Moroni: Renaissance Portraiture At Royal Academy

Tabish Khan
By Tabish Khan Last edited 45 months ago
Moroni: Renaissance Portraiture At Royal Academy ★★★☆☆ 3
Giovanni Battista Moroni
 The Tailor, c. 1570
 Oil on canvas, 99.5 x 77 cm
 The National Gallery, London
 Photo c. The National Gallery, London
The Tailor, c. 1570. Photo: The National Gallery, London
Giovanni Battista Moroni
 Isotta Brembati, c.1555
 Oil on canvas, 160 x 115 cm
 Fondazione Museo di Palazzo Moroni - Lucretia Moroni Collection, Bergamo.
 Photo Fondazione Museo di Palazzo Moroni - Lucretia Moroni Collection, Bergamo. Photography: Marco Mazzoleni.
Isotta Brembati, c.1555. Fondazione Museo di Palazzo Moroni. Photography: Marco Mazzoleni.
Giovanni Battista Moroni
 A Gentleman in Adoration before the Baptism of Christ, c.1555-60
 Oil on canvas, 112.8 x 104 cm
 Gerolamo and Roberta Etro
 Photo: Gerolamo and Roberta Etro
A Gentleman in Adoration before the Baptism of Christ, c.1555-60. Photo: Gerolamo and Roberta Etro
Giovanni Battista Moroni
 Gian Gerolamo Grumelli, c. 1560
 Oil on canvas, 216 x 123 cm
 Fondazione Museo di Palazzo Moroni - Lucretia Moroni Collection, Bergamo.
 Photo Fondazione Museo di Palazzo Moroni - Lucretia Moroni Collection, Bergamo. Photography: Marco Mazzoleni.
Gian Gerolamo Grumelli, c. 1560. Fondazione Museo di Palazzo Moroni. Photography: Marco Mazzoleni.
Giovanni Battista Moroni
 Young Lady, c.1560-65
 Oil on canvas, 51 x 42 cm
 Private collection
 Photo: Private collection
Young Lady, c.1560-65. Photo: Private collection
Giovanni Battista Moroni
 Gian Girolamo Albani, c.1570
 Oil on canvas, 107 x 75 cm
 Private Collection
 Photo: Private collection
Gian Girolamo Albani, c.1570. Photo: Private collection

Londonist Rating: ★★★☆☆

Think Italian Renaissance painters and it's unlikely that Giovanni Batista Moroni is one that would spring to mind, in fact most people won't have heard of him. This exhibition is a survey of his works and intends to bring to light an unsung genius of the Renaissance, much like the National Gallery did with their excellent Barocci show last year.

Moroni's strength lies in portraiture and when he tackles biblical scenes for altarpieces his works aren't as captivating as other heralded Renaissance painters such as Titian or Tintoretto who excelled in their large scale paintings.

As for his portraits, his use of colour differentiates him from other painters of the time. Moroni does use bright colours but he is able to paint black clothing with folds that are barely visible, and this gives the material a rich and sumptuous feel that holds the eye and draws you in. It's a fantastic skill that stands in stark contrast to the bright colours used by other Renaissance painters.

He also painted many portraits in a simple style with just a grey background, a method that would be used to great effect many years later by Dutch masters such as Rembrandt. Moroni excels in realistically portraying age and our favourite works from this  include a portrait of a Carthusian friar where individual wrinkles on his forehead are clearly visible. In other paintings wrinkled hands of elderly subjects are proof of Moroni's skill in capturing the exact likeness of his sitter.

Moroni was a superb portraitist and that's clear from this exhibition, though we were less impressed by his altarpieces. The difficulty for this show is that it lacks the scale of Barocci or Veronese, or the famous name and life story of Rembrandt. While there are some superb works on display here it's unlikely that this exhibition will have mass appeal.

Giovanni Batista Moroni is on at Royal Academy of Arts until 25 January. Tickets are £12 for adults, concessions available. Also still on at the Royal Academy is the monumental Anselm Kiefer exhibition.

For more great art to see in London, visit our October listings.

Last Updated 25 October 2014