Viewing Tilt

January 9th, 2012 § 1 comment § permalink

The Getty has a nice online presentation of Federico Zuccaro’s series of drawings chronicling Taddeo’s formative years. They were exhibited as a group in 2007/08 and the multi-media supplement comes out of the exhibition.  Some of the twenty sheets show Taddeo drawing: drawing by the light of the moon, at work on a study of an antique relief, drawing the Loggia of Psyche frescoes by Raphael and his school at the Farnesina, then the Laocoön,  and finally Michelangelo’s Last Judgement. Wherever, Taddeo is very earnestly studying his subject and making marks on his drawing board.

Federico Zuccaro | Taddeo Copying Raphael's Frescoes in the Loggia of Villa Farnesina, Where He Is Also Represented Asleep | Pen and brown ink, brush with brown wash, over black chalk and touches of red chalk | 423 x 174 mm | Getty Museum

When I was looking at the drawings, it came to me that he was drawing at an angle–not on a entirely horizontal or vertical surface, but gentler angles between the two–the sort of angle I prefer to look at drawings. In most galleries drawings are hung vertically, even ramrod vertical.  This, combined with the disruptions of plexiglas and artificial light, does not make for ideal viewing.

When people talk about sculpture in the round, they talk about the different views and optimal views. With drawing is there a right tilt and is it the tilt at which the drawing was drawn? Readers with portable devices can try out all the angles.

Art Newspaper Photo of Louis-Antoine Prat | September 2010



Accademia Nazionale di San Luca, Rome

May 31st, 2011 § Comments Off on Accademia Nazionale di San Luca, Rome § permalink

Ramps, if they’re beautiful and designed by Francesco Borromini, are less tiring than stairs. That’s how it seemed last week when we visited the Accademia di San Luca’s permanent collection on the top floor of Palazzo Carpegna. The galleries containing paintings, the self-portraits of members, casts, terracotta bozzetti, and the temporary exhibitions of drawings have reopened after too long. The installation hasn’t been completed, but somehow there was something very satisfying about the way the “Lavori in Corso” gallery looked. There was a gallery of drawings with mostly architectural sheets. The Accademia has about 3,500 architectural drawings, and 2,000+ figure drawings. The weekly l’Espresso, in this article (undated) reported that some drawings went missing, noting especially drawings by Palma Giovane.

Lavori in Corso | Door with Cutout | Accademia di San Luca | Rome


Lavori in Corso Room | Closer


Anatomical Drawings | Accademia di San Luca | Rome


Architectural Drawings | Accademia di San Luca, Rome

Casts Gallery | Accademia di San Luca, Rome






Lorenzo Lotto and Hanging Paper

May 30th, 2010 § Comments Off on Lorenzo Lotto and Hanging Paper § permalink

In Jesi, a small city in the Marche, there is an extraordinary group of Lorenzo Lotto (1480–1556) paintings in the Pinacoteca Civica. Lotto had many Marchigian patrons and spent a number of years living there, including his final years, from 1549 to 1556. (There are works by Lotto in the following Marche cities and towns: Ancona, Jesi, Loreto, Recanati, Cingoli, Mogliano, and Monte San Giusto.  A single ticket, with no expiration date, is available for visits to the museums, and the churches are free.) One of the pictures at Jesi is the Saint Lucy Altarpiece, painted intermittently over a nine year period, and completed in 1532.  This predella panel has an interesting detail relating to how works, in this case woodcuts, some of them colored woodcuts, were hung. There is the possibility that some might be engravings, and maybe even drawings (for what can be more personalized than a drawing), but not likely.

