Donatello’s Florence Cathedral Sculptures Cross the Atlantic for the First Time (Hyperallergic)

By by Allison Meier on March 18, 2015 original article here.

Sculpture in the Age of Donatello: Renaissance Masterpieces From Florence Cathedral at the Museum of Biblical Art

Nanni di Banco, “St. Luke the Evangelist” (1408–13), marble, and Donatello, “St. John the Evangelist” (1408–15), marble, both of which were in niches alongside the Florence Cathedral’s main portal and are now on view in the Museum of Biblical Art’s ‘Sculpture in the Age of Donatello.’ (all photos by the author for Hyperallergic)

 

Gauzy white fabric divides the single gallery of the Museum of Biblical Art into a series of ethereal chambers for Sculpture in the Age of Donatello: Renaissance Masterpieces from Florence Cathedral, each turn revealing the marble visage of some stern saint or prophet. It’s an improbable exhibition, with 23 early Renaissance pieces that have rarely (if ever) left Italy, let alone crossed the Atlantic to arrive at this small Upper West Side museum. After their return to Florence’s Museo dell’Opera del Duomo, it’s likely most of these pieces will never travel again because of their fragility and size. That exceptional nature of the exhibition is reason enough to visit, but the unexpected humanity of Donatello’s sculptures up close makes it essential.

Sculpture in the Age of Donatello: Renaissance Masterpieces From Florence Cathedral at the Museum of Biblical Art

Installation view of ‘Sculpture in the Age of Donatello: Renaissance Masterpieces From Florence Cathedral’ at the Museum of Biblical Art

The Museo dell’Opera del Duomo, the museum of Florence Cathedral, is currently undergoing renovations until October, and the Museum of Biblical Art (MOBIA) is the only stop for Sculpture in the Age of Donatello. Meanwhile, there’s just one relief by Donatello on permanent view in the United States: “Madonna of the Clouds” at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. This will probably be the best showing of his Florentine work in the United States for a while, maybe a lifetime.

Co-curated by Museo dell’Opera Director Timothy Verdon and Donatello scholar Daniel Zolli, who’s based at Harvard University, the exhibition also includes work by Donatello’s collaborators and contemporaries, who from 1400 to 1450 participated in making the Florence Cathedral, a project that jumpstarted the Renaissance in art and architecture. Anchoring the show are two colossal sculptures by Donatello (aka Donato di Niccolò di Betto Bardi) and Nanni di Banco, demonstrating two impressive sculptors competing with very different aesthetics right on the cathedral façade.

Donatello’s “St. John the Evangelist” (1408–15) gazes with furrowed intensity and a sprawling beard, while di Banco’s “St. Luke the Evangelist” (1408–13) has a neat style that could be mistaken for a Roman sculpture of Hadrian, his eyes half closed. Both were once positioned in niches on either side of the cathedral’s portal, four feet above an average person. To get the full impact of their oversize scale, you’d have to sprawl on the MOBIA floor (not recommended) and look up. Despite the slightly skewed perspective of viewing them at eye level, you get an immediate idea of two distinct artists, especially the energy emanating from Donatello’s saint, who, despite his detached confidence, feels ill at ease. A century later, the work would influence Michelangelo’s equally hulking “Moses.”

Sculpture in the Age of Donatello: Renaissance Masterpieces From Florence Cathedral at the Museum of Biblical Art

Donatello, “Prophet” (1435–36), marble, and “Abraham and Isaac” (1421), marble

You could easily linger with each piece, from Filippo Brunelleschi’s wood models for the cathedral’s dome to Luca della Robbia’s reliefs for its bell tower. However, it’s the animation in Donatello’s work that really bristles. This feeling is strongest in two pieces from the cathedral’s bell tower positioned together. In a collaboration with Nanni di Bartolo, Donatello worked a single block of marble into “Abraham and Isaac” (1421), capturing the moment when Abraham was called to stop the sacrifice of his son, a test of faith. Isaac wears a look of blank resignation, but Abraham’s carved eyes have a startled expression — you can almost hear the shriek of angels halting his knife, the blade still resting on his son’s shoulder while he grips the boy’s hair. Opposite is one of Donatello’s best, the “Prophet” (1435–36) or “Zuccone” (Squash Head), as he’s nicknamed for his bald skull. Thought by many to depict the Old Testament prophet Habakkuk, the figure’s eyes originally angled down from the bell tower; even in that aged, mutilated face you can sense real conflicted human psychology.

