What are you looking at?

Observations on particular works of art. If you would like to contribute please contact David Marshall david@melbourneartnetwork.com.au We prefer that you submit a proposal before submitting the full piece.

What are you looking at? | John Weretka on Music and Italian Masterpieces from Spain’s Royal Court, Museo del Prado

Master S.B. active, Rome 1633–1655 Kitchen still life (Natura morta di cucina) 1640s oil on canvas 78.0 x 151.0 cm Museo Nacional del Prado, Madrid (P01990) Spanish Royal Collection Museo Nacional del Prado

John Weretka on a musical mystery in a painting by Master S.B. in the Museo del Prado Masterpieces exhibition at the NGV Amigoni’s group portrait of Farinelli, Teresea Castellini, Metastasio and Amigoni himself and Master S.B.’s Kitchen still life are both currently on display in the Museo del Prado exhibition at the National Gallery of Victoria. Music features reasonably often in paintings and other art works and, as someone who works between musicology and art history, my eye is often drawn to these kinds of representations. Artists often take real care with the depiction of music. One of the most startling examples of this is the magnificently detailed Annunciation to the Shepherds (1587) by Jan Sadeler I (1550-1660) (fig. 1).…

What are you looking at? | Giuseppe Bonito’s The Turkish Embassy to the Court of Naples in 1741

Figure 2 Giuseppe Bonito (1707-1789), The Turkish Embassy to the Court of Naples in 1741  (1741) Madrid: Museo del Prado Oil on canvas, 207 x 170cm

What are you looking at? | Giuseppe Bonito’s The Turkish Embassy to the Court of Naples in 1741 John Weretka The Turkish Embassy to the Court of Naples in 1741 currently on display at the Museo del Prado exhibition at the National Gallery of Victoria. Giuseppe Bonito’s name is not one that anyone other than the most enthusiastic lover of late Baroque art is likely to know. This Neapolitan painter was born in 1707 and was a student of Solimena. From the 1740s, he was engaged as a portraitist to the Neapolitan court. Wider professional recognition followed in the 1750s with nomination as a pittore di camera, election to the Accademia di S. Luca in Rome, and promotion to the…

What are you looking at? | Ruth Pullin – Eugene von Guérard’s ‘Mr John King’s station’

Eugene von Guérard Mr John King’s station 1861, Oil on canvas laid on board, 40.7 x 83.9 cm, Private collection, England

A hidden story: Eugene von Guérard’s Mr John King’s station, 1861 Ruth Pullin With the closing of the National Gallery of Victoria’s touring exhibition Eugene von Guérard: nature revealed in Canberra in July of this year it is timely to reconsider rarely seen works in the light of the close analysis made possible by the exhibition. The enigmatic Mr John King’s station 1861 (Fig. 1), not seen in Australia since 1980 and now returned to its private owners in the UK, is a work that, with its inherent ambiguities and seemingly unresolvable questions, invites renewed attention. Nothing is quite as it seems in Mr John King’s station. Conceived within a compositional and ideological framework derived from the classical European landscape…

What are you looking at? | David R. Marshall, The Napoleon Exhibition at the NGV International

Fig_06_Swan_Chair_Swan

The Napoleon Exhibition by David R. Marshall The Napoleon: Revolution to Empire exhibition is now on at the National Gallery of Victoria. Here I want to muse a little on a few works that caught my eye at the opening. That this exhibition is about Napoleon is hard to miss, with his name in giant illuminated letters near the entrance and a huge banner of David’s Napoleon Crossing the Alps on the side of the NGV. In this respect the exhibition represents a departure for the Melbourne Winter Masterpieces series which lately has taken its cue from the series of exhibition on period styles at the Victoria and Albert Museum, such as Art Deco (which originated at the V&A) and…

What are you looking at? | Mark Shepheard – Nicolas Poussin, The Crossing of the Red Sea

Nicolas Poussin The Crossing of the Red Sea 1632-34  oil on canvas, 155.6 x 215.3 cm National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne  Felton Bequest, 1948

Nicolas Poussin, The Crossing of the Red Sea, 1633-34 National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne Poussin’s Crossing of the Red Sea was once something of a problem painting. Indeed, its exact relationship to the pendant Adoration of the Golden Calf (National Gallery, London) has made great fodder for undergraduate essay questions. The two works, clearly related in content and—as we shall see—origin have often been seen as quite dissimilar in composition and style, and these differences were once taken to indicate that the two paintings date from slightly different periods in the 1630s. We know from Bellori’s Life of Poussin (1674) that both the Crossing and the Golden Calf were painted for Amedeo dal Pozzo, Marchese del Voghera (1579-1644), and that…

What are you looking at? | David Packwood – Giuseppe Caletti, David with the Head of Goliath

David with the Head of Goliath by Giuseppe Caletti  Date painted: c.1650 Oil on canvas, 73.7 x 88.3 cm. Collection: Birmingham Museums and Art Gallery. Image via BBC Your Paintings.

