Exhibition curator Arturo Galansino describes Giovanni Battista Moroni as “an underrated genius”. Relatively unknown outside of Italy, this Northern Italian Renaissance painter is considered one of the greatest portrait painters of sixteenth century Italy by many art historians. His gift lay in his ability to capture a person’s likeness and their uniqueness in subtle facial expressions. According to the Royal Academy “what all of his works share is a startling naturalism and vitality, rarely matched by other artists of the period and anticipating the realistic style of Caravaggio and, later, Manet”.
Academics’ attribute his lack of notoriety to the fact that he did not travel and was not drawn by the life and fame that Venice promised. For Moroni was a native of Albino, near Bergamo. In his early years he worked in Brescia and at Trent (1551-2), later returning to settle Albino, in 1561, where he undertook altarpieces and portraits for clients in the area. Now the Royal Academy of Arts in London has brought together key portraits and altarpieces for the first ever comprehensive exhibition of his work in the UK.
His portraits capture the people of the world and period in which he lived. The exhibition shows a diverse collection of his work: from portraits of elegant men and women from high society, dressed in the extravagant finery of the late Renaissance period; to the people of the middle class engaged in their trade; and those in the tradition Venetian black dress. According to some fashion historians Venetian citizens were obliged to wear a black robe, a forerunner of our academic gown, over their more flamboyant indoor clothes. His pictures are striking, rich in detail and texture through which one can clearly trace the changing fashions of the times. The plain backgrounds and lack of decorative props popular at the time amplify the astounding beauty of his portraits and the clothes of the period. In fact according to the Royal Academy Moroni “took portraiture to new levels of sophistication, reproducing not only the exact likeness of his sitters but also a tantalising spark of their inner life and character.”
His delicate touch, vibrant use of colour and ability to capture the warmth of the human persona on canvas makes this a thoroughly enjoyable exhibition whether you are an art expert, an art or fashion student or a simple culture vulture. There is plenty to enjoy here and if this exhibition arouses your interest in Moroni, then The National Gallery has one of the best collections of his paintings outside of Italy, including his most celebrated portrait “Il Sarto” (The Tailor), although this is currently on loan to the RA for this exhibition.
Giovanni Battista Moroni is at the Royal Academy until the 25th January 2015. For more information click the link: www.royalacademy.org.uk
Notes & credits: Image is from google images.