Hercules and Antaeus
by Stefano Maderno
Judith with the Head
by Sandro Botticelli
A wonderful opportunity the Cincinnati Art Museum offers is the concept of "Thematic Tours." You may call and request a tour specifically highlighting the Italian art of the museum, for no additional cost above normal admission price. The only requirement is a minimum of 8 people. To arrange this, contact Preeti Joshi at 513-639-2975.
The Cincinnati Art Museum has provided us with two stunning examples of Italian Masterpieces. First we see Andrea Mantegna's "A Sibyl and a Prophet." (left). Andrea Mantegna was born about 1431 near Padua, a city that was in the forefront of the Renaissance rediscovery of classical culture. From an early age, Mantegna was recognized for his talent and style. The muse of success accompanied him throughout his life as he was persuaded to become the painter to the Gonzaga court at Mantua. He created for this family until his death (September 13, 1506) with only a short period of 2 years where he was in service for Pope Innocent VIII at the Vatican. It was during the Mantua period that Mantegna executed some of his greatest works, such as the frescoes on two walls and the ceiling of the Camera degli Sposi (bedroom) in the Palazzo Ducale. It was also at this time that "A Sibyl and a Prophet" was brought to life. Extraordinary in its detail and emotional content, this painting on canvas would have us believe it is actually a bronze relief. Your fingers will crave to explore the folds of fabric and the locks of curls, only to find it is a two-dimensional medium. The artist's desire to draw us into the debate is achieved masterfully, leaving us to use our own imagination as to what is transpiring between these captivating figures.
The next painting (right) is Bernardo Strozzi's "David with the Head of Goliath." Strozzi was the leading painter of Genoa during the first third of the seventeenth century. In 1598, he took religious vows as a Capuchin Friar in the monastery of San Barnaba, although continuing to paint. Eventually he left the monastic way of life and his choice of subject matter, which had been dominated primarily by Saint Francis and the Madonna, broadened. At the same time, his style slowly transformed from a more Mannerist approach to the boldness of the Baroque era. His use of color and lighting gave his subjects, as in "David with the Head of Goliath," the appearance of being in a dreamlike state. During this growth, Strozzi found his home in Venice where he remained for the last 15 years of his life. It was there that his style came into full strength and glory as he assumed the leadership of the local school, setting the tone, along with other artists, for the exuberant style of Venetian painting of the eighteenth century.
"David with the Head of Goliath" depicts a young David, the shepherd boy of Israel, who miraculously slew Goliath, the giant warrior of the Philistines. When the Philistines saw that their champion was dead, they fled. David cut off the head of Goliath and brought it in triumph to Jerusalem. The style in which Strozzi speaks to the viewer combines the innocence of divine inspiration with the gruesome reality of the actions necessary to fulfill a vision.