Thursday, May 23, 2024

More about the King's Paintings

I had a bit of an art binge and a dose of art history yesterday, on the way back to the District Line from the Philip Mould Gallery.

Cimabue's Celebrated Madonna by Lord Frederic Leighton
222 x 521 cm

"Reassorted" at the Mall Galleries 

First, I called in at the Mall Galleries - to see William Feaver's curated selection of portraits from the recent Annual Exhibition of the Royal Society of Portrait Painters. It's called Reassorted and it's quite remarkable what a new curation can do for a hang. 

I'll comment more on this tomorrow. However, I recommend people take a look if you are in town and wanting to see art.

The King's Paintings at the National Gallery

I then thought I'd go and capture some other pics of Royals at the National Gallery - and came across the longest queue I've ever seen trying to enter the Main Entrance to National Gallery via the steps. Puzzling over this I walked to the other entrance and asked the security guard who said "As soon as it pours with rain, everybody heads for the National Gallery!" and let me in.... :) 

I then went in search of King Charles I - which you can now see in this Facebook Post

The thing about the ongoing renovations to the National Gallery and the current closure of the Sainsbury Wing is that the art seems to keep moving around! Very little is where it used to be. Which requires regular visits to keep up with what can be seen and where it can be seen.

One of the things I noticed were some extremely large 'new' paintings - as in they're old - but I'm not used to seeing them at the National Gallery. It turned out that these belong to the King who has made them available to the National Gallery.

So here's what you can now see. (Some of you will be aware of these - and some will not. My practice is to go and pay quick visits to favourites and then periodically have a long slow walk around everywhere!)

Cimabue's Celebrated Madonna

You can see the panoramic painting produced at the top of this post. Apparently Cimabue's Celebrated Madonna by Lord Frederick Leighton 
  • measures more than two metres tall and more than five metres wide
  • was painted by Leighton from 1853 to 1855 in Rome as his first major work.
Extract (extreme left) of Cimabue's Celebrated Madonna
in front of the 'Madonna', and crowned with laurels, walks Cimabue with his pupil Giotto;

It's immensely complex in terms of the number of people and the story telling - and was a favourite of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert.
This was Leighton's first major work, painted in Rome. It was shown at the Academy in 1855. It was an immediate success, and Queen Victoria bought it for 600 guineas on opening day. She recorded in her diary: 'There was a very big picture by a man called Leighton. It is a beautiful painting, quite reminding one of a Paul Veronese, so bright and full of light. Albert was enchanted with it - so much so that he made me buy it.'
It's been on loan from the Royal Collection for many years, however it's previously been hung high in various positions at the top of entrances and staircases - but it's now at a "get up close and personal" distance in Room 45 - one of the main galleries near the front. 

I could have sworn I'd never seen it before!

The Triumphs of Caeser

The Triumphs of Ceaser were painted by Andrea Mantegna and six of them are currently displayed in Room 14

The National Gallery has been displaying six of Andrea Mantegna’s monumental paintings 'The Triumphs of Caesar', loaned from the Royal Collection by His Majesty The King, since last September - but this is the first time I'd come across them.

Jonathan Jones gave the new display at the National Gallery a five star review! See 
Mantegna: The Triumphs of Caesar – you can hear the trumpets and smell the elephant dung

You can see larger versions via The Royal Collection website which is linked to in each title.
Plus the website provides more information

The first three of the Triumphs of Ceaser

I kept looking at these and thinking "I know these paintings, I've seen them before - but where?" and then it dawned on me - they normally live at Hampton Court - near to The Great Vine!
The 'Triumphs' have since seldom left Hampton Court, but their dedicated gallery is now undergoing refurbishment (completion planned for 2026). Six of the nine are on display in the National Gallery, having been generously loaned by His Majesty the King.
Three more Triumphs

These are six of the nine monumental canvases known as 'The Triumphs of Caesar', painted by Andrea Mantegna between the mid-1480s and 1506. 

They depict a magnificent procession celebrating the victories of the Roman general – and later dictator – Julius Caesar over Gaul between 58 and 50 BC.
'The Triumphs' show the ancient Roman ruler Julius Caesar (about102‒44 BC) returning from his successful military campaigns. The nine paintings form a sequence depicting a single procession with Julius Caesar borne on a chariot passing in front of a triumphal arch. He is preceded by Roman soldiers, standard-bearers, musicians, and the spoils of war, which include weapons, artworks, gold and silver, prisoners and animals.
The 'Triumphs' were acquired by King Charles I of England in 1629, when he purchased many Gonzaga treasures. They were considered the jewel in the crown of the king’s paintings.

The canvases have been hung at Hampton Court since the probable date of their arrival in England in 1630, and tapestries based on some of the scenes were woven at the nearby Mortlake factory.

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