Sunday, January 20, 2019

Faith And Legends

I went up to the world art section at the National Gallery. First I have two views from above the interior garden courtyard.

Much of the surviving early art happens to be religious in nature, or sometimes mythological. I took advantage in this part of the Gallery to photograph some paintings that will turn up in my Easter Sunday post. Religious subject matter is certainly the case with Saint Anne And The Infant Virgin, circa 1330-35, by Ugolino di Nerio. Depicting the mother of Christ (looking far too wise for an infant) being held by her mother, this painting was the central panel of an altarpiece at one time. Ugolino was a follower of Duccio, a leading painter of the early Renaissance in Siena, and would end up going to Florence. It is likely he painted this there.

The Assumption Of The Virgin dates to circa 1455-56. Neri di Bicci received this as his first major commission, painting this for the Spini family chapel at Santa Trinita in Florence. It depicts Mary being taken up into heaven after her death, with the apostles looking on. It reminds me of a passage Mark Twain wrote in one of his travel books about going through Italy and finding the veneration of Mary to such a point that in terms of churches and shrines in the country, her name came up most often, while her son's presence seemed to be relatively further down the list.

Piero di Cosimo painted Vulcan and Aeolus around 1490. It is thought to depict the dawn of civilization. The Roman god of the forge, Vulcan, works at the forge, while Aeolus, the master of the winds, pumps the bellows. Men around them are beginning to learn their ways. The painting was done to decorate a domestic setting, and so is a rarity of the era, being a surviving example of that type.

This is one that I've shown before. Lucas Cranach the Elder is the artist behind Venus, an oil painting circa 1518, showing the Roman goddess of love. The accompanying panel gives some details- that Cranach depicted the goddess from time to time in his work, usually with her son Cupid- but there is much more to this painting. On a previous visit I chatted with a docent and learned a few things. The National Gallery acquired this painting in 1953, and yet it wasn't displayed for forty years. The painting needed that much time in terms of conservation work to restore it. The work of art restoration is a mix of art and science, of determining the artist's original intent and deciding what to remove and what to keep. And before the Gallery acquired it, the painting had been recovered and given back to its owner (or more likely a family member), as this painting had been taken by the Germans during the Second World War and was among the many found and saved by the group history remembers as the Monuments Men. Apparently Cranach's work was a favoured target of the Nazi program to steal classic art.

Here we have a rather macabre painting. Done at some point between 1510-15 by the German artist Hans Baldung (aka Grien), this is titled Eve, The Serpent, And Death. Eve grasps the serpent's tail in one hand, with the apple in the other. Adam has already tasted the apple, and is now in a decomposing state, transformed into Death.

The Baroque Room is a large interior space with paintings and sculptures that I love to stop in and have a look at.

Landscape With A Temple Of Bacchus is the title of this 1644 oil painting by Claude Lorrain, also called Claude Gellee. It was the classic literature of Greece and Rome that inspired in artists an interest in pastoral landscapes, and such is the case in this painting, a dream like late in the day setting before a temple of the Roman god, one that is starting to gradually fall into ruin.

For today I finish with this one. Painted circa 1636 by the Italian artist Guido Reni, this is The Abduction Of Europa. It shows Zeus (or Jupiter, as the Romans called him) in bull form about to carry off the princess Europa across the sea to Crete.


  1. It baffles me that many early artists had no idea what babies looked like. They are often rather bad at representing noses as well! Be that as it may this is an interesting and varied collection of art.

  2. So enjoying this tour through the National Gallery William, I would be there in a flash if I were visiting Ottawa ✨

  3. Sometimes I think that it is a real miracle that so many artworks and pictures have been saved during this bloody WWII !

  4. Beautiful paintings again, I mostly like the Landscape With A Temple Of Bacchus.

  5. As pinturas são magníficas!
    Um prazer poder admirá-las
    Um ótimo domingo
    U abraço

  6. Interesting paintings. I was especially intrigued by the Adam and Eve one. I always enjoy your commentary. :-)

  7. The garden is beautiful. And again I feel shame (a bit) being half-German...

  8. ...I like the views of the garden best!

  9. I would love to have a interior garden courtyard!
    The paintings are very beautiful!

  10. I don't think they dared paint much of non-religious themes back in the day. And they also had to paint for the market to make a living. But I am just supposing and don't really know what I am on about. :)

  11. Hello William!
    Beautiful paintings ! I like the garden courtyard!
    Enjoy your day!

  12. I loved seeing the giraffe in the Vulcan painting! What a surprise from an Italian.

  13. I remember going through this section and was amazed that there was so much religious art.

  14. i am curious how they pick the background color, the museum wall color? ... those pink or is that reddish wall? you would think a more calmer color would be more pleasing. mood changing for sure. i would think the art needs to be most important ...but whatever. some1 like it i guess. ( ;

  15. @Joan: thank you.

    @Italiafinlandia: it is.

    @John: there is another close to that one with a weird looking baby.

    @Grace: it is a wonderful gallery.

    @Gattina: the Monuments Men did good work.

    @Jan: it's a good one.

    @Gracita: thank you.

    @Sharon: I do too.

    @Francisco: thanks!

    @DJan: it is macabre.

    @Iris: it happened. All we can do is not let it happen again.

    @Tom: it is a good view.

    @Ella: thank you.

    @Anvilcloud: I think you are correct.

    @Dimi: thank you.

    @Barbara: it's quite a painting.

    @Red: and there is a lot.

  16. If I was to visit Ottawa this National Gallery would be on my 'must visit' list.

    All the best Jan

  17. So nice to have the garden courtyard there.

  18. Nice views of the indoor garden, very impressive. Thank you for the tour, William.

  19. Wonderful pieces, William! Thanks.

  20. @Beth: I rather like the colour in the Baroque Room. Most of the interior galleries have differing colours on the walls.

    @Jan: it certainly is worth visiting.

    @Happyone: it is indeed.

    @Bill: you're welcome.

    @RedPat: it's a pleasure to show.

  21. Love the rich coloured walls in the gallery. Perfect for that glorious art.

  22. The view of the garden from above is art in itself don’t you think? I too was struck by the rich colors of the gallery walls (I like them) and was trying to remember whether the galleries we’ve been privileged to visit (not often enough) were anything but neutral. interesting going through the different eras in history through their art.

  23. The gallery colors are a nice enhancement. And I love that garden.

  24. I love the view you showed. The art is just beautiful. You are so much better than I am at remembering and logging what you saw!

    1. It helps that I photograph plates with artists and titles.

  25. I agree, it seems Mary is more important.

  26. The garden is definetely my favourite part of the gallery.