Memorial Art Gallery collections add a new dimension to Renaissance Impressions: NewsCenter
MAG’s decorative arts emphasize central themes in a traveling exhibition of master prints from the Kirk Edward Long Collection.
Round off the first corner of the Renaissance impressions exhibition now on display at the University of Rochester’s Memorial art gallery, and you’ll notice a series of magnifying glasses hanging from wall hooks.
âI put them in all my prints exhibitions,â explains Nancy Norwood, curator of European art at the museum. “If people can’t see it, they won’t get it.”
There is a lot to see and get.
The 82 etchings, engravings and woodcuts in the exhibition organized by the American Federation of the Arts are selections from the Kirk Edward Long collection. The Long Collection is one of the most comprehensive and popular collections of Renaissance prints owned by individuals in the world. The scenes represented by the engravings – allegorical, biblical and classical – are rich in detail.
Reflecting Long’s interests, they contain revealing characteristics of the Late Renaissance style known as Mannerism. The bodies are crammed together, in tangles of torsos and limbs. Nudity abounds, with anatomical features carefully, but not necessarily faithfully, rendered. There are muscular babies and fully developed human forms with animal ears, noses, legs and genitals. The faces are frozen in expressions of ecstasy, pain, horror and happiness.
Look closely and you’ll see how all of that complexity, shadow, and depth is achieved with nothing more than individual, inconspicuous black lines.
“I am amazed by the print in this particular period,” says Norwood, pausing in front of a large engraving by German artist George Pencz (c. 1500-1550). The footprint, The capture of Cartagena, spans almost two feet wide and a foot and a half high. Norwood notes the depth of the image, from the battle in the foreground to the distant countryside. âJust imagine, a piece of metal and a sharp object,â she said, referring to the steel tool used to make grooves in the copper plates. “And from there you get this.”
An Asian invention transforms the European continent
Together, the prints tell the story of a radical change. It is not difficult in our time and place to remember times when new objects and images seemed to come out of nowhere and quickly end up everywhere. To live in Europe in the 16th century was to experience exactly that with the arrival and distribution of prints.
Printing flourished in China and Japan for several centuries before the practice took hold in Europe. Printmaking and its essential component, paper, are believed to have come to Europe through travel and trade. As paper mills expanded across the continent in the 15th century, a new art form emerged that changed not only the practice and activities of art making and consumption, but also material culture into a much of Europe.
The impressions led to a âvisual vocabularyâ shared across much of Europe, says Norwood. Being educated in the popular sense meant recognizing certain figures and scenes that commonly appeared in prints. And over time, to understand the meanings attributed to them.
It’s easy to forget that before engraving, the only way to access visual representations of Greek gods or goddesses, or Bible figures and stories, was to stand in front of singular works of art, original and unique. These works have been grouped together in present-day Italy. Artists engaged in printmaking traveled to these âsourcesâ and were able to disseminate their replications or interpretations of classical and biblical imagery across the continent.
Distribution of the MAG decorative arts fair, influence of printed images
The MAG exhibition excels in showing just how wide the reach of these images has become. In an unusual move, Norwood suggested to the AFA that MAG would incorporate items from the museum’s permanent collections into its exhibit to highlight this key element.
âI have a great collection to work with,â says Norwood, who has been with MAG for 21 years. The incorporation of decorative art objects was âobviousâ.
The arts intertwined in Renaissance Europe. Paintings and sculptures were sources of prints, which in turn were sources of art that adorned many objects, such as armor, liturgical vestments, furniture, stained glass, and ceramics, including examples selected from MAG’s Renaissance collections.
A 17th-century cabinet, for example, is adorned with 13 painted panels depicting scenes from Metamorphosis, by the Roman poet Ovid. The Flemish artist’s sources included an engraving which in turn drew inspiration from Titian’s painting Cupid’s education.
A collection of 16th-century stained glass, cockades and windows “are particularly instructive,” says Norwood. She has been developing a collection of glasses for several years, and these selections, recent gifts, are presented for the first time. They show scenes derived from woodcuts and engravings by the German Albrecht Durer, engravings by the Flemish Maarten van Heemskerck and etchings by the Italian Marcantonio Raimondi.
It enumerates, one by one, the elements that went into the creation of the works. A Dutch painter working on Dutch glass, with a German engraving, derived from an Italian painting, as its source. A French artist working on French glass, including source images from a German engraving and an Italian etching.
As an exploration of the interconnections of commerce, travel, art and imagery, Norwood says, âIt really sums it all up. “
Renaissance Prints: 16th Century Master Prints from the Kirk Edward Long Collection, is on display at the Memorial Art Gallery at the University of Rochester until February 6, 2022.
Associate Professor of Art History Christopher Heuer explores the European Renaissance’s engagement with the Arctic, a chapter in history little known but relevant today, as the region has once again become a site of attention anxious.
Against the Wall: Art, Activism and AIDS Poster explores the world’s largest collection of HIV / AIDS education posters and visual resources, a collection owned by River Campus Libraries and the basis for a major exhibit at the Memorial Art Gallery which will open in March 2022.
Category: in pictures