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Art Review: Barocci - Brilliance and Grace @ National Gallery

Art Review: Barocci - Brilliance and Grace @ National Gallery
ALI412336 
Credit: Immaculate Conception, c.1575 (oil on canvas) by Federico Fiori Barocci or Baroccio (c.1535-1612)
Galleria Nazionale delle Marche, Urbino, Italy/ Alinari/ The Bridgeman Art Library
Nationality / copyright status: Italian / out of copyright
PLEASE NOTE: The Bridgeman Art Library works with the owner of this image to clear permission. If you wish to reproduce this image, please inform us so we can clear permission for you.
ADDITIONAL USAGE RESTRICTION: ITALIAN RIGHTS NOT AVAILABLE OIL ON CANVAS 222 X 150 cm
Federico Barocci (1535-1612) Immaculate Conception, about 1574-75 Galleria Nazionale delle Marche, Urbino Galleria Nazionale delle Marche, Urbino, Italy / Alinari / The Bridgeman Art Library
oil on paper lined with linen 41 x 31.7 cm
Federico Barocci (1535-1612) Head study for Saint John the Evangelist National Gallery of Art, Washington Ailsa Mellon Bruce Fund 1979 Ailsa Mellon Bruce Fund, Image courtesy National Gallery of Art, Washington
AII80460 
or Baroccio (c.1535-1612)  OIL ON CANVAS 288 X 161 CM
Palazzo Ducale, Urbino, Italy/ The Bridgeman Art Library
Nationality / copyright status: Italian / out of copyright
Federico Barocci (1535-1612) Crucifixion with the Virgin and Saint John the Evangelist, 1556-57 Galleria Nazionale delle Marche, Urbino Palazzo Ducale, Urbino, Italy/ The Bridgeman Art Library
oil on canvas   179 x 253 cm
Federico Barocci (1535-1612) Aeneas Fleeing Troy, 1598 Galleria Borghese, Rome Soprintendenza Speciale per il Patrimonio Storico, Artistico ed Etnoantropologico e per il Polo Museale della città di Roma
AII80461 St. Francis receiving the stigmata; by Barocci or Baroccio, Federico Fiori (c.1535-1612); oil on canvas  353 X 248 cm; Palazzo Ducale, Urbino, Italy; Italian, out of copyright
Federico Barocci (1535-1612) Stigmatization of Saint Francis, 1594-95 Galleria Nazionale delle Marche, Urbino Palazzo Ducale, Urbino, Italy / The Bridgeman Art Library
S0077934
Rest on the Flight into Egypt. Before 1573. Oil on canvas, 133 x 110 cm.

Image licenced to Jason Gray Saint Louis Art Museum by Jason Gray
Usage :  - 3000 X 3000 pixels (Letter Size, A4) 
© Scala / Art Resource
Federico Barocci (1535-1612) Rest on the Flight into Egypt, about 1570-73 Vatican Museums, Vatican City © 2013. Photo Scala, Florence

The Renaissance was, to put it mildly, not lacking in superb painters — Da Vinci, Raphael, Michelangelo, Titian and Botticelli, to name just five. But what are we to make of the National Gallery's claim that they've discovered another Italian master in Barocci, and should he take a place beside these greats?

Barocci was struck down by an illness at a young age that persisted for the rest of his life. Rumours still abound that he was poisoned by a jealous rival. This illness meant he was forced to work at a slow pace, creating few paintings throughout his career. He seldom travelled. But is his art as intriguing as his personal life?

His work is a portfolio of the transition from Renaissance to Baroque art, with his 'Immaculate Conception' creating a sense of movement that would eventually be taken forward by later painters such as Murillo. Highlighting his versatility is a sensational painting of the Nativity where his excellent use of Chiaroscuro rivals the works of Caravaggio.

There are many studies in this exhibition, hinting at Barocci's slow and methodical approach. Though most are only mildly interesting, there are a few that are great works in their own right. A study of the head of St Joseph is so impeccably detailed that it surpasses the final version in 'The Visitation'.

Not all of the paintings on display here should be heralded as masterpieces, but there are many excellent works, such as the Annunciation, that mark Barocci as a great painter. Whether he should be considered one of the chief Italian Renaissance artists is debatable, but his finest works definitely place him in contention.

Barocci: Brilliance and Grace is on at the National Gallery until 19 May. Tickets are £12, concessions available.

Last Updated 13 July 2015

Tabish Khan

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Aidan Ellis

Brilliant!I will be visiting when I am in London - late march.