Saturday, February 11, 2012

My Favorite Paintings at National Gallery of Art, Washington DC

National Gallery of Art in Washington DC is the second major art museum I've visited, after the Metropolitan Museum in New York City.

It was long time ago and I had to admit that the museum didn't leave much an impression on me.  Yet, dig into my memory and the official website from the Gallery, it was not hard to remember those two paintings made the most impressions on me.

My first pick is an oil painting, Ranuccio Farnese, by the incomparable master, Tiziano, or Titian.

Titian, Italian, c. 1490 - 1576
Ranuccio Farnese
, 1542
oil on canvas
overall: 89.7 x 73.6 cm (35 5/16 x 29 in.) framed: 124.8 x 126.4 x 9.5 cm (49 1/8 x 49 3/4 x 3 3/4 in.)

This portrait of the delicate youth captured the first bloom of him wonderfully. The complexity of the expression on this precocious boy's face is beyond his age and one pains for him.  Titian, a true master of Venetian school, excelled in his handling of the oil paints and his colors, particularly those on the doublet of the boy, simmered, and one wants to feel the silky surface of the fabric, revealing the master's signature technique of applying numerous layers of translucent oil glazes.

National Gallery stated that the painting was "commissioned as a gift for the boy's mother, this portrait of twelve-year-old Ranuccio was painted in Venice just after he had been made prior, or religious director, of San Giovanni dei Forlani, an important property belonging to the Knights of Malta. The grandson of Pope Paul III, Ranuccio was the youngest member of one of the wealthiest and most powerful families in Italy. He became cardinal of Santa Lucia in Sicily at the age of fifteen, and he was granted several bishoprics before his untimely death at the age of thirty-five."

My second favorite work there was another portrait, in the same melancholic vein.  This portrait, by the Dutch painter Rogier van der Weyden, of the ethereal young lady was as delicate and beautiful as those by the more renown Botticelli.  The artist created wonderful linear contours of the woman - her high-cheek-boned face, her gauzy headdress, her swan-like thin, long neck, her small waist and her delicate facial features, all contributed to the otherworldliness of this young lady.

More over, the colors Van der Weyden employed were sparse, austere, yet exceptionally beautiful.  The large central area was in pale skin tone and creamy colors of the headdress, framed by rich black robe and deep greenish-blue flat background.  Echoing a pale golden hair band on the top of the panel, a richly-accented red belt broke the dark areas of the robe and the background, and added some weight to the bottom of the panel, therefore gave the figure and the work more balance.

Rogier van der Weyden
, Netherlandish, 1399/1400 - 1464
Portrait of a Lady
, c. 1460 oil on panel
painted surface: 34 x 25.5 cm (13 3/8 x 10 1/16 in.) overall (panel): 37 x 27 cm (14 9/16 x 10 5/8 in.) framed: 60.9 x 53.3 x 11.4 cm (24 x 21 x 4 1/2 in.)

The National Gallery informs us that Rogier was among the greatest painters of northern Europe. His inventiveness and emotional intensity had great and lasting influence.

It also pointed out that the painting has "a severe balance of pattern and form -- notice the interlocking triangles in her veil and neckline -- creates a brittle, abstract elegance that is typical of Rogier's portraits. Details are reduced to geometric clarity, and the face is painted in a restrained, linear manner."

My Favorite Museum Collection Series

>> My Favorite Museum Collection Series 10: My Favorite Art Collections at Musei Vaticani (Vatican Museums)
<< My Favorite Museum Collection Series 8: My Favorite Collections at Musei Capitolini, Roma

List of My Favorite Artworks in the Museums I've Visited

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