The exhibit featured many tapestries, reliquaries, paintings, sculptures and manuscripts from various collections here in the US as well as from the Louvre and other notable museums throughout Europe. The show starts off with several tapestries and paintings displaying the Trojan War, perhaps the draw parallels with the Hundred Years War, and from there showcases the influence of Italian sculpture, painting and architectural design on the French arts while emphasizing the role of Paris as an important trade center with a distinct cultural identity. The premise is nothing new or profound but it was enough to hold together a worthwhile exhibit of French and Italian works.
Paintings that struck my interest included two panels displaying events from the life of St. Sebastian (Philly Museum of Art), the Baptism of Clovis and Healing of the Sick (National Gallery of Art, D.C.), Coronation of King David and Baptism of Louis XII (Amiens Cathedral), a Crucifixion by the Master Dreux (Getty Museum), Jean Hey’s Charlemagne and the Meeting at the Golden Gate (National Gallery of London) and a tapestry showing Narcissus at his Fountain (Boston Museum of Art). Many of the pieces I’d already read about in my home library and it was neat to finally see them in person. Also on display are a few interesting reliquaries, including one made of a gold alloy for the heart of St. Anne of Brittany. Many of the works showcase royalty aligning themselves with the likes of religious figures like Mary Magdalene as well as notable characters from French history such as Charlemagne and Louis IX. In short they are works of propaganda that probably survived destruction on account of their aesthetic beautiful and outright patriotism.
The final quarter of the exhibit focused on the tendency of the southern kingdoms of France to derive artistic influence from neighboring Italy as well as seek out the works of important Italian artists. I didn’t find these works as interesting as previous the pieces which had dealt more directly with French history, but at the very least this segment rounded out the general theme of the show. At any rate I enjoyed the exhibit and after visiting the general galleries of the museum I found myself coming back for a quick roundabout to absorb whatever I might’ve missed.
During my stay at the AIC I also swung by the Folk Art Gallery for a quick look see. Folk Art is the term used primarily for American works made by individuals who had no professional or classical training in their respective fields. The result is some very literal and often extremely hideous pieces, most of which bear an almost surrealistic charm. Edward Hicks is the most notable artist of this style, and it’s perhaps quite telling that while at the Denver Museum of Art this past Fall I found one of his works hung alongside a painting executed by a follower of Hieronymus Bosch.
After the museum I headed home where Rani had prepared a wonderful dinner of BBQ chicken breasts. She’d of course used the Black Swan BBQ sauce which I’d picked up the night before. It was a nice way to wrap up a low-key but stimulating weekend.