Lorenzo Lotto | Detail of Predella Panel from St. Lucy Altarpiece | Oil on Panel | Pinacoteca Civica | Jesi

The prints, hang laundry or Christmas card style, over the tomb of St. Agatha, and would have been appended there for the sick, who hoped the saint would miraculously cure them of their medical disorders. They could also have been testimonials or tokens of thanks once the ill were cured. Even seeing the panel in the gallery, one can’t make out much about the hanging works, but you can tell there is variation in size, shape, and color between the sheets. Metal votive offerings, strung like beads, are interspersed with the sheets. St. Agatha’s martyrdom involved the severing of her breasts and some of the sheets are breast-like in shape. However irrational it seems, these would have been put their by those suffering from breast ailments, hoping for a miracle.

Lorenzo Lotto | Predella Panel from St. Lucy Altarpiece | Oil on panel | 32 x 69 cm. | Pinacoteca Civica | Jesi

There are three predella panels beneath the main panel. This is the first, and the story, as with so many saint’s lives, is complicated. It’s painted storyboard style, but without frames. Lucy and her ill mother (living in 4th century Sicily) go to mass where they hear of St. Agatha’s miracles, the mother touches St. Agatha’s tomb in order to stop hemorrhaging, while Lucy sleeps and in her dream receives the message from St. Agatha that her mother will be cured. She then tells her mother that it’s because of Agatha that she was cured, that she is breaking off her engagement and that she is herself becoming a Christian, and will give away her dowry. At the right the two women are giving away Lucy’s riches to the poor.

One can imagine that the woodcuts/works on paper would have been taken down and discarded to make space for the fresh sheets of miracle seekers (just as candles are removed before they burn out in churches, although at a far faster rate). This type of work is, therefore, extremely rare.

The Lottos in Jesi are nominally five. However, since most are multi-part pictures, I was childishly thrilled when in the museum’s two Lotto rooms, to get to a count of eleven: Entombment (1), Annunciation (2), St. Lucy Altarpiece (4), Madonna delle Rose (2), Visitation (2). Here is a link to Lotto pages on the Jesi city website.

Travel Note

The following is for those who would like a seaside vacation and also want to see great works of art.   My most recent visit to the Marche, to Jesi, was for just one day. However, last summer I spent a week in Sirolo, a lovely Medieval town right on the Adriatic and just under an hour from Jesi.  Sirolo sits on the Monte Conero–the Conero was once an island, before it smashed into the coast, in some distant geologic era. From the town you can walk down steep paths, cut through pine trees and corbezzolo shrubs, to its beautiful beaches. For us the best way of doing things was to visit Ancona (ancient art museum, Romanesque churches, picture gallery with Crivelli, Titian, Lotto), Recanati (Lotto pictures and Leopardi museum), Loreto (Melozzo da Forli, Signorelli, Lotto) until lunch time and then spend the rest of the day on the beach. In the afternoon, the sun moves behind the mountain, shading the beach and then the water. The town’s information bureau, reachable by emailing or calling +39 071 9332153 or +39 071 9332065, is very helpful. The bureau is located in the town’s main piazza and offers free internet service. Their website, only in Italian, could maybe use some improvement.

Note on Drawings Collections in the Marche

I have not visited any drawings collections in the Marche. However, from an exhibition catalog of the Dutch drawings mounted by the Biblioteca Reale in Torino, I see that they have a table of organizations that include graphic collections, arranged geographically down the peninsula, noting whether or not these collections have Dutch drawings. This all seems circuitous and backwards (the way I all too often arrive at things), but here are the Marchigian collections they list:

Ascoli Piceno – Pinacoteca Civica
Museo Diocesano Giacomo Boccanegra – Camerino (MC)
Archivio della Santa Casa – Loreto (AN)
Biblioteca Oliveriana – Pesaro
Museo Civico – Pesaro
Biblioteca Comunale – Urbania (PU)
Soprintendenza per il Patrimonio Storico, Artistico ed Etnoantropologico delle Marche – Urbino

Another nugget–none of the above have Dutch drawings.

