Category: Exhibitions

Narcissus and Echo

Narcissus and Echo

Meet Narcissus and Echo! Although we know them already, as they are around us every day and everywhere. But originally they are two mythological characters from the “Metamorphoses”, an 1st century book in Latin, by the Roman poet Ovid.

John William Waterhouse (1849 – 1917), “Echo and Narcissus” (1903), 109x189cm, Oil on Canvas, Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool.

Let’s start with Narcissus. He was in those ancient mythological times a most beautiful young man. One sunny day, while walking in a wood and being thirsty, he wanted to drink from a well. But then another thirst grew in him. As Narcissus drank, he was enchanted by an attractive young boy he saw in the pond. Narcissus fell in love with that pretty guy in the water, mistaking that shadow of himself for a real body. Absolutely spellbound, he could not stop looking at that mirror image of himself. But poor Narcissus, whenever he wanted to kiss his lover, and when his lips touched the water, the reflection disappeared. Whenever he reached his hands to that guy in the pond, the image faded away. The boy he fell in love with did not exist and was nothing else than his own reflection.

Caravaggio (1571 – 1610), “Narcissus” (c. 1598), 110x92cm, Oil on Canvas, Palazzo Barberini, Rome.

Narcissus lay down next to the pond and being deeply in love kept on staring at his own image. No food anymore and no sleep. He started crying, but when his tears touched the water, the pool rippled and the object of his desire disappeared. Narcissus ultimately faded away and died. On that spot where he died, flowers started to grow; it’s the Narcissus flower, the daffodil, with its head hanging down, as if looking at the flower’s own refection in the water. See the painting by Waterford, some daffodils start to grow already next to Narcissus.

Anonymous, “Narcis” (c.1765), 30x19cm, Watercolor on Paper, Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam.

Would Narcissus have lived now and amongst us, he probably non-stop posted pictures of himslef on his social media. In that sense Narcissus invented the “selfie”, as ultimate passionate love for ones own image. We all know some of these guys and girls; check your InstaGram! We might even Narcissus ourselves?

Now about Echo, a young girl who fell in love with Narcissus. But first back to the beginning as described in Ovid’s Metamorphoses. Echo was one of those girls who cannot stop talking, a chatterbox first class. Whenever in that mythological world the god Jupiter was playing around with girls, Echo distracted his wife Juno with her endless babbling. Juno got pretty angry and punished Echo. From that moment on, Echo could only repeat the last few words mentioned by someone else.

Alexandre Cabanel (1823 – 1889) “Echo” (1874) 98x67cm, Oil on Canvas, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.

When Echo noticed Narcissus walking in the woods, she immediately fell in love. Narcissus sensed that someone was around and said: “Who is there, come here!”. And Echo said: “Come here!”. Narcissus said: “Let’s meet” and Echo said “Let’s meet!”. But when Narcissus saw Echo, he did not like her at all. Echo, feeling ashamed and rejected, hide in a cave where she became old and wrinkled and then died. Only her voice remains and that voice can still be heard when you are hiking in the mountains. Poor Echo will forever continue to repeat your last few words. I guess we all know some of these girls, endless talking and basically saying nothing more than just a few echoed words.

Of course there are deeper psychological meanings behind being a Narcist or being like Echo. The Narcists around us are the self-centered persons and the Echoists are the ones always focusing on others and neglecting themselves. And that makes them attracting each other, but never really connecting. They both should learn to share a bit each other’s characteristics. For Narcissus to echo more and for Echo to become a bit more narcistic.

The Caravaggio painting became the iconic image of Narcissus. The painting is currently to be seen on the exhibition “Caravaggio & Bernini, the Discovery of Emotions” in the Kunsthistorisches Museum in Vienna, until January 19, 2020. This exhibition (and Caravaggio’s Narcissus) will then move to the Rijksmuseum Amsterdam as “Caravaggio-Bernini, Baroque in Rome” from February 14 until June 7, 2020.

Frans Hals (1582 – 1666), a family (portrait) reunited!

This is the story of a rich merchant family from 17th Century Haarlem in The Netherlands. Or it’s actually the story of a portrait of that family. Gijsbrecht and Maria van Campen celebrated in 1624 their 20th wedding anniversary, by ordering a family portrait from the famous Dutch painter Frans Hals. They wanted to be portrayed in grand style, together with their 13 children. And that became a big painting of nearly 4 meters long. Almost too big to fit in any house. Oh, small detail indeed, after the painting was finished, child nr 14 was born. It’s a daughter, and she conveniently got photoshopped into the painting in the bottom left corner. Not by Frans Hals but by Salomon de Bray (1597 – 1664), another famous painter from Haarlem.

