A day in London. The main reason was the exhibition of the work of the little known Italian Renaissance master Giovanni Battista Moroni (1520 - 1578) at the Royal Academy. It was a complete revelation; Moroni's portraiture is of a technical brilliance that is accompanied by a intense spiritual and emotive power. There a number of religious works too, but the more monumental ones on display - the altarpieces are, with two important exceptions, rather empty. Perhaps that is Moroni's weakness, his strength perhaps lays in the more intimate, or should one say, more focused. One feels in his most brilliant work he has truly come to terms with his subject. In many the background is almost eliminated, in others a simplified schema of architecture is used - the focus is the sitter. Somehow in the larger work - the altarpieces - that schema does not work so well, for instance: 'St Gotthard enthroned with St Lawrence and St Catherine'. I desire more (architectural) detail in those paintings. After all they do serve a different purpose, though I do understand the reasoning, which perhaps reflects the new emphasis of the Counter Reformation Spirituality. But that is a minor quibble. Moroni is a great master. The highlights for me were - actually it would be pointless to attempt to list them because there are so many; but if on pain of death I would have to chose one then that would be 'Portrait of an Elderly Man seated with a book'. It is superb. Truly superb.
Without looking yet at the catalogue I would think he was an influenced by, and an influence on, Northern Renaissance art. Looking at all those sumptuously painted fabrics I can see an echo of Moroni in Elizabethan and Jacobean portraiture. And perhaps it is the influence of Northern Europe (Morini was a northern Italian) that makes me like his art so much. Judging by the work on show Moroni is due a major re-evaluation by art historians; he should be among the greats of Western portraiture - he would be a very worthy addition to the canon.
A revelation too the work of Moretto, Moroni's teacher, whose work is represented by a small number of canvasses including 'Madonna and Child on a Throne between Saints Eusebia, Andrew Domneone and Domno' (1536-37), where the aged St Andrew and the Christ Child exchange a look of such melting tenderness and love. Praise indeed as I don't usually like the sort of art that followed on from the 'High Renaissance'. Very good too the more intimate of Moretto's religious work in the exhibition.
Really I cannot praise this exhibition highly enough....GO! You have until Jan 25th.
Afterwards some seasonal shopping and a long lunch at Polpo, Cambridge Circus, with a friend: Pig's Head Crostini; Cauliflower and Fontina; Octopus, Treviso and Barlotti beans, Pork and fennel meatballs. I then polished off a lovely squidgy Tiramisu. I'm such a pig!