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Jan van Eyck (copy), “Vera Icon”, probably c. 1500, Alte Pinakothek, Munich, inv. no. WAF 251

 

 

MUNICH.- To mark the anniversary year, a number of paintings from the rich holdings in the Alte Pinakothek collection, that have seldom been displayed, are on show. Several have not been seen for more than half a century, others have been exhibited over the past few years, albeit mostly for just a brief period. Unknown masterpieces as well as unusual paintings await discovery from 17 March onwards in the North Cabinet Rooms in the “Klenze Portal” exhibition area in the Alte Pinakothek.

The exhibition opens with Early Netherlandish paintings, three of which deserve a special mention. These are copies of works by Jan van Eyck and include two large-format paintings after panels from the Ghent Altarpiece, commissioned by King Philip II of Spain for the chapel of the royal palace in Madrid and created by Michiel Coxcie between 1557 and 1559, and the “Head of Christ,” a copy from around 1500 of van Eyck’s original work of 1438. These are complemented by works of the Antwerp Mannerists, copies of paintings by Gerard David of Bruges, as well as a touching husband and wife portrait by Jan Joest van Kalkar.

The adjacent room is devoted to early Italian painting from Florence and central Italy. Works from the beginning of the 14th to the mid-15th century, including paintings by Segna di Bonaventura, Niccolò di Pietro Gerini, Agnolo Gaddi and Fra Angelico, document the high quality and radiant beauty of Florentine art. Fragments from complex altarpieces, devotional pictures and a portrait highlight painting’s main purpose at that time.

These lead to the large-format history paintings from the Antwerp school from the 1530s to the 1580s. The so-called “Romance painters” fuse elements of the Netherlandish pictorial tradition with Italian painting in their works. Whereas Willem Key’s “Lamentation” is still clearly modelled on older works, Jan Sanders van Hemessen’s powerful, muscular figures reveal a closer examination of Michelangelo’s work, whose acquaintance he may well have made during a trip to Italy. Maerten de Vos’ “Mannalese” with its multitude of elegant, elongagated figures represents the “horror vacui” so typical of Mannerist painting.

These are followed by Dutch architectural studies which were referred to as “perspectives” in the 17th century. From the late 16th century onward, specialised painters of this genre focussed on depicting interior and exterior views of initially imaginary and later real buildings. Following on from his father, Hans Vredeman de Vries – who was active from the beginning of this development – is his son, Paul, who worked in Amsterdam and was one of the artists who established architectural painting in Holland between 1610 and 1620. This reached its peak at around the middle of the century, as demonstrated by the high-quality paintings of Bartholomäus van Bassen, Anthonie de Lorme and Daniel de Blieck.

The exhibition is rounded off with works by French artists: from history painting to portraits, from the 17th centuy to the Rococo. These document the utterly different manners of expression adopted by painters from Rome, Paris and the Lorraine district of France: Claude Deruet’s “Rape of the Sabines” is still bound to the formal language of the Mannerists, for example, whereas Charles Antoine Coypel’s “Hercules and Omphale” stands out due to its lively use of colour in the Rubens tradition. The several studies in oil by Pierre Subleyras are a fascinating testimony to the creative artistic process.

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Bartholomeus van Bassen, The Parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus, ca. 1620/30.