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.



Mark S. Abeln said...

It looks like it was a delightful exhibit, and I’m glad you had a good time.

Regarding photographic reproduction, be aware that ordinary cameras and the web can only show about 35% of all the colors visible to the human eye — and are particularly lacking in those famed colors extracted from the Murex shells, like Tyrian purple, scarlet, and the blues used by ancient Jews on their prayer shawls. Also, vibrant cyans are missing. Also, it is impossible to fully replicate those colors that are within the camera’s gamut due to differences in sensitivity between the camera and eye, most especially under bad artificial lamps.

Commercial book printing is even worse — only about 28% of colors are reproducible , without decent reds, greens, or blues. You have a right to a critical opinion about photographic reproduction, but I wouldn’t call it snobbish, because you actually know why it isn’t good. If you’ve studied color mixing, you’ll realize that a palette made up of only cyan, magenta, yellow, and black paint is extremely limited. Even basic artists’ palettes are made up of no less than six colors plus black and white.

I recently went to a Monet exhibit (got in for free) and while I think his Water Lilies are overrated, I was impressed by the color he used. Kind of jealous too, since I can’t use those colors at all, especially the violet colors.

Teresa B. said...

How exciting to get to see that!

Who is the saint with the books?

I love that last painting with Mary holding the cross. I don't recall ever seeing that before.

So glad that you are able to see such works of art!

Hilary Jane Margaret White said...

St. Bernard. It's a story about a time the Blessed Virgin appeared to himk while he was writing a homily about her. Cool, huh?

And the lady with the cross is St. Helena. She's finding it.

Teresa B. said...

Thanks for that correction. I will have to show that to my daughter. She did a speech on St. Helena and most years she would dress up like her for All Saint's Day parties.

Never heard that story about St. Bernard. That is pretty cool. I will have a new story to tell my kids tomorrow along with showing them that painting.

Too bad She doesn't show up while priests are writing their homilies. She could wack them on the head with a book, say like the Catechism. (I digress)

df said...

Yes, you're absolutely right about this exhibition and the effect these paintings have when encountered eye-ball to eye-ball.
(And now for a bit of pedantry...) the exhibition isn't quite in the former Papal palace (which is now the Presidential palace), but in the separate stable block of said palace, and it makes for a wonderful exhibition space.

Gary said...

"The's hard to describe."

That reminded me of the time I saw a Van Gogh exhibition that had come to Los Angeles back in 1998. Standing just a couple feet from his famous "Wheatfield with Crows" and awed by the brilliant, rich colors and the thick paint which practically jumps off the canvas, I could almost believe this had been done the day before, and not a hundred years ago.

I bought the book in the gift shop but it didn't come close to what I saw that day. I must have spent a quarter-hour standing there taking in that painting. The others were beautiful too, but that one was amazing.
Nothing surpasses seeing these works in person.

Fr. T (sans halo at this moment in time) said...

I find the halos most amusing, the way they all get to wear them as fashion accessories, how they move as the person moves----this is surely realism gone riotously and hilariously wild!

Adam's Rib said...

Who is the saint on the left in the last painting with St Helen? Is is St James or St Roch?