The Rusty Key

A ratatouille of History, Museums' bits and Interesting Facts. A site for those who like the smell of Old Times.

Last week to see “Strange Beauty” at the NG!

This exhibition takes a fresh look at German Renaissance paintings in the National Gallery Collection, providing iWhile some viewers admired the artists’ technical mastery and their embodiment of a p

Strange Beauty: Masters of the German Renaissance at the National Gallery

It will focus on some of the best-known artists of the period, including Hans Holbein the Younger, Albrecht Dürer and Lucas Cranach the Elder. All famous artists in their own time, the exhibition will highlight the ways in which their paintings, drawings and prints were valued in the 16th century for qualities such as expression and inventiveness.

The exhibition will also examine the evolution of the perception of German Renaissance art and the reasons why attitudes towards it were mixed in the 19th and early 20th centuries, especially in the context of the National Gallery Collection. While some viewers admired the artists’ technical mastery and their embodiment of a perceived German national identity, others saw these works of art as excessive or even ugly – particularly when compared to works of the ItalianRenaissance.” (Source: NG Website)

Being completely honest, I went to the NG with the intention of wisely using some me-time and finally have the pleasure to see Veronese’s exhibition. A great exhibition, “magnificent” I would say. Never had the chance to admire a comparable number of Veronese’s masterpieces, gathered together under the same roof. Such a richness, preciousness, vastitude, almost behind words. A theatrical, sublime majesty wisely mixed with a strong humanity. This guy was so good and spontaneous in treating facial expressions, hands movements and inner feelings, as well as lights and colours. While Bellini and Titian’s evocation is quite often and pleasantly recognisable, his palette and the use of light remains personal and rich throughout his work, becoming a bit darker only during his last years.
Nothing new here, I am not being original or against the tide. The exhibition has had a great positive feedback:

Once at the Gallery, I actually realised one more exhibition was still on: ” Strange Beauty: Master of the German Renaissance.” It seemed to be there, waiting for me and at the end of the day I am glad I haven’t miss it.
Not everyone though agrees with my opinion. Alaister Sooke, on his Telegraph’s Review thinks that “the concept behind this exhibition of his fellow German Renaissance painters is threadbare.”

Personally, I believe that being most of the paintings from the NG collection the fact the gallery is actually charging to see them, is questionable. Anyway the price is reasonable, actually half of that charged for Veronese’s exhibition, and the exhibition’s perspective is interesting and sort of new. The audio guide is well made and give us the chance to go more in depth within pieces from the NG collection, probably never appreciated too much during our previous visits (but I am afraid you have to pay for that too).

I found the highlights on the history of the collections and the debates upon the acquisition of German paintings, very interesting. German art was not very much appreciated when the Gallery was founded (1824) and many directors didn’t want these pieces of art to be part of their collection. The standard reference for beauty was Raphael overall. The grotesque, real, strong force distinctive of German works was not understood.
I find it so fascinating and human, I’d actually rather go for Dürer, Cranach or Altdorfer instead.  I love the expression and inventiveness, the pointy ugliness, the mystery hidden behind many commissions, subjects, inexplicable random details. The experience has been enlightening and I would recommend it 100%.

Today I left everything behind, careless of the people around me, of my aching feet, of a busy day ahead tomorrow at work. Renaissance was very diversified, the movement itself has been able to show in paintings the deepest cultural aspects of different countries. Throughout two great exhibitions filled with spectacular masterpieces, you will have the opportunity to witness part of this complex reality. You’ll be amazed by the power of Veronese’s magnificence and at the same time impressed by the strange beauty depicted by German painters. Naturally, I have some favourites among these jewels. Some more info and curiosities about each of them coming soon!

Strange Beauty: Masters of the German Renaissance 


(after) Albrecht Durer- Virgin and Child ”Madonna with the Iris”, 1508


Lucas Cranach the Elder -Cupid complaining to Venus


Albrecht Dürer, Adam and Eve, 1504


Detail of ‘Saints Peter and Dorothy,’ Master of the Saint Bartholomew Altarpiece


An Elderly Woman with Clasped Hands – Matthias Grunewald

VeroneseMagnificence in Renaissance Venice

the-dream-of-saint-helena (1)

The Dream of Saint Helena about 1570


Veronese, The Agony in the garden, about 1580-83

Perseus and Andromeda, 1584, by Veronese.

Veronese, Perseus and Andromeda, 1584



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