Wednesday, 22 October 2014



Portrait of Gian Gerolamo Grumelli (The Man in Pink), 1560
The Royal Academy's exhibition of works by Giovanni Battista Moroni is the first to be held in the UK and it is a gem. These portraits of living, breathing people - Moroni was renowned for his realism - seem so alive that you almost expect them to step out of the frame and start talking and dancing and bickering, probably reigniting some ancient blood feud from what I gathered from reading the labels. As for their sumptuous costumes ... oh, this exhibition is a feast. If you click on the images, you'll see the detail.
There is the Man in Pink, above, with his jacket embroidered with silver. his fine ribbed stockings and his fabulous seed pearl garter. The fine red embroidery on his ruff and at his wrists must have been fashionable because it features in several portraits, of men and women alike.

Portrait of Isotta Brembati, c 1553
The Man in Pink was married to this sober, patrician lady - she was a poet - who hasn't been able to resist the frivolity of an ostrich feather fan in candyfloss colours. Very Claire's Accessories, don't you think?

The Lady in Red (below, from the National Gallery) was also a poet, renowned for her beautiful manners. She had to leave town to escape a blood feud. Her husband was the Knight with a Wounded Foot who wore a foot brace if you look carefully. I should think he caused her plenty of grief because shortly after his portrait was painted, he died after falling into a well when he was drunk. I'm sure Hilary Mantel could weave all of these people into an Italian version of Wolf Hall.



There must be a story to tell about this lady who is rather too old to be wearing rosebuds and jasmine in her hair. She reminds me of Princess Anne, or maybe Margaret Beckett, suddenly discovering a skittish, romantic side that we didn't expect. But look at that wonderful smocked chemise that she's wearing. 
Portrait of Lucia Vertova Agosti      

Then there was The Widower and his two little daughters, on loan from Dublin. 




And this little girl looking very self-composed, with her pierced ears and her coral bracelet to ward off evil.  





There is a slide show here. I'll definitely be going back for a second visit. 

8 comments:

kristina said...

The exhibition looks amazing--will definitely go. And love your commentary--forwarding it on to G to read before we visit! xx

Lucille said...

Another must see, thank you Mary. Their faces are so modern and their gaze so direct, they do indeed look as though they are about to speak to us.

mary said...

Hope you enjoy it, Kristina.

As I was going round, I thought I'm sure Lucille would like this!

Toffeeapple said...

What a marvellous collection, he was a very assured artist indeed. If only I was able to go in person.

mary said...

Stunning, aren't they, Toffeeapple. It's not a huge exhibition - if you find them tiring - but nowhere to sit down as you go around.

christine_a said...

Went yesterday with a friend and we read your blogpost as we went round. We chuckled at your Princess Anne/Margaret Becket reference and noticed several other details thanks to your observations.

Lucille said...

I went yesterday Mary and was captivated. It was just the right size. I went round twice and felt as though I was spotting old friends in a crowd!

mary said...

I'm glad you both enjoyed it! The Standard's 3* review was a bit grudging, I thought.