Glass and Glazing

July 13th, 2009 § Comments Off on Glass and Glazing § permalink

Blown sheet glass had been made from the 11th century forward, first in Germany, famously at Chartres (windows are of the early 13th century) and with Venice as the center of all glass by the 13th century.  In the late 17th century in France an important innovation in 2D glass was the pouring of glass onto iron casting tables.  Bernard Perrot (1619 – 1709) pioneered this method of casting and rolling glass which resulted in large and uniform sheets of glass, strong enough to be used in carriages and transparent enough for the greater production of mirrors (Versailles’ Hall of Mirrors dates from 1678-84). It is also in the 17th century that works of drawings and other art works began to be glazed.

By the 18th century, paintings showing cracked and broken glass panes covering works on paper, became popular subjects for trompe l’oeil artists.

Anon. Dutch | Engraved Portrait of Peter Lely with Broken Glass | Oil on Canvas |18th century | Sotheby's Amsterdam 17 XII 2007

Anon. Dutch | Engraved Portrait of Peter Lely with Broken Glass | Oil on Canvas |18th century | Sotheby's Amsterdam 17 XII 2007, lot 120

Laurent Dabos | Print of Tsar Alexander I and Other Works on Paper | Oil on Canvas | Early 19th c. | Sotheby's London (Olympia) 25 IV 2006, lot 429

Laurent Dabos | Print of Tsar Alexander I and Other Works on Paper | Oil on Canvas | Early 19th c. | Sotheby's London (Olympia) 25 IV 2006, lot 429

Glass protects art works from dust and insects alighting, but exposes art works to destructive ultraviolet rays. Nowadays, plexiglass, the type developed specifically to block UV rays, is used for glazing. However, pastel drawings, are still framed with glass because the static charge of plastic can lift the pastel powder away from the paper. When glazed pastel drawings are transported, the glass must be carefully taped so that if the glass breaks it won’t gouge the artwork.

The best way of seeing a drawing is without glass or plexiglass. In the trompe l’oeil paintings above, the glass color was probably enhanced to help the visual deception, still, the difference between the glazed and unglazed sections is very telling.  Even today’s near flawless glazing materials create a barrier to seeing and understanding.

Hanging Paper

July 5th, 2009 § Comments Off on Hanging Paper § permalink

Although it’s rare to see drawings displayed in paintings before the 17th century, there are visual clues as to how paper could be appended to walls. For smaller sheets of paper, dabs of red sealing wax, as in this portrait by Hans Holbein the Younger, anchor paper to wall.

Hans Holbein the Younger | Portrait of Georg Gisze (Detail) | Oil on Panel | 1532 | Staatliche Museen | Berlin |

Hans Holbein the Younger | Portrait of Georg Gisze (Detail) | Oil on Panel | 1532 | Staatliche Museen | Berlin

Hans Holbein the Younger | Portrait of Georg Gisze | Oil on Wood Panel | 1532 | Staatliche Museen | Berlin

Hans Holbein the Younger | Portrait of Georg Gisze | Oil on Wood Panel | 1532 | Staatliche Museen | Berlin

For larger pieces of paper, such as maps, the paper would be affixed to a linen backing and then both hung and weighted with a rod, as in this Vermeer painting in Amsterdam.

Johannes Vermeer | Woman Reading A Letter | 1662-63 | Rijkmuseum |Amsterdam

Johannes Vermeer | Woman Reading A Letter | 1662-63 | Rijkmuseum | Amsterdam

The map in Vermeer’s painting was made from a few sheets of paper joined together. Paper molds were never longer than arm’s length and so for large projects many sheets would be fastened together.

I just visited the Museo Horne in Florence and saw this 1590 woodcut by Andrea Andreani based on a Domenico Beccafumi design. The woodcut is made up of eight sheets and is framed, but not matted. It appears to be varnished and the frame has no glazing. I haven’t found out when this was framed, but this type of framing, treating the woodcut as if it were a painting, dates back to the early 16th century, when Jacopo de’ Barbari, Dürer, and Titian introduced giant multiple sheet woodcuts.


Andrea Andreani after Domenico Beccafumi | Moses Breaking the Tablets of the Law | Woodcut | 1590 | Museo Horne | Florence