Blake visits the show seeking answers to the assertion, by the Director of London’s National Gallery, that "the now obscure Federico Barocci of Urbino, was a better painter than his contemporary El Greco."
Haber writes: "On loan from the Walters Art Museum in Baltimore, the Holy Family has not lost its strangeness. That may sound impossible after so many years. Now that anything goes, plenty of people have needed Robert Hughes to reawaken and then assuage 'the shock of the new' even for modern art, much less Renaissance Italy... Rosso starts with a tight-knit family right out of the High Renaissance, but after that, all bets are off. Only Jesus has anything to stand on, a green cushion way too plush for a manger, while John and Joseph without their lower bodies barely fit into the picture. An insensitive later owner—or a prankster like Rosso—might almost have cropped a much larger composition, but no, this is it. The background is dark, confused, and indefinite, and the foreground is insanely crowded. Jesus clings to Mary for comfort, while Joseph presses up against her in worship and fear. Revision of the past has slipped into subversion."
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."
"As might be expected in a show that covers art from the late Middle Ages to the early 20th century, the styles and purposes of the drawings are all over the place. There are Leonardo's scribbled studies of Mary Magdalene, Pieter Breugel the Elder's detailed line drawing of a peasant scene that would be used to make a print, and a watercolor by Cezanne meant as a finished piece.... Exceptionally high quality is the glue that holds the show together. So this is an exhibit that presents art as pretty much ahistorical and at its most fundamental -- pure visual pleasure, of which there is plenty."
Although known for his printmaking, Booker notes that the "the sensuous and decadent allegorical themes would find bold expression in [Goltzius'] paintings, which he took up in his middle age. His extraordinarily sensitive sense of detail gives one the feeling that here's an artist using a brush with the same ease as he wielded the burin, his steel engraving tool."
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.