Moroni: Renaissance Portraiture At Royal Academy
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