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  • Michelangelo and his age at Guggenheim Bilbao
    November 16, 2004 BILBAO, SPAIN.

    An unidentified woman attends the press presentation of the new Guggenheim Bilbao Museum exhibition "Michelangelo and his Age". Photo by RAFA RIVAS/AFP/Getty Images.

    Guggenheim Bilbao presents Michelangelo and his age, through February 13, 2005. Michelangelo and His Age is an exhibition of around 70 of the most important drawings from Vienna’s Graphische Sammlung Albertina Museum, which were created during the great Florentine artist’s long and productive life (1475–1564).

    A decisive influence on the development of the classical Renaissance, Michelangelo was also a crucial source of inspiration for the art of the Mannerist period, the Counter-Reformation, and the Baroque. He developed a new, anatomical drawing language that for most artists of his time, at least at certain periods, served as an important model. The ideal figure, heroic and full of power, reached its peak in Michelangelo’s fresco Battle of Cascina, some studies for which are included in this exhibition. The work’s origin lies in the rivalry with Leonardo da Vinci’s Battle of Anghiari, another fresco that was to have decorated the great hall of the Palazzo della Signoria, Florence. Despite the fact that neither survives, they are the two most famous battle paintings in the history of art. Michelangelo’s anatomical study, where the musculature gives the body a highly impressive look, while expressing the unquiet inner life, energy, passion, and will of his creatures influenced da Vinci, whose famous study of St. Peter in The Last Supper at Santa Maria delle Grazie, Milan, is also included in this exhibition. The broad range selection of drawings shows how diverse the reactions were to Michelangelo and the influences he exercised.

    Some artists followed the ideals of Raphael and da Vinci, who also had a profound impact on Michelangelo. Drawings shown here by da Vinci, Fra Bartolomeo, and Raphael document their rapid assimilation to Michelangelo’s new body language. Raphael’s entire development from the early period in Urbina, through the period spent in Florence when Michelangelo’s influence was particularly noticeable, to the great Roman works such as the frescoes in the Stanze and Loggias of the Vatican, the Chigi Chapel in Santa Maria della Pace, or the Transfiguration, is captured on just twenty sheets of paper. As for Michelangelo, the exhibition includes a sketch for one of the Ignudi, or masculine nudes for his famous fresco on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. Unlike the great Florentine’s characters, Raphael’s are not powerful, solitary heroes. Instead they tend to communicate with each other, their movements are more fluid and flexible, their actions interrelate harmoniously and are always perceived in a spatial context. When Raphael began to dominate the art world in Rome, Michelangelo left the city, but his interests continued to be represented there by such artists as Baccio Bandinelli, Rosso Fiorentino, and Perino del Vaga. After Raphael’s early death in 1520, his disciples and workshop collaborators continued his legacy. The most outstanding of these, Giulio Romano, who came to Raphael’s workshop as a youth, concluded the unfinished projects and developed the Roman all’antica style. Invited to Mantua by Duke Federico II Gonzaga, Giulio Romano became a highly admired court painter and the leading architect of the Gonzaga. Although Giulio had a number of assistants, like Raphael before him, he executed the sketches for each detail himself, something that is clear from the group of sketches for the decoration of the Palazzo Te. During the 1520s, after studying Michelangelo’s Battle of Cascina and working in Raphael’s workshop, artists like Perino del Vaga fused stylistic elements of both masters. The same is true of Correggio and Parmigianino from northern Italy, who, while absorbing the monumental nature of Michelangelo’s vision and the grace of Raphael, went on to combine both elements with the powerful emotion characteristic of their work. Parmigianino concentrated intensely on studying the work of Raphael in Rome, and his contemporaries began to see him as a reincarnation of the great man. One characteristic feature of the stylistic developments of the 1530s was the adoption of the motifs in full movement of Michelangelo and Raphael, and the intensification of their grace and wit to produce something increasingly elegant and decorative in tone. This transition from the classical Renaissance to Mannerism is captured in works by Rosso Fiorentino, Perino del Vaga, Domenico Beccafumi, Francesco Salviati and Giorgio Vasari. Progress in the portrait followed from a fascinating approach to the live model and a tendency to idealize and highlight a few essential features. Although the portrait of a young, distant-looking Gonzaga by Francesco Bonsignori is still rooted in the visual style of Andrea Mantegna, Bartolomeo Veneto’s portrait of an unknown nobleman directs our attention to the optical values, to the pictorial effect of the embroidered shirt, the patterned coat, and the sunlit hair. In the tradition of da Vinci, Benardino Luini shrouds the face of the woman in his portrait in a da Vinci-style sfumato that surrounds her skin like mist, giving her a diaphanous air. Like Florentine painter Andrea del Sarto, Luini uses colored chalks to achieve the slight flush of the face that infuses her with life and freshness. Del Sarto, however, tends to look for a more sculpture-like geometrization and hardening of his forms, as evidenced by the portrait attributed to him of a noblewoman.