Proposed reconstruction of the original Van Campen Family portrait (1624) as painted by Frans Hals (1582 – 1666).

Frans Hals was a popular portrait painter, who lived and worked in Haarlem. He depicted his clients in an informal realistic and relaxed way, but certainly grand and with elegance. Exactly how a liberal “new-rich” successful merchant wants to be depicted. It should be old-style “royal”, but in an informal modern way. Think how the European royal families of these days like to be photographed: royal and grand, but informal at the same time!

Frans Hals (1582 – 1666), “Van Campen Family Portrait in a Landscape” (1624), 151x164cm, Oil on Canvas, Toledo Museum of Art, Toledo, Ohio.
Frans Hals (1582 – 1666), “Children of the Van Campen Family with a Goat Cart” (1624), 151x108cm, Oil on Canvas, Royal Museums of Fine Arts of Belgium, Brussels.

The picture with the parents and their 14 children as shown here above is a reconstruction. Of the original painting, three pieces still exist: “Van Campen Family in a Landscape” in the Toledo Museum of Art, “Children of the Van Campen Family with a Goat Cart” in the Royal Museums of Fine Arts of Belgium and “Head of a Young Boy” in a private collection. For the first time in two hundred years, the three surviving pieces of this monumental family portrait are on view side by side at an exhibition in the Fondation Custodia in Paris (until August 25, 2019.

Frans Hals (1582 – 1666), “Head of a Young Boy” detail from “Van Campen Family Portrait in a Landscape” (1624), Private Collection.

The descendants of the Van Campens decided to cut their family portrait into pieces and sell it as separate “Frans Hals” paintings. The original painting was rather big and difficult to fit in any decent house and almost unsellable in its original format. And by cutting in into pieces, one actually creates even more paintings by the famous Frans Hals! Now, after a few hundreds of years, those three individual paintings have been puzzled together to reunite the parents and children Van Campen in one family portrait. In modern times, you sometimes edit someone out of a picture. But here we are happy to put a family with 14 children together again. The original piece with the portrayal of the two children in the bottom right corner is still missing. If you happen to know the whereabouts of these two kids, please do contact me or the Royal Museums of Fine Arts in Brussels.

Reconstruction of “Van Campen Family Portrait in a Landscape” (1624) by Frans Hals. The child at the bottom left was added by Salomon de Bray. The part in grey is still missing.

Albrecht Dürer exhibition

Albertina, Vienna
20 September 2019 – 6 January 2020

Albrecht Dürer (1471 – 1528), “Hare” (1502), Watercolor on Paper, 25x23cm, Albertina, Vienna.

With its nearly 140 works by Albrecht Dürer (1471–1528), the Albertina Museum in Vienna is home to the world’s largest and most important collection of drawings by this artist. This exhibition also includes valuable international loan works in order to present Dürer’s drawn, printed, and painted oeuvres as equally great artistic achievements. And with reference to the distinctive works on exhibit, the exhibition also offers insights into the latest research findings.

The works by Albrecht Dürer at the Albertina are of particular interest in terms of the collection’s history: their provenance can be traced back to the year of the artist’s death in an unbroken line. The museum thus holds a group of works from the artist’s own workshop that have been together for nearly 500 years. Prominent here are Dürer’s family portraits, his famous studies of animals and plants, and his head, hand, and clothing studies on colored paper. The Albertina’s Dürer collection thus offers the ideal starting point from which to reconstruct the activities of Dürer’s workshop and also explore this artist’s personal, early humanist notion of art.

(From the museum’s website)

Albrecht Dürer (1471 – 1528), “Praying Hands” (1508), Pen-and-Ink Drawing on Paper, 29x20cm, Albertina, Vienna.

Leonardo da Vinci; A Life In Drawing, exhibition

The Queen’s Gallery, Buckingham Palace, London
24 May 2019 – 13 October 2019

Marking the 500th anniversary of the death of Leonardo da Vinci, the exhibition in the Queen’s Gallery in Buckingham Palace brings together more than 200 of the Renaissance master’s greatest drawings from the Royal Collection.

