Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Antonello da Messina Portrait Of A Man 1475

Yesterday, I went to the Antonello da Messina exhibition at the Quirinale Stables, opposite the Presidential Palace.

I had come acros Antonello when we were in Sicily two years ago, with Annemiek and Henk. We came across his wonderful Madonna, a close-up of her in blue, reading a book, when visiting a museum in Palermo - the Regional Gallery of Sicily in the Abatellis Palace. She reminded me a lot of La Madoona del Parto, by Piero della Francesca in Monterchi, near Arezzo. She has the same blue dress and both images have an enigmatic quality about them.

After our first encounter with Antonello in Palermo, we saw his Portrait of a Man, or a Fisherman, in the Mandralisca Museum in Cefalu, a man who seems to remind me of a friend of my Mum's although she does not see it herself. Later, I would find San Girolamo in his study in the National Gallery in London, along with this Portrait of a Man.

The exhibition in Rome is the first major exhibition to be made of jhis works. He was an early Renaissance painter, who painted in Sicily, Naples and Venice. Only 50 of his works remain and they are scatttered all the way round the world. It must have taken some great effort ot bring so many to Rome.

Apart of the works I had already seen, a major highlight of the exhibition is the restored-to-all-its-glory San Sebastiano. About the largest painting (for most of them are very small indeed) - it shows a beautiful young Sebastian standing in a sunlit Venice, up against a tree, with five arrows sticking out. A magical work.

Despite my negative comments about the Catholic or Roman Church, I can always appreciate the way the stories and legends have managed to inspire people in art and literature, adding still more levels to the legends as they do.

Highly recommended, this exhibition, but if you want to go you have to be quick-ish, as it ends on 18th June.


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