Visit to the National Gallery – The paintings

I wrote my notes room by room so I’ll write them up that way here too. I was only supposed to be going to see three or four paintings (in detail) but I couldn’t help myself and I did have all day so I ‘stopped by’ a lot more than I looked at ‘critically’.

Room 6

‘The Adoration of the Name of Jesus’, El Greco, 1578

El Greco, 1541 - 1614 The Adoration of the Name of Jesus late 1570s Oil and egg tempera on pine, 55.1 x 33.8 cm Bought, 1955 NG6260 http://www.nationalgallery.org.uk/paintings/NG6260
El Greco, 1541 – 1614
The Adoration of the Name of Jesus
late 1570s
Oil and egg tempera on pine, 55.1 x 33.8 cm
Bought, 1955
NG6260
http://www.nationalgallery.org.uk/paintings/NG6260

While I was going through the online catalogue room by room feature on the National Gallery website, this one caught my eye as one which might be interesting. It doesn’t really use the same colouring or style as most religious painting (which is probably why I found it more interesting, the other can get a little samey on first glance) and I liked the inclusion of clearly modern (at that time) figures within the picture. It’s quite small and indistinct in person though and the gallery lights were quite dim, I was glad I’d picked another in the same room as back up (see the Titian below).

The caption in the gallery reads:

“The Doge of Venice (with his back to us), the Pope (facing us), and King Philip of Spain (in black), kneel amid the heavenly hosts. Above, angels adore the monogram of Christ. The jaws of hell are represented on the right, and in the distance figures are cast into a fiery gulf.” National Gallery, London

 

‘The Tribute Money’ by Titian, about 1560-8 (perhaps begun in the 1540s)

Titian, active about 1506; died 1576 The Tribute Money about 1560-8 (perhaps begun in the 1540s) Oil on canvas, 112.2 x 103.2 cm Bought, 1852 NG224 http://www.nationalgallery.org.uk/paintings/NG224
Titian, active about 1506; died 1576
The Tribute Money
about 1560-8 (perhaps begun in the 1540s)
Oil on canvas, 112.2 x 103.2 cm
Bought, 1852
NG224
http://www.nationalgallery.org.uk/paintings/NG224

This was larger than I’d imagined. Standing in the gallery up close to the painting Christ looks positively boss-eyed which was the first thing I noticed about the painting (surely not Titian’s intent). Almost like he’s looking through the man not at him.

At my eye level the coin that the man is holding up to Christ is very noticeable in the composition, and he’s holding something metal in his other hand which I hadn’t noticed when I viewed the painting online, a purse perhaps? He also has a ring on that hand I hadn’t noticed. Christ’s hands are much paler than the other mans (no rings either), I don’t know why that is though.

The painting was large enough that when standing under it you notice the light reflecting off the surface of the top of the painting, I guess in the time it was painted lighting would have been much more subdued anyway, possibly lower and from candles. The light level in this room is controlled by the sensor in the caption beside the painting.

The surface of the painting is very smooth, you cannot really see any paint texture in it. You can see the painters brushstrokes in the highlights on the cuff and neck of Christ’s clothes though.

“During your gallery visit, take a look at one or two religious paintings. These can be quite hard for the modern viewer to interpret because few of us now have the level of biblical knowledge that contemporary viewers would have had.” (Course Notes p51)

Room 4

A critically looked at painting, already written about here in this blog post:

‘The Ambassadors’, Hans Holbein the Younger

National Gallery Room 4
National Gallery Room 4

Room 9 

‘Mary Magdalene’, by Giovanni Girolamo Savoldo, about 1535-40

Giovanni Girolamo Savoldo, about 1480 - about 1548 Mary Magdalene about 1535-40 Oil on canvas, 89.1 x 82.4 cm Bought, 1878 NG1031 http://www.nationalgallery.org.uk/paintings/NG1031
Giovanni Girolamo Savoldo, about 1480 – about 1548
Mary Magdalene
about 1535-40
Oil on canvas, 89.1 x 82.4 cm
Bought, 1878
NG1031
http://www.nationalgallery.org.uk/paintings/NG1031

This one wasn’t on my list I’d taken with me to check out but I had noticed it when browsing the catalog. This looks like a portrait and not really a religious painting because of the little depiction of Venice in the back ground. However, in the gallery I couldn’t take my eyes off it. She stares out from the picture at you and her cloak is luminous. It looks so real. It’s set off really nicely by the rather gloomy background on the right hand side of the painting. Its a rather odd pose really because she looks like she’s smuggling something under there but I think its just her hand.