Giuseppe Caletti, David with the Head of Goliath, Birmingham Museums and Art Galleries, c. 1650 The future King of Israel, David, is contemplating the head of the slain Goliath, champion of the Philistines. As the book of Samuel recounts, David hurls a stone from his sling, which hits Goliath in the centre of his forehead and fells him; David subsequently cuts off his head which results in the flight of the Philistines. In Caletti’s painting, David seems to focus on the wound made by his slingshot; it is a congealed ochre smear, the aftermath of violence, reminiscent of the great red spot of Jupiter, or a bloodshot cyclopean eye. Now the giant’s real eyes are closed forever, but this mark…

What are you looking at? | David R. Marshall – Bernini’s Raimondi Chapel in S. Pietro in Montorio, Rome 1638–48

Fig 12 Raimondi Chapel. Photo by David R. Marshall

Bernini’s Raimondi Chapel in S. Pietro in Montorio, Rome 1638–48 David R. Marshall The Raimondi chapel in S. Pietro in Montorio is proof of the triumph of sculpture over painting. At 8.30am on a cold winter’s morning, when the church opens, it is the one well-lit part of the church (Fig. 1). Opposite, Sebastiano del Piombo’s Christ at the Column is plunged in gloom, from which it is barely rescued by artificial lighting (Fig. 2). To be sure it is a question of condition, but then the condition of the Raimondi chapel is not great either, with loose pieces of marble lying about, but it does not affect the experience. What stands out is the sarcophagus below the right hand…

John Weretka – Giuseppe Maria Crespi ‘Ecstasy of St Margaret of Cortona’

Giuseppe Maria Crespi 'Ecstasy St Margaret of Cortona' 1701. Museo Diocesano, Cortona.

What are you looking at? John Weretka Giuseppe Maria Crespi, Ecstasy of St Margaret of Cortona, 1701. Museo Diocesano, Cortona. If Crespi is remembered at all today, it must be for his genre paintings, the subject of an exhibition (Giuseppe Maria Crespi and the emergence of genre painting in Italy) in 1986. Crespi’s The flea hunt (Louvre; probably late 1720s – link) and A courtyard scene (Bologna, Pinacoteca Nazionale; probably 1730s) are probably his two best known genre pictures, while his series of the Seven sacraments (Gemäldegallerie, Dresden; c. 1712) and the superb St John Nepomuk confessing the Queen of Bohemia (Turin, Galleria Sabauda; 1743) are among his best known sacred works. Born in 1665 in Bologna, Crespi’s early study included…

Lisa Beaven – ‘The Sons of Clovis II’

Fig_4_Sons of Clovis

What are you looking at? Lisa Beaven Evariste Luminais, The Sons of Clovis II (1880) in the Art Gallery of New South Wales This is, without doubt, the strangest painting in the New South Wales Art Gallery (Fig. 1). Painted on a heroic scale, with the figures almost life-size, it is impossible to ignore and while I am looking pools of people gather around it. Two boys float feet-first towards us on what looks like a luxuriously upholstered bed but which is actually a raft. The fine silk textiles and their embroidered garments contrast with the rough-hewn planks of wood beneath them. In the background fine tongues of land project into an expanse of water, which is a dull muddy…

David R. Marshall – A Carracciesque Landscape at the Powerhouse

Fig. 6 Virginal Dancers

What are you looking at? A Carracci School Landscape on the lid of a virginal at the Powerhouse Museum in Sydney On display in the Powerhouse Museum, Sydney, at the moment is a virginal, which according to the label is a Bolognese work of 1629, made by a local priest, Vincentius de Taeggiis (85/372 OIC) (Fig. 1). The underside of the lid is painted with a landscape, by an unidentified artist (Fig. 2).  It is in a rather old-fashioned (for 1629) Flemish style, with layered trees, hunting scenes, trees composed of broad leaves painted light over dark over light (centre) and a yellow light in the sky. But there are also Carracci elements: the stress on Pozzoserrato-like mounds (Louvre Hunting…