Whether in the resolution of a saint, the torment of a prophet, or a father compelled to nearly murder his son, Donatello embodied the heaviness of the divine pressing on humanity with compelling naturalism, even while the stone still feels raw and exposed. It’s hard from the exhibition’s white, transcendent design to understand the original perspective and positioning of the sculptures in the towering cathedral, looking down from their imposing perches. Fortunately, at a human scale there remains the intended sense of awe, and one that’s for a fleeting time transported to New York.

Sculpture in the Age of Donatello: Renaissance Masterpieces From Florence Cathedral at the Museum of Biblical Art

Detail of Donatello’s “Prophet” (1435–36), marble

Donatello, "Prophet" (1435-36), marble; and "Abraham and Isaac" (1421), marble

Donatello, “Prophet” (1435–36), marble, and “Abraham and Isaac” (1421), marble

Sculpture in the Age of Donatello: Renaissance Masterpieces From Florence Cathedral at the Museum of Biblical Art

Detail of Donatello’s “Abraham and Isaac” (1421), marble

Sculpture in the Age of Donatello: Renaissance Masterpieces From Florence Cathedral at the Museum of Biblical Art

Installation view of ‘Sculpture in the Age of Donatello: Renaissance Masterpieces From Florence Cathedral’ at the Museum of Biblical Art

Sculpture in the Age of Donatello: Renaissance Masterpieces From Florence Cathedral at the Museum of Biblical Art

Donatello and Michelozzo, bronze heads with traces of gilding (1439), possibly copied from ancient bronzes

Sculpture in the Age of Donatello: Renaissance Masterpieces From Florence Cathedral at the Museum of Biblical Art

Three marble sculptures by Luca della Robbia for the Florence Cathedral’s bell tower (1437–39)

Sculpture in the Age of Donatello: Renaissance Masterpieces From Florence Cathedral at the Museum of Biblical Art

Two marble prophets by Donatello from 1406–10, sculpted for the bell tower of Florence Cathedral

Sculpture in the Age of Donatello: Renaissance Masterpieces From Florence Cathedral at the Museum of Biblical Art

Two marble “profetinos,” or “small prophets,” the one on the left attributed to Donatello and the one on the right to Nanni di Banco, both from 1406–09 Sculpture in the Age of Donatello: Renaissance Masterpieces From Florence Cathedral at the Museum of Biblical Art

Sculpture in the Age of Donatello: Renaissance Masterpieces From Florence Cathedral at the Museum of Biblical Art

Nanni di Banco or Donatello, “Vir Dolorum” (“Man of Sorrows”) (1407–09), marble

Sculpture in the Age of Donatello: Renaissance Masterpieces From Florence Cathedral at the Museum of Biblical Art

Attributed to Giovanni d’Ambrogio, “Archangel Gabriel of the Annunciation” and “Virgin Mary of the Annunciation” (both late 14th century), marble

Sculpture in the Age of Donatello: Renaissance Masterpieces From Florence Cathedral at the Museum of Biblical Art

Installation view of ‘Sculpture in the Age of Donatello: Renaissance Masterpieces From Florence Cathedral at the Museum’ of Biblical Art

Sculpture in the Age of Donatello: Renaissance Masterpieces From Florence Cathedral at the Museum of Biblical Art

orenzo Ghiberti, “Adoration of the Magi” (replica from the North Doors of Florence Baptistery), gilded bronze; Master of Castel di Sangro, “Adoration of the Magi” (first half of 15th century), maiella stone, which copied the original Ghiberti composition

Sculpture in the Age of Donatello: Renaissance Masterpieces From Florence Cathedral at the Museum of Biblical Art

nstallation view of ‘Sculpture in the Age of Donatello: Renaissance Masterpieces From Florence Cathedral’ at the Museum of Biblical Art

Sculpture in the Age of Donatello: Renaissance Masterpieces From Florence Cathedral at the Museum of Biblical Art

Exterior view of the Museum of Biblical Art

 

Sculpture in the Age of Donatello: Renaissance Masterpieces from Florence Cathedral continues at the Museum of Biblical Art (1865 Broadway, Upper West Side, Manhattan) through June 14. 