“The story is recounted in the New Testament (John 20), and Mary Magdalene is here identified by the pot of ointment with which she anointed Christ’s body, and by the glimpse of her traditional red dress beneath a silver-grey cloak.” National Gallery, London

 

Room 5

Light in the galleries seem highly dependant on the outside light, perhaps because this smaller room didn’t seem to have any of the electric lights on. I came in here to see the ‘Ugly Duchess’, which I’ve written about in this separate blog post.

An Old Woman ('The Ugly Duchess') - Quinten Massys, about 1513, National Gallery, London.
An Old Woman (‘The Ugly Duchess’) – Quinten Massys, about 1513, National Gallery, London.

 

Room 31 – Mond Room

‘Equestrian Portrait of Charles I’, Anthony van Dyck, about 1637-8

National Gallery - 'Equestrian Portrait of Charles I', Anthony van Dyck, about 1637-8
National Gallery – ‘Equestrian Portrait of Charles I’, Anthony van Dyck, about 1637-8

This portrait is the largest I’ve ever seen as noted in my main gallery visit write up.

The texture of the surface is very smooth. I thought the colours look quite muted, wonder if it needs cleaning?

It’s all very grand, but for me the stars of the gallery space were these striking red background royal portraits. They look so realistic. The lace, the embroidery, really really amazing.

Studio of Peter Paul Rubens - 'Portrait of the Archduke Albert' and 'Portrait of the Infanta Isabella', National Gallery, London http://www.nationalgallery.org.uk/paintings/studio-of-peter-paul-rubens-portrait-of-the-archduke-albert http://www.nationalgallery.org.uk/paintings/studio-of-peter-paul-rubens-portrait-of-the-infanta-isabella
Studio of Peter Paul Rubens – ‘Portrait of the Archduke Albert’ and ‘Portrait of the Infanta Isabella’, National Gallery, London
http://www.nationalgallery.org.uk/paintings/studio-of-peter-paul-rubens-portrait-of-the-archduke-albert
http://www.nationalgallery.org.uk/paintings/studio-of-peter-paul-rubens-portrait-of-the-infanta-isabella

You can see the details a lot better in the proper National Gallery online reproductions (here and here) but the red looks much less vibrant in those than in life (probably why they hadn’t made it to my list of paintings to visit).

Room 30

This was one of the grand old rooms with sofas still in it instead of seating. I came to this room to see the famous Rokeby Venus, which I’ve written about in this separate blog post.

 

The Toilet of Venus ('The Rokeby Venus') 1647-51, Diego Velázquez. National Gallery, London.
The Toilet of Venus (‘The Rokeby Venus’)
1647-51, Diego Velázquez. National Gallery, London.

Room 32

‘The Supper at Emmaus’ by Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio, 1601.

Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio, 1571 - 1610 The Supper at Emmaus 1601 Oil and tempera on canvas, 141 x 196.2 cm Presented by the Hon. George Vernon, 1839 NG172 http://www.nationalgallery.org.uk/paintings/NG172
Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio, 1571 – 1610
The Supper at Emmaus
1601
Oil and tempera on canvas, 141 x 196.2 cm
Presented by the Hon. George Vernon, 1839
NG172
http://www.nationalgallery.org.uk/paintings/NG172

The first thing I noticed when looking at this is that the artist has chosen to make Christ look extremely feminine with soft round features. Also, the colours are nicer and the whole painting is a lot brighter than the gloomy online reproduction. I did not see a postcard for this one so could not compare that. Also, its slightly bigger than I imagined.

The man on the right with the wheel on his front has a weird perspective thing going on with his far hand, its looks enormous. The white scarf in his pocket attracts the eye, so I assume it means something significant.

The Supper at Emmaus 1601, Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio, nAtional Gallery, London
The Supper at Emmaus
1601, Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio, National Gallery, London

Note to self – todo: read the technical bulletin again and write some more.

Room 40 

Already written about in this blog post on the ‘Portrait of Richard Milles’

'Portrait of Richard Milles' probably 1760s, Pompeo Girolamo Batoni, National Gallery, London.
‘Portrait of Richard Milles’
probably 1760s, Pompeo Girolamo Batoni, National Gallery, London.

