Thursday, November 09, 2006

Western Classical Music Used To Celebrate Outstanding Exhibitions Of Renaissance And Modernist Paintings In The Nation's Capital

Prayers and Portraits: Unfolding the Netherlandish Diptych

National Gallery of Art

November 12, 2006 to February 4, 2007

"This exhibition, the first devoted to the subject, will bring together almost 36 pairs of Netherlandish panel paintings from the 15th and 16th centuries, including works from public and private collections in Europe and the United States. Unfortunately, the diptych format—essentially two hinged panels that can be opened and closed like a book—was vulnerable to alteration, even the separation and dispersal of the panels. The exhibition will reunite several paintings now owned by different institutions, such as Rogier van der Weyden's Virgin and Child from California with his portrait of Philippe de Croy from Antwerp (c. 1460), and Michael Sittow's Virgin and Child from Berlin with his portrait of Diego de Guevara (?) from the National Gallery of Art (c. 1515/1518). Both of these diptychs are examples of a popular theme that showed a donor portrayed on one panel praying to holy personnages depicted on the other panel. Such diptychs, often small in size, were used for private devotion. Another important diptych combines Hans Memling's Saint John the Baptist from Munich with his Saint Veronica from the National Gallery (c. 1470/1475). Many of the works in the exhibition have been given extensive technical examinations that shed light on painting techniques, workshop practice, and the way the diptychs were constructed and displayed—including some that were not originally diptychs at all but were probably meant to hang side by side as pendants. A fully illustrated catalogue will accompany the exhibition."

Exhibition Images and Brochure.

November 12 Concert 6:30 PM

Suspicious Cheese Lords

Music by Dufay, Josquin, and other Flemish Renaissance composers
Presented in honor of Prayers and Portraits: Unfolding the Netherlandish Diptych

Detailed Texts and Concert Notes (available here soon).


The Société Anonyme:
Modernism for America

Phillips Collection

October 14, 2006–January 21, 2007

"This stunning array of approximately 130 rarely seen works by major 20th-century avant-garde artists, including Constantin Brancusi, Marcel Duchamp, Max Ernst, Wassily Kandinsky, Piet Mondrian, and Man Ray, were crucial to the emergence of modern art in America. The works, from Katherine