 

Long-Lost Masterpiece by Ingres Discovered in Hospital Attic in France (artnet news)

By Lorena Muñoz-Alonso, Friday, April 24, 2015 original article here.

A detail of the Ingres painting found in Jura<br>Photo via: La Voix de Jura

A detail of the Ingres painting found in Jura Photo via: La Voix de Jura

A painting by Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres has been found in the French province of Jura completely by chance, Le Monde reports (see Long Lost Masterpiece Discovered in French Attic Comes to Auction).

The piece is only the latest in a spate of “lost” masterpieces that have turned up in recent months sometimes to huge auction success (see Scholar Denies Authenticating ‘Lost Leonardo’ Found in Swiss Vault and Lost Klimt Portrait Unveiled In Prague).

The discovery was made during an inventory conducted by Emmanuel Buselin, curator and advisor of historical monuments of the region, in the attic of the chapel of the former hospital Hôtel-Dieu, located in the town of Lons-le-Saunier.

Buselin saw a huge canvas rolled and covered in dust and, intrigued, sat down to unroll it. A large Ingres masterpiece—measuring 4.30 meters wide by 3.40 meters high—depicting a Madonna with child and kneeling king, slowly unfolded before his eyes.

The painting, which dates to 1826, is thought to have been gifted to the town after Ingres completed it. It hung in the local church of Saint-Désiré.

The found painting is thought to be the second version of Ingres's Le Vœu de Louis XIII (The vow of Louis XIII, 1824)<br>Photo via: Wikipedia

The found painting is thought to be the second version of Ingres’s Le Vœu de Louis XIII (The vow of Louis XIII, 1824) Photo via: Wikipedia

In 1936, according to the municipal archives, the church was refurbished and the painting stored in the former hospital, where it had languished forgotten ever since.

The priceless masterpiece is thought to be the long-lost second version of Ingres’s Le Vœu de Louis XIII (The vow of Louis XIII), which King Charles X of France originally commissioned from the Neoclassical master in 1820.

Buselin’s incredible discovery took place last autumn, but it remained secret until this week in order to protect the artwork, which could not be safely removed from the old hospital immediately.

The painting is now being repaired in the conservation area of the Museum of Fine Arts of Lons-le-Saunier, where it is expected to be displayed once it is completely restored.

 

 

Has Gaudí’s Sagrada Familia Grown Out of Touch? (Hyperallergic)

by Laura C. Mallonee on October 1, 2014 original article here.

La Sagrada Familia in 2009, with cranes digitally removed. (image via Wikimedia)

La Sagrada Familia in 2009, with cranes digitally removed. (image via Wikimedia)

You might say that Antoni Gaudí was an architect of the cloth. From 1883 until his death in 1926, the Catalonian master oversaw the construction of the Roman Catholic basilica Temple Expiatori de la Sagrada Família in Barcelona, Spain. When people asked him why it was taking so long, he purportedly replied, “My client isn’t in a hurry.”

Nearly nine decades after his death, construction is still ongoing, and a new video released by the basilica (below) reveals how it will unfold over the next two years. By 2016, workers will have finished the sacristy and raking cornice and installed new stained glass windows. And if a video released last year (at the bottom of this post) can be believed, the building could be completely finished by 2026. It took less time to build Notre Dame.

he journey hasn’t been easy, though. When the Spanish Civil War broke out in 1936, Gaudí’s original plans for La Sagrada Familia burned in a fire that destroyed his workshop. A few plaster models, drawings, and photographs were salvaged from the cinders and used, along with notes from Gaudí’s students, to piece together the rest. Through political change and architectural innovation, construction has marched on.

