Images of women martyrs have always been popular in art. Their stories are ripe with dramatic moments that capture the imaginations of both artist and audience. The subject also offers examples of moral virtue. Images of martyrs could be used as teaching tools for women in the early modern era, visually showcasing the moral ideals that they should embody.
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 Preparations for the Wedding Banquet of Cupid and Psyche, an important recent acquisition by the Italian female engraver Diana Mantuana (ca. 1547–1612), who is sometimes referred to as Diana Scultori.
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 third in a series of blog posts that will highlight Milwaukee’s paintings during the run of the exhibition.
In researching a museum’s collection, the story behind the acquisition of an artwork can sometimes be just as interesting as the artwork itself. The Milwaukee Art Museum’s On the Eve of Her Wedding by Antonio Mancini (Italian, 1852-1930) is a great example.
Mancini began his artistic studies at the age of 12. In 1875 and again in 1877, he visited Paris—then the center of the avant-garde world—where he met French Impressioninists Edgar Degas (French, 1834-1917) and Edouard Manet (French, 1832-1883). Mancini’s loose, expressive brushstroke and dark color choices were clearly influenced by Manet. At one point, John Singer Sargent (American, 1856-1925) declared Mancini to be the greatest living painter.
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.
Sometimes with the rush of the holiday season, it is nice to take a deep breath and spend some time on your own.
In that spirit, I’d like to consider a small-scale stone relief Virgin and Child, ca. 1550. You’ll find it at the Museum tucked in a case in Gallery #3, with works of the Northern Renaissance.
The artwork, carved in stone, is done in low relief and is set into a wood and silk case with a two-part hinged cover. The small size allowed the owner to hold it in the palm of his or her hand for private contemplation and prayer. The case is probably a later replacement, but it certainly would have had something similar to protect it when slipped into a drawer or carried for devotion during travel.
And what a beautiful image to inspire!
[Again for the 2011 holiday season, the Milwaukee Art Museum is thrilled to display the beloved Neopolitan crèche. Visit the Museum soon to enjoy this tradition with your family–the Nativity Scene will be on view through January 2012. Re-posted below is curator Catherine Sawinski’s 2010 blog post sharing the history of this artwork. ]
It’s that time of year again! The Museum’s Neapolitan crèche is on view in the galleries for the holiday season. You’ll find it in Gallery 4 of the Collection Galleries, with European art.
The origin of the popular Christmas tradition of re-staging the Nativity scene is usually credited to Saint Francis of Assisi in 1223. The custom reached its artistic height in eighteenth-century Naples, when the Museum’s version was made.
I have always loved architecture. As a child, nothing excited me more than a big old Victorian farmhouse. Greek Revival, Carpenter Gothic, Second Empire, Queen Anne—I was probably one of the only Wisconsin middle-schoolers who knew the nuances of American house design and could read—and draw—a floor plan.
As an undergraduate, one of my majors was Classical Civilization, and my interest in architecture easily translated to ancient buildings. When I studied in Rome during my junior year and was able to see ruins that I had been studying in photographs, I was so excited.
I actually cried a little when I walked into the Pantheon for the first time!
Working in the European department at the Milwaukee Art Museum doesn’t allow me a lot of possibilities to directly study architecture, but I have found one way to explore it indirectly. Tucked away in the corner of the Italian Baroque gallery (Gallery #6) is a painting that most visitors probably miss. It is Architectural Fantasy with Figures attributed to Girolamo Mengozzi (Italian, ca. 1688–ca. 1766).