Micchelli writes that "the drawing is imperfect, which is essential to its probing, critical, transporting beauty. Leonardo’s inquisitive hand never settles on a single way of seeing or doing: the cheek on the right is molded with an exquisite caress, with the artist’s distinctive left-to-right hatch marks cascading like sheets of water, while the shadow across the woman’s back feels bluntly swiped in, as if he saw no reason to spend time on it. The dancelike curls delineating the locks of hair trailing down her spine are rendered minimally, almost abstractly, even as the minute strokes of white gracing her nose, cheeks and eyelid return the drawing to a moist, porous realism."
Of Rosso's Holy Family with the Young Saint John the Baptist (c. 1520), Kessler writes: "Rosso makes no attempt to create a plausibly real scene in a real space. What's being depicted is not ordinary human activity, and it's not an idealized scene either, but rather it's an almost hallucinogenic, spiritual ecstasy more akin to medieval mosaics in spirit than to the High Renaissance. This ecstatic emotion is conveyed by the glowing colors and the swirling, rhythmic brushwork. (The painting is unfinished so it's probably rougher and less polished than it would be if he had finished it — but still.) In the Rosso, St. Joseph and St. John are so emotionally overwrought they seem to be dissipating visually."
Hope writes that "Although the compositions are very similar, each creates a very different impression. The figures in the Louvre version, which is universally considered the earlier of the two, are slightly smaller than those in the London picture, as well as livelier and more individualized. But the most obvious difference comes from the fact that the Paris picture is covered with a layer of dark varnish, which softens the contours and adds a sense of mystery to the landscape, whereas the version in London is brighter, with all the forms more precisely indicated and more easily visible."
Nelkin writes that "The sensational and unprecedented loans and the amassing of these works is something that will, in all likelihood, never be attempted again. Nearly every surviving painting from Leonardo’s Milan period is exhibited including nine of his own works plus around 60 preparatory studies."
With the impending re-discovery of Leonardo's The Battle of Anghiari, long thought to be covered by a commissioned work from Giorgio Vasari, Daniel B. Gallagher takes another look at Vasari's paintings in the Palazzo Vecchio in Florence.
"It was there," Gallagher notes, "that Vasari made a triumphal return after two of his staunchest supporters in the city were murdered in 1530. Not until Duke Cosimo I invited him back in 1554 to decorate apartments begun by Battista del Tasso was Vasari vindicated... With the help of an eager crew of collaborators, Vasari completed the project in less than three years."
Daniel B. Gallagher reviews the exhibition Figure, Memorie, Spazio: disegni da Fra’Angelico a Leonardo which was on view at Galleria degli Uffizi and Gabinetto Disegni e Stampe degli Uffizi, Florence (closed June 12, 2011). Gallagher writes: "Precisely because drawing was considered an indispensable daily discipline, it became the privileged means of unlocking the cognitive processes that led masters to produce their greatest work. Whereas we tend to approach sketchbooks as modern-day detectives, at the time they were produced, budding apprentices knew full well that they were the most reliable entryway into the minds of their teachers."
Chris Miller reviews Kings, Queens, and Courtiers: Art in Early Renaissance France at the Art Institute of Chicago. Focusing on French art patronage around the year 1500, the exhibition brings together an impressive array of paintings, tapestries, and illuminated manuscripts. Miller writes "Objects were borrowed from almost fifty institutions and private lenders... A better survey of this time and place is likely not possible."
The Guardian's Jonathan Jones poses an interesting question: "In The Agony in the Garden, [Giovanni Bellini] attempted a true landscape 20 years before Leonardo's lauded sketch of the Arno river. Does that make him an innovator to rival Da Vinci?"
Edited by artist Brett Baker, Painters' Table highlights writing from the painting blogosphere as it is published and serves as a platform for exploring blogs that focus primarily on the subject of painting.