Room 39

‘Doña Isabel de Porcel’ – Francisco de Goya, before 1805

Francisco de Goya, 1746 - 1828 Doña Isabel de Porcel before 1805 Oil on canvas, 82 x 54.6 cm Bought, 1896 NG1473 http://www.nationalgallery.org.uk/paintings/NG1473
Francisco de Goya, 1746 – 1828
Doña Isabel de Porcel
before 1805
Oil on canvas, 82 x 54.6 cm
Bought, 1896
NG1473
http://www.nationalgallery.org.uk/paintings/NG1473

I added this one to the list to see after seeing this video on youtube. I did very much enjoy seeing this painting despite not being able to see it in the context of the exhibition mentioned (which I missed unfortunately due to having a sick baby to look after in its final week).

The skin tone on the face did look a bit pallid but it is such a beautiful portrait. The surface of the painting isn’t very smooth like many I’d seen this visit. You can see the brushwork of her veil against the light for example.

These were all I wrote notes about (by this time I was a little arted-out for critical looking) however, I took a few more photos of interesting paintings that caught my eye.

Room 24

As mentioned, I went to see the Rembrandt self portrait but opposite him was this gruesome scene (poor Rembrandt, what did he do to deserve to look at that across the way).

Two Followers of Cadmus devoured by a Dragon 1588, Cornelis van Haarlem, National Gallery, London http://www.nationalgallery.org.uk/paintings/cornelis-van-haarlem-two-followers-of-cadmus-devoured-by-a-dragon
Two Followers of Cadmus devoured by a Dragon
1588, Cornelis van Haarlem, National Gallery, London
http://www.nationalgallery.org.uk/paintings/cornelis-van-haarlem-two-followers-of-cadmus-devoured-by-a-dragon

In the same room another great portrait by Rembrandt

'Portrait of Aechje Claesdr', 1634, Rembrandt http://www.nationalgallery.org.uk/paintings/rembrandt-portrait-of-aechje-claesdr.
‘Portrait of Aechje Claesdr’, 1634, Rembrandt
http://www.nationalgallery.org.uk/paintings/rembrandt-portrait-of-aechje-claesdr.

Next door, in a very dark Room 25, was the rather smaller than I had anticipated, ‘A Young Woman standing at a Virginal’ by Johannes Vermeer

Room 25 - a Man looks at 'A Young Woman standing at a Virginal' about 1670-2, Johannes Vermeer http://www.nationalgallery.org.uk/paintings/johannes-vermeer-a-young-woman-standing-at-a-virginal
Room 25 – a Man looks at ‘A Young Woman standing at a Virginal’
about 1670-2, Johannes Vermeer
http://www.nationalgallery.org.uk/paintings/johannes-vermeer-a-young-woman-standing-at-a-virginal
'A Young Woman standing at a Virginal' about 1670-2, Johannes Vermeer, National Gallery London http://www.nationalgallery.org.uk/paintings/johannes-vermeer-a-young-woman-standing-at-a-virginal
‘A Young Woman standing at a Virginal’
about 1670-2, Johannes Vermeer, National Gallery London
http://www.nationalgallery.org.uk/paintings/johannes-vermeer-a-young-woman-standing-at-a-virginal

Sunley Room

This room held a small exhibition which I wrote about in this blog post.

I wanted to get time to visit the Sailsbury wing to see the two I wrote about in my portraits blog post but there just wasn’t. Maybe next time.

 

Reflection on the visit.

Thinking about it now and looking back at my notes I really did try and cram too much into my visit. I expect students who are pushed for time ‘out in the field’ often do this. My personal circumstances are such that I have easy access to London but I’m incredibly short on opportunities to actually go ‘out’ there. When I’m there, I’m working, and when I’m home, I have my baby to look after. My coursework fits nicely into the time that she’s asleep or when I’m commuting I can read but actual opportunities to get to a gallery are ‘by special arrangement’. Thus although I tried to critically look at the paintings, study them, and note what was interesting at the time, or notes and impressions that could only be obtained by actually standing in front of them; the other details of a formal analysis which can be obtained by merely looking at the details of the paintings can easily be obtained by zooming into the pictures on the website.

I did find myself arted-out, by that I mean I’d lost the concentration needed to really look at the works properly after a while. I thought this might happen which is why I tried to prioritise those that I was intending to write about for the assignment near the start of the visit, however it did mean that my trip to the National Portrait Gallery afterwards was a bit of a washout.

I was very pleased that I’d taken the time to create myself a list of paintings to see (despite it being a bit too long), with room numbers an pictures. Also, I thought to take along the Essential Reading How to Write Art History, D’Alleva, with the relevant passages about critical looking marked so that I wouldn’t miss something.

 

Advertisements

One thought on “Visit to the National Gallery – The paintings”

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s