Szépművészeti Múzeum — 1: Italian Painting 1250-1800

In Krakow, but still catching up on Budapest Museums. Szépművészeti Múzeum. I went there for the mediæval stuff, but discovered half first floor was closed for renovations. Out goes Spanish, Flemish, Netherlands, German, and Austrian stuff I wanted to see. Lucky I wasn’t here in February or ’til 2017, because it’ll be entirely closed. And hopefully that’s a good thing. The European sculpture collection was well put together in the standard format of good, lengthy captions, proper lighting—the basics of what you’d expect when you see museums—but the other collections suffered from some of the worst lighting and mounting I’ve seen outside of the Gemäldegalerie’s lower floor. Why people think it’s sensible to blast directed light with no colour balancing at shiny paintings so it reflects in the viewer’s eye is beyond me, unless the intention is to hate the viewer.

I turned left, because there was no right, and saw the Italian mediæval collection, which blended in one room into the 19th century collection, so a couple of the images here more properly belong in that post. Speaking of which:

  1. Szépművészeti Múzeum — 1: Italian Painting 1250-1800
  2. Szépművészeti Múzeum — 2: 19th Century Art
  3. Szépművészeti Múzeum — 3: European Sculpture 1200 – 1800

A substantial number of exceptional works, and a few famous ones as well. Most of the latter aren’t here as I was drawn to their neighbours. The first room alone was bloggable in its entirety. I am particularly enjoying multicoloured angel wings lately, especially when the artist went mad with lapis lazuli and they rainbow from blue to red, yellow, back to blue.

There were quite a few odd pieces, often fragments of altarpieces or other works that would have been surrounded by standard iconographies. Alone they become almost contemporary, like Sassetta’s Saint Thomas Aquina in Prayer. Others are simply unique—or probably just rare and this collection does a good job of showcasing less usual works and subjects: Fra Angelico’s Scenes from the Lives of the Early Hermits is full of hilarious, mundane detail, and is worth attention. Matteo di Giovanni’s The Apostle Bartholomew, is another. What looks like a man with skin painted red, holding a long knife with a cloak over one shoulder is the martyred apostle flayed alive. You can see his foot and toes in the cloak of his skin.

Some of the later works, like Sebastiano Ricci’s The Assumption of the Virgin, I like just for the brushwork, which anticipates impressionism 200 years later. Bono da Ferrara’s Madonna and Child was the one near Raphael’s famous Esterhazy Madonna. I find da Ferrara’s far more sympathetic and believable. Nearby also, Giobanni Martino Spanzotti’s Pietá, glorious with shards of light beaming from Jesus’ bloody wounds, and Mary’s look of a mother’s anguish is entirely believable. And Carlo Crivelli’s Madonna with Child Enthroned, which has a priceless baby Jesus, tongue half-out, eyes half-closed drooling for the peach. And Mary has this look of half-smug, half “Don’t you even start” at the viewer.

The another Pietá, this one by Michele di Ridolfo (Michele Tosini). It’s kinda shocking, surrounded by such chaste work. Mary is … well, she has a strap diagonally across her chest, which separates and pushes up one breast. Her cerise blouse alternately clings, bunches, drapes, her nipples hard. Her mouth is slightly parted, as though breathing slightly heavily, and her gaze is one of almost approval at Jesus’ shroud-wrapped groin. Jesus lies there less dead-looking than sated, one arm caught between his body and hers, the other hanging loose, the nail hole just a light fleck, as is the spear wound, more like a deep scratch. His weight sits heavily on her seated, spread legs, she’s leaning back slightly to counterbalance, and though if you look at Mary’s forehead, she has the wrinkles of a much older woman, everything else about her puts her no older than her son. The entire composition causes my eye to circulate between her downcast eyes to his naked, muscular torso, face, groin, up to Mary’s breasts and nipples, that diagonal brown strap, to their hands, circle around the dark border of cloak and shroud, and back for more.

Yup, getting ruttish for mediæval art.