Yet the basilica has never been more at odds with its time. Aside from the fact that the West has grown increasingly secular, much has changed among Christians themselves since the 19th century, when Catholics and Protestants alike constructed costly imitations of Medieval cathedrals. Today, as Pope Francis underscores the need to care for the poor, it’s harder for Catholics to justify the continued construction of a church structure built entirely on expiations (monetary donations many believe will atone for their wrongdoings), not to mention the €12.50 admission fee coughed up by 2 million visitors every year.

Given Gaudí’s acclaim as an architect, it’s easy to ignore this murkier aspect of the building’s funding. The basilica remains an important architectural work; its crypt, constructed between 1884 and 1889, is even listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site.

The selection of Gaudí to design La Familia Sagrada represented one of the few modern instances wherein the interests of the church and art world collided, but it may now be in both their interests to halt construction altogether. Over the past few years, many onlookers have raised concerns that the basilica’s contemporary additions fall far short of Gaudí’s vision. In 2008, more than 400 architects and historians signed Fomento de las Artes Decorativasmanifesto demanding that construction be stopped. And in 2011, architecture critic Rowan Moore argued in the Guardian:

The great Catalan architect famously adjusted his buildings as he went along, modifying details in response to unusual stones found in the quarry and forever testing his ideas with full size mock-ups … [La Sagrada Familia] is no longer a work of Gaudí. It cannot overcome the central paradox, which is that Gaudí’s architecture was organic, living and responsive, whereas posthumous simulation of his ideas makes them fixed and lifeless.

Continued construction not only raises questions about the ethics of the basilica’s funding during a time of severe austerity in Spain, but it reduces Gaudí’s masterpiece to the architectural equivalent of an overworked canvas.

For more info see my post about the arson attempt at Gaudi’s Sagrada Familia here.

This Church Seems Completely Normal From The Outside But Go Inside And… NO. (Viral Nova)

-from Viral Nova article January 23, 2014

This quaint Roman Catholic Church located in the Czech Republic is known as the Cemetery Church of All Saints. The name is a little strange for a church, but straightforward. And literal. That’s because, once you step inside the church, you’ll see the bones from 40,000 – 70,000 people adorning the walls. Thousands of human bodies are hanging from the walls, ceilings and fixtures inside of this church.

It’s hard to determine if this is respect for the dead or some kind of twisted art display. Given that the bones were exhumed and arranged, at the beginning, by a monk, it seems like it is the former.

Either way, it would be hard to take a breath inside of this church, knowing that thousands of dead bodies surround you, forever silent.

-Source: wikipedia.com and viralnova.com

Gaudi’s Sagrada Familia Damaged in Arson Fire (Hyperallergic)

by Kyle Chayka on April 21, 2011 original article here.

The Sagrada Familia blocked off during the fire (image via dailymail.co.uk)

On April 19, Barcelona’s iconic Sagrada Familia Basilica, designed by famed Art Nouveau and Proto-Surrealist architect Antoni Gaudi, caught fire. A fire burned inside the structure for over 45 minutes before firefighters could put it out, destroying the church’s sacristy (the chamber where priests put on their robes) and badly damaging the crypt.

1,500 visitors were evacuated from the basilica, which hosts over 2.5 million tourists annually. Only 4 had to be treated for smoke inhalation, reports the Guardian. A suspected arsonist, who is reportedly mentally ill, has been arrested. Bizarrely, the fire started when the arsonist sprayed priest robes hanging in the sacristy with a flammable liquid and set them on fire.

“All the robes and furniture in the sacristy were lost,” local fire chief Miguel Ángel Fuente said.

This isn’t the first time the basilica has been victim to arson. In 1936, anarchists broke into the building and burned the majority of Gaudi’s original models and designs for the structure. Construction of the basilica, begun in 1882, still isn’t complete, but architects continue to work with the plans Gaudi left behind after his death in 1926 to finish the structure.

Still, no one is yet willing to say when the legendary project will be done. The reasoning behind the arson is not yet clear, but the fact that the basilica was consecrated just last November and active services began recently may be relevant. Click through to the Daily Mail’s article for more photos and details.

Smoke billows out of the Sagrada Familia (image via dailymail.co.uk)