Sunday, December 11, 2011

Lippi Exhibition

Went to see the Lippi exhibition at the Quirinale yesterday. Something the Rome-bound should know; most of the museums in town have incredible, world-class exhibitions and they're not expensive. It was ten Euros to get in to this one. You don't usually have to book tickets in advance, though this can help you to jump the queue.

The Lippi/Botticelli show at the pope's former house was, well, frankly amazing. The colours! The transparencies! The wee teeny details like the little bug eating a crust of bread, the meticulously rendered flowers so detailed you can identify the species. The faces of angels and saints glowing with otherworldly radiance. Oh. My. GOODness!

We saw

this one,

and this one

here's some details... here are the angels bigger...

and check out the books. Amazing!

and this one

this one...

Plus a bunch of drawings.

(There were a few Botticellis too, but they left me kind of.. meh...Lippi decidedly surpassed his former master.)

The colours... it's hard to describe. In fact, so much of their value is lost in reproductions, I think I might be joining the snobby school of thought that says never reproduce art in books or on the internet. There's so little point, it almost seems as if it would put people off rather than arouse interest.

A while ago, I was taken by a friend to the Borghese gallery and he knew there was a very famous work that we are all familiar with, but didn't warn me. At one point, after the Caravaggios and Raphaels and whatnot, he said, "Oh, you should go take a look in there..." I rounded the corner and there it was. I almost burst into tears. The present reality of the work was so much more than any photograph could possibly capture...

As a child, I spent hours poring over the pictures in art books, and was an early aficionado of the early Italian Renaissance artists, but living in such a remote place as British Columbia had few opportunities ever to see any real art. When I was 12, a traveling exhibition of the treasures of the tomb of King Tut came to Seattle, and my mother, though poor, was determined that I should get a chance to see it. I had of course seen any number of photographs of this, but when I cam face to face with it, I found it was almost shockingly different in reality.

When at last we got to the bookshop last night, (it was a really big show, on two floors of the gallery) we discovered that the exhibition's book, which was quite beautiful, was 40 Euros. Yikes! and since I'm a bit skint at the moment, I was going to get one of the other Lippi books. But after seeing the real thing, the reproductions just seemed so dark and colourless that I couldn't be bothered. Instead, I got a little postcard of the blue madonna, the one in the post below, and Vicky bought a poster of her head. But as I was looking at the paintings and thinking about how badly I wanted one, it became obvious that the only thing to do is to learn to make one.

All the big paintings were tempera on wood, a medium that gives utterly glowing colours. I don't know who teaches tempera, but as soon as I'm at a place where Andrea thinks I'm ready, I'm going to find someone who does it.

Towards the end of the first floor of the exhibition, Vicky stopped to draw the only statue in the show. I spend the time wandering back and forth taking mental pictures of the best bits of the best ones, a strange skill that I invented for myself after seeing the Tut exhibit. I have several images in my head now, of folds of glowing cloth, of almost invisible transparent draperies, of minutely rendered wrinkles on fingers, that I hope will stay in there forever.

I walked up and down in this room of wonders and thought, this makes me happy, like nothing else but love ever has.