Drawing served as Leonardo’s laboratory, allowing him to work out his ideas on paper and search for the universal laws that he believed underpinned all of creation. The drawings by Leonardo in the Royal Collection have been together as a group since the artist’s death in 1519. Acquired during the reign of Charles II (King of England from 1660 to 1685), they provide an unparalleled insight into the workings of Leonardo’s mind and reflect the full range of his interests, including painting, sculpture, architecture, anatomy, engineering, cartography, geology and botany. Leonardo died at Amboise in France on 2 May 1519, aged 67. He was careful to leave his drawings – perhaps 2000 or more loose sheets, and dozens of notebooks – to his pupil Francesco Melzi. Most of these drawings have survived to the present day, but widely published and understood only from the late nineteenth century. We now have a greater understanding of Leonardo’s life, work and thought than at any time since his death, and – primarily through his drawings – an insight into one of the greatest minds of the Renaissance. (From the museum’s website)

Leonardo da Vinci, The seed-heads of two rushes (Scirpus lacustris and Cyperus sp.), with notes (c. 1510), 20x15cm, Royal Collection.

Leonardo da Vinci exhibition

Louvre, Paris
24 October 2019 – 24 February 2020

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Leonardo da Vinci (1452 – 1519), “La Belle Ferronnière” (c. 1493), 62x44cm, Louvre Abu Dhabi.

The year 2019 marks the 500-year anniversary of the death of Leonardo da Vinci, of particular importance for the Louvre. The museum is seizing the opportunity in this year of commemorations to gather as many of the artist’s paintings as possible around the five core works in its collections: The Virgin of the Rocks, La Belle Ferronnière, the Mona Lisa (which will remain in the gallery where it is normally displayed), the Saint John the Baptist, and the Saint Anne. The objective is to place them alongside a wide array of drawings as well as a small but significant series of paintings and sculptures from the master’s circle.

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Leonardo da Vinci (1452 – 1519), “Saint John the Baptist” (c.1515), 69x57cm, Louvre, Paris

This unprecedented retrospective of da Vinci’s painting career will illustrate how he placed utmost importance on painting, and how his  investigation of the world, which he referred to as “the science of painting,” was the instrument of his art, seeking nothing less than to bring life to his paintings. The exhibition will paint the portrait of a man and an artist of extraordinary freedom. (From the museum’s website)

Time slots to be booked in advance. The reservation service will be open as of June 18, 2019 at www.ticketlouvre.fr

Nicolaes Maes exhibition

Mauritshuis, The Hague
17 October, 2019 – 19 January, 2020

Nicolaes Maes (1634 – 1693), “The Old Lacemaker” (1655), Oil on Panel, 39x36cm, Mauritshuis, The Hague.

The Mauritshuis will present an exhibition on Nicolaes Maes, one of Rembrandt’s most talented pupils. It is the first big international exhibition showcasing this artist, with more than 30 paintings and highlighting all aspects of Maes’ varied oeuvre. Maes started his career painting biblical representations, which clearly show his master´s influence. In subsequent years he painted intimate domestic scenes, which usually focussed on women engaged in household chores. Beginning in the 1660s, Maes developed an elegant style of portraiture that was popular with his clients in Dordrecht and Amsterdam. Featuring over thirty paintings the exhibition shows all aspects of Maes’s varied oeuvre. (From the museum’s website)

Nicolaes Maes (1634 – 1693), “Portrait of Catharina Dierquens (1664-1715)”, (c. 1682), Oil on Canvas, 57x46cm, Mauritshuis, The Hague.

Rembrandt’s Light, exhibition

Dulwich Picture Gallery, London
4 October 2019 – 2 February 2020

Rembrandt (1606 – 1669), “Philemon and Baucis “ (1658), 55x69cm, National Gallery of Art, Washington.

This 2019 is the Year of Rembrandt, with celebrations taking place throughout Europe to mark 350 years since the artist’s death (1669). Dulwich Picture Gallery will stage London’s Rembrandt moment with an innovative exhibition that aims to refresh the way that we look at works by this incomparable Dutch Master. Along with many firsts, this show will bring the captivating painting Philemon and Baucis (National Gallery of Art, Washington) to the UK for the first time.

Rembrandt (1606 – 1669), “The Artist’s Studio” (1659), drawing, 22x24cm, Ashmolean Museum, Oxford.  

Arranged thematically the exhibition will trace Rembrandt’s innovation: from evoking a meditative mood, to lighting people, to creating impact and drama. Highlights will include three of Rembrandt’s most famous images of women: A Woman Bathing in a Stream, A Woman in Bed and the Gallery’s inimitable Girl at a Window which will be displayed side-by-side for the first time. It will also include two works from Gemäldegalerie, Berlin, never displayed before in the UK. (From the museum’s website)