Moroni: The Riches of Renaissance Portraiture – The Frick NY

Giovanni Battista Moroni, detail: Portrait of a Young Woman, ca. 1575, oil on canvas, 20 3/8 x 16 3/8 inches, private collection; photo: Michael Bodycomb
Giovanni Battista Moroni, detail: Portrait of a Young Woman, ca. 1575, oil on canvas, 20 3/8 x 16 3/8 inches, private collection; photo: Michael Bodycomb
Giovanni Battista Moroni, detail: Portrait of a Young Woman, ca. 1575, oil on canvas, 20 3/8 x 16 3/8 inches, private collection; photo: Michael Bodycomb

Giovanni Battista Moroni, detail: Portrait of a Young Woman, ca. 1575, oil on canvas, 20 3/8 x 16 3/8 inches, private collection; photo: Michael Bodycomb

Commencing February 21 through June 2, 2019, The Frick Collection at New York will present the first major North American exhibition of works by Italian Renaissance Painter Giovanni Battista Moroni (1525-1578).

Giovanni Battista Moroni, Portrait of a Young Woman, ca. 1575, oil on canvas, 20 3/8 x 16 3/8 inches, private collection; photo: Michael Bodycomb

Giovanni Battista Moroni, Portrait of a Young Woman, ca. 1575, oil on canvas, 20 3/8 x 16 3/8 inches, private collection; photo: Michael Bodycomb

Moroni: The Riches of Renaissance Portraiture will be presented in the Frick’s main floor Oval Room and East Gallery, accompanied by a catalogue and series of public programs.

In his day Giovanni Battista Moroni became known for notable portraits of dignified wealthy aristocratic and bourgeoisie clients, mainly in and around the city of Bergamo.

Although he did also complete some religious works, including altarpieces, which often formed the focus of devotion for his sitters.

He was one of the few painters of his time who focused on portraiture, making it his specialty.

Giovanni Battista Moroni, Lucrezia Agliardi Vertova, dated 1557, Oil on canvas 36 x 27 inches, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; Theodore M. Davis Collection, Bequest of Theodore M. Davis, 1915 Photo: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

Giovanni Battista Moroni, Lucrezia Agliardi Vertova, dated 1557, Oil on canvas 36 x 27 inches, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; Theodore M.
Davis Collection, Bequest of Theodore M. Davis, 1915
Photo: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

He is renowned for emphasizing his sitter’s dignity and nobility by means of natural, unforced poses and masterful compositions.

Moroni had a ‘warts and all’ approach, paying great attention to detail and putting forward his clients features, which certainly did not adhere to the ideals of beauty of his day.

He captured Lucrezia Agliardi Vertova and her goiter, a condition that gave her a sagging wrinkled neck, while managing to make her appear as dignified as his most dashing cavalieri.

Giovanni Battista Moroni, Giovanni Gerolamo Grumelli, called Il Cavaliere in Rosa (The Man in Pink), dated 1560 Oil on canvas 85 x 48 3/8 inches Fondazione Museo di Palazzo Moroni, Bergamo - Lucretia Moroni Collection Photo: Mauro Magliani

Giovanni Battista Moroni, Giovanni Gerolamo Grumelli, called Il Cavaliere in Rosa (The Man in Pink), dated 1560 Oil on canvas 85 x 48 3/8 inches Fondazione Museo di Palazzo Moroni, Bergamo – Lucretia Moroni Collection Photo: Mauro Magliani

Among Moroni’s other more-notable portraits are the Portraits of Pietro Secco Suardo (1563) and Gian Gerolamo Grumelli (c. 1560), known as the Man in Pink.

Dressed in the ‘Spanish style’, it is one of the best known of the artist. Next to the subject, on a bassolievo (bas relief) the words Mas el çagnero que el primero (better to be the second, or the last, than the first)

The portrait as a record of an individual’s personal appearance in his or her lifetime has long been regarded as one of the most successful and enduring genres of ancient art in particular, when naturalism became compelling as sculptors experimented.

Painted portraits were very different indeed and as a genre, during the advent of the rebirth of humanity in Italy during the Renaissance, they gained a language of expression, with their own grammar and vocabulary.

Artists modelling in light and shade, gave objects at this time a third dimension.

Giovanni Battista Moroni, The Tailor (Il Sarto, or Il Tagliapanni), ca. 1570 Oil on canvas 39 1/8 x 30 1/4 inches The National Gallery, London Photo: © The National Gallery, London

Giovanni Battista Moroni, The Tailor (Il Sarto, or Il Tagliapanni), ca. 1570 Oil on canvas 39 1/8 x 30 1/4 inches The National Gallery, London Photo: © The National Gallery, London

Moroni infused his portraits with great intensity. Through his use of tones of the one colour, and his restrained treatment of textures worn in both the cloth and drapery, he attained great psychological depth.

Producing portraiture was all about the growing self-awareness of people in the sixteenth century, whether in sculpture or recorded on canvas, and having your portrait painted elevated you above the ordinary, showcasing your status.

A gradual change in attitude, of a more educated and enlightened society, climaxed in Italy when art transformed into a style in which light and shade merged imperceptibly.

Contours were softened to unify the figure and its ambient atmosphere, allowing the sitter to tell you his own story with a clarity that is a distillation of the truth

Giovanni Battista Moroni Portrait of a Gentleman and His Two Children, ca.1572-1575 Oil on canvas 49 3/8 x 38 5/8 inches, National Gallery of Ireland Collection, Dublin; Purchased, 1866 Photo: © National Gallery of Ireland

Giovanni Battista Moroni Portrait of a Gentleman and His Two Children, ca.1572-1575 Oil on canvas 49 3/8 x 38 5/8 inches, National Gallery of Ireland Collection, Dublin; Purchased, 1866 Photo: © National Gallery of Ireland

This is when many of the beliefs and values western civilization treasure the most were reaffirmed

• The effectiveness of personal freedom and liberty

• The generous toleration of all other religions

• Pride in self and family with

• Art, in all its forms providing a vehicle for self discovery

For me the test of a great portrait is empathy; the power of the artist to enter into the sitter’s emotions and convey these feelings to another, which Moroni seems to have achieved in his day.

Carolyn McDowall, The Culture Concept Circle, 2019

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