April 8th, 2011

Fishy Circumstances

Jan Gossaert exhibition

My mother is visiting, so we went to the National Gallery yesterday to see the Jan Gossaert show, a collection of early sixteenth century Low Countries paintings and prints, with a few sculptures thrown in. It is rich in images and slight in curatorial narrative which strings the pieces together. Labelwise, it was the Facebook of exhibitions, telling us who knew who and how they knew each other; the only thing it was missing was "Like" buttons.

Gossaert was from Hainault, which is not near Newbury Park.* He traveled to Rome with his patron, while both Raphael and Michaelangelo were there, but clearly, it is not known if he actually met them.

One of my favorite images from the show was of an exiled Danish princess, a young girl holding an armillary sphere in her hands. It not only had the sphere and a beautifully-realized person, but one of Gossaert's distinctively playful details: her head overlaps a painted-on frame, as if she were in front of her frame, and not within it. Another virutoso piece which sticks with me is his St. Luke painting the Madonna, wonderfully rich in its layers of visual references. Gossaert liked painting people with big curly hair (apparent in both of these paintings), a style which echoed the fiddliness of his drawings and prints; no comment from the labels as to why.

* London Underground reference