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Sunday, December 30, 2012

Augsburg Renaissance art exits Dec. 31

Hieronymus Hopfer, active c. 1520-1550 or after, Personification of Rome, National Gallery of Art, Ailsa Mellon Bruce Fund, 2000

It's an enlightening show at the National Gallery of Art, certainly required viewing by every area Renaissance and German student of language and/or German history, with 103 prints, drawings and illustrated books spanning 65 years and providing rich background and renderings about the nation and the widening influence of the Renaissance.

Around 85 percent of the pieces come from the National Gallery's collection in this first exhibition of its kind in the U.S. about Augsburg.

The city, named for Roman Emperor Augustus, is one of Germany's oldest, and the range of the show (1475-1540) captures the beginning of its golden age.  Augsburg was a military fortress before it became a Roman capital province, and its location at the confluence of two rivers in Bavaria was critical to its trade and cultural success, stimulating its vast commercial partnership with Italy and other important areas.

Among its citizenry and leaders, the arts commanded enthusiastic audiences, including that of Holy Roman Emperor Maximilian I (1459-1519) who spent so much time in Augsburg he was called honorary mayor.  The exhibition exemplifies his dominance in the city which housed seven convents.

Facing visitors entering the last gallery of the show is a detailed drawing of a magnificent Maximilian long carriage drawn by horses heavily decked in royal dress, almost lifelike with the prancing and pawing of each little (big) hoof, if you hear what I hear.

Albrecht Durer (1471-1528), detail from The Triumphal Chariot of Maximilian I, 1522, National Gallery of Art, Rosenwald Collection, 1943

Albrecht Durer (1471-1528), The Triumphal Chariot of Maximilian I, 1522, woodcut on eight joined sheets, National Gallery of Art, Rosenwald Collection, 1943

A "must see" in the show, especially for tempted lovers, is Death interrupting a couple and seizing the man’s entrails from his throat and hanging on to the woman’s skirt with his teeth as she tries to flee.  For new material, movie producers of horror should have a look.  Gruesome

In an earlier gallery women are shown as the beguiler of the beguiled, and things have not changed.  Let's strike them all down dead before any more harm can come.  (See India, December 29, 2012.) 

Christoph Bockstorfer (1490-1553), The Death of Virginia, c. 1525, National Gallery of Art.  Here a father stabs his daughter to death because death is preferable to disgrace, as in Egypt, Lebanon, Yemen, Turkey, Pakistan, Morocco, Syria, and other nations, according to a 2002 UN report

Where is a rendering of a man admiring his own person in the looking glass while Death lurks in the background?  Perhaps a female artist of the period would have reversed the gender of the subject, had she been allowed. 

Daniel Hopfer (c. 1470-1536), Woman and Attendant Surprised by Death, Metropolitan Museum of Art, Elisha Whittelsey Collection

Is there a Woman's Bible as in Adam was the one who communicated with the snake and ate the apple, and Jesus and other leading figures were women?  In 1895 and 1896 a Woman's Bible was published by crusaders Lucretia Mott, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Lucy Stone, and Susan B. Anthony challenging the traditional orthodoxy that women should be subservient to men.  Not exactly what I am thinking about, but it's time for a new edition where men are subservient to women.  Let the Renaissance of Women flourish!  (You see what art can do.)

Hans Burgkmair I (1473-1531), Samson and Delilah, 1519, National Gallery of Art, Rosenwald Collection, 1943

In the first-of-its-kind catalogue available in the shops, Augsburg and Renaissance history is detailed, along with essays by the show's curators, Gregory Jecmen of the National Gallery of Art, and Freyda Spira of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, and many illustrations.

From Washington the exhibition travels next fall to the University of Texas at Austin and then to Vassar College.  A grant from the Thaw Charitable Trust and contributions from Gene and Clare Thaw have made the presentation possible.

What:  Imperial Augsburg:  Renaissance Prints and Drawings, 1475-1540

When:  This exhibition closes on New Year's Eve.  The Gallery is open every day from 10 a.m. - 5 p.m., and on Sunday, 11 a.m. - 6 p.m.  The Gallery is closed on New Year's Day

Where:  Ground floor galleries in the West Building, National Gallery of Art, between 4th and 7th and Constitution Avenue, N.W., Washington, D.C.

How much:  No charge

For more information:  202-737-4215

Metro stations:  Judiciary Square, Navy Memorial-Archives, or the Smithsonian


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