London Art Week 2016 Preview
Nearly 50 London galleries that focus of pre-contemporary art, and are within walking distance of each other, are part of London Art Week, which runs July 1-8, and has a preview on June 30. This gallery-focused event coincides with Christie’s and Sotheby’s old masters sales and includes what a press announcement calls, “many of the world’s most renowned galleries … including, among many others, Agnew’s, Sam Fogg, Richard Green, Johnny van Haeften Ltd., Daniel Katz, Lowell Libson Ltd., Moretti Fine Art, Stephen Ongpin Fine Art, Tomasso Brothers Fine Art and Trinity Fine Art.” [An online catalogue of exhibitors is available].
The works on offer include paintings, drawings, works on paper, stained glass, arms and armor, coins, and sculpture, ranging from antiquity to the early 20th-century. There will be superb works by world famous artists, and others by lesser known figures with delightful appellations such as the “Master of the Unruly Children” (an early 16th-century Florentine/Tuscan artist represented by a terra cotta figure of a recumbent Bacchus at Trinity Fine Art).
Browsing through the list of participating galleries I pulled out three Italian paintings that caught my eye. The first, a late gothic-style gold ground painting with Moretti is a portable triptych by the obscure Neapolitan artist Giovanni da Gaeta. According to the gallery’s description: “The majority of paintings, polyptychs and frescoes created by the artist are localised in Gaeta and in the surrounding area, but it seems evident that he had been trained in a more considerable centre, probably in Naples around 1440.”
The artist’s identity was first established by Federico Zeri and his eponymous foundation lists 23 known works, inclusive of this Madonna Lactans (the description of the breastfeeding Madonna typology). The Madonna is flanked by St. John the Baptist and St. Anthony of Padua, who holds a lily. The two folding panels feature St. George, with a vanquished dragon at his feet, and St. Peter Martyr, who has a deep had wound (depictions of this saint often feature a large life or sword buried in his head – in this iteration the hilt of a knife can be seen sticking up from a wound on the upper lefthand side of the saint’s chest). The other panel includes St. Jerome, with a lion at his feet, and St. Sebastian, his body pierced with arrows. At the pinnacles are the Archangel (left with a scroll) and the Annunciate Virgin (right).
The punch work is not substantial, but sufficient to articulate the haloes, the upper portion of St. John’s staff, the announcement to the Annunciate Virgin, and the upper portion of the niches in the side panels. Overall, it’s a handsome painting and prompts my curiosity about the artist and his oeuvre.
This crucifixion from Agnew’s was identified a few years ago as an early work by Paolo Uccello. It measures nearly two feet tall and slightly more than one foot wide. It’s unclear if was part of a larger composition, but appears to have been cut down in places.
According to Encyclopedia Britannica:
Paolo Uccello, original name Paolo di Dono (born 1397, Pratovecchio, near Florence—died December 10, 1475, Florence) Florentine painter whose work attempted uniquely to reconcile two distinct artistic styles—the essentially decorative late Gothic and the new heroic style of the early Renaissance. Probably his most famous paintings are three panels representing the Battle of San Romano (c. 1456). His careful and sophisticated perspective studies are clearly evident in The Flood(1447–48).
Uccello’s career began by the age of ten when was apprenticed to Lorenzo Ghiberti, the artist who created the great Baptistry Doors of Florence’s Duomo – one of the great artistic achievements of the Renaissance. As the encyclopedia notes: “Uccello was long thought to be significant primarily for his role in establishing new means of rendering perspective that became a major component of the Renaissance style. The 16th-century biographer Giorgio Vasari said that Uccello was “intoxicated” by perspective. Later historians found the unique charm and decorative genius evinced by his compositions to be an even more important contribution.”
The details of this painting include the anguished faces of the Virgin and St. John and the treatment of drapery. Note the doted edging along Christ’s tunic, a small but intriguing addition that accentuates the lines of the fabric. The punch work along the edges complements the gold ground in establishing the scene as otherworldly and divine.
The final item is a recent addition to the catalogue of the 17th-century Caravaggesque Sienese painter Rutilio Manetti offered Maurizio Nobile.
According to the gallery’s write-up:
An interesting figure in the complex panorama of early 17th-century Tuscan painting, Manetti has been the subject of a reassessment by scholars in the last decade. With an individual style of great strength and originality, he succeeded in grafting the new artistic language developed in Rome by Caravaggio onto the local late-Mannerist tradition influenced by Federico Barocci, among others.
His preference for chiaroscuro effects and deep shadows, as well as lighting contrasts and the sculptural accentuation of forms, declares a steadfast commitment to Caravaggio’s naturalism, which Manetti would certainly have had the opportunity to study during his repeated stays in Rome. This first-hand knowledge, if not directly from Caravaggio himself then through his work, is clearly demonstrated in this painting of the Magdalene. The pose and expression are evidently derived from Caravaggio’s famous original depicting Mary Magdalene in Ecstasy, known today through countless derivations painted by his closest followers and only recently identified in a private collection in Switzerland.
The version displayed here is now believed to be the third by Manetti and bears witness to the popularity of the successful composition devised by the Sienese painter, undoubtedly a high point in his career in terms of the balance between realistic lighting and the classical elegance of the figures. The second version is currently kept at the Galleria Palatina in Florence, while the first, perhaps the prototype for the series as a whole, was originally exhibited in the church of San Luigi dei Francesi in Rome before making its way by roundabout means to Paris (church of Saint-Eustache).
Datable on the basis of style to circa 1626, the work is an autograph variant of the painting in the church of Saint Eustache in Paris (oil canvas, 133×160 cm) which originally hung in the church of San Luigi dei Francesi in Rome. Another variant is in the Pitti Palace in Florence. The Paris prototype was engraved by Bernardino Capitelli in 1627 and was dedicated to Cassiano del Pozzo (1588-1657), Nicolas Poussin’s foremost patron.