    Two Unusual Pieces in Sotheby's Sculpture Sale
    November 16, 2004 LONDON, ENGLAND.

    English limestone relief of St. Peter dating from the early 10th century.

    LONDON, ENGLAND An important English limestone relief of St. Peter dating from the early 10th century, was recently discovered in a Somerset garden being used as a pet's gravestone. It is to be offered in a sale of European Sculpture and Works of Art 900-1900, at Sotheby's in London. The stone which was found at a salvage yard and erected by the current owner's late husband, was discovered by chance, by a passer-by and further research has led to its identification.

    The relief made from Oolitic limestone which will be offered in the sale on Friday, December 10, 2004 is incredibly rare, as few reliefs of this period have survived, time normally having worn the surface detail away. On this carving, which is believed to have originally been a section of a cross shaft, or part of a larger panel, the figure of St. Peter is clearly visible. A rare survivor of English stone carving at its best, it draws strong parallels to the 9th and 10th centuries. Comparisons are found in manuscripts of the period showing the same treatment of drapery on St. Peter's robes and similar figural representations. The relief is estimated to fetch ?40,000-60,000.

    An important presentation bronze of Edward, Prince of Wales on horseback, entitled The Black Prince would have almost certainly gone on to be one of the most recognized monuments in London - had it not been for the death of its patron, Prince Albert, in 1861.

    The well-known image of the statue of Richard The Lionheart standing proudly outside the House of Lords is recognized the world over. The Black Prince was the second Royal commission asked of sculptor Baron Carlo Marochetti (1805-1867) which was planned to complement Richard The Lionheart. Unfortunately the project had only reached proposal stage at the time of Prince Albert's death.

    The exceptionally large bronze scale model (130.5 cm high) in Sotheby's sale, is the only record of Marochetti's proposal for this prestigious commission and is in itself a magnificent work. In excellent condition, it sits on its original plinth and bears mounted relief decorations, all executed with careful precision. Only one smaller bronze cast of the equestrian group exists, which is preserved in the Royal Collections at Buckingham Palace. Interestingly a silver cast of the same dimensions of the bronze was purchased by Lord Townsend from the jewellers Asprey and used as a symbol for Anglia Television in the 1970s.

    As well as being one of the most flamboyant sculptors of the 19th century, Marochetti was one of the most accomplished. His Royal and aristocratic connections, combined with his highly accomplished technique and originality, ensured a constant stream of commissions. Certainly one of his finest works, The Black Prince is estimated at ?60,000-80,000.

    Among other highlights in the sale is a pair of dramatic equestrian bronze groups of warriors in full battle, by Venetian sculptor Francesco Bertos (active 1693-1739). These early pieces by the maker are rare, as Bertos was known mainly for his mythological works. The pair is estimated at ?120,000-180,000.

    An unusual group of eleven busts of different Emperors dating from the 18th century are estimated to fetch ?40,000-60,000. A polychrome and giltwood retable depicting Christ on the way to Calvary is stamped with three guild marks - confirming its exceptional quality. It is estimated at ?60,000-80,000.