in Antwerp 1631–1642), Gluttony, ca. 1642. Oil on canvas, 49 1/4 x 40 1/4 in. Milwaukee Art Museum, Gift of Frank A. Murn M2006.45. Photo credit John R. Glembin.

Alas, the Milwaukee Art Museum does not own a Caravaggio painting.

Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio (Italian, 1571-1610) was a revolutionary painter who combined theatrical compositions and lighting with realistic depictions of humans to make some of the most dramatic and memorable paintings from the early Baroque period.

Unfortunately, he died young and his paintings are hard to come by.  Some of my favorites are The Calling of Saint Matthew in Rome and Saint John the Baptist in the Wilderness in Kansas City’s Nelson-Atkins Museum.

But no need to despair!  Many artists who traveled to Italy in the 17th century—and lots who didn’t—were inspired to use the style of the great artist Caravaggio.  The Milwaukee Art Museum has great paintings by some of these northern European artists, which hang in Gallery #5 with Northern Baroque paintings.  Two of them—Christ before the High Priest by Mathias Stom and Mars, God of War by Gerrit von Honthorst—are by well-known artists of the phenomenon.

I’ve found myself recently admiring one in particular, by the least-known artist in the gallery: Gluttony by Jacques de l’Ange.

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Art

From the Collection–Francisco de Zurbarán’s “St. Francis”

Francisco de Zurbarán, Saint Francis of Assisi in His Tomb, ca. 1630/34. Purchase M1958.70. Photo credit John Nienhuis, Dedra Walls
Francisco de Zurbarán, Saint Francis of Assisi in His Tomb, ca. 1630/34. Purchase M1958.70. Photo credit John Nienhuis, Dedra Walls
Ever wondered what it’s like to experience a religious epiphany? Just walk into Gallery 6 and look to Francisco de Zurbarán’s St. Francis of Assisi in His Tomb, one of the great masterpieces in the Museum’s Collection. St. Francis towers above us in a massive, stark painting, lit only by unseen torchlight, his face hidden and a skull cradled in his palms. The space is unclear, the colors muted. He is monumental, and walks towards us: his foot pokes out of his robes, entering into our space. When I stand in front of this painting, I always feel like I should take a step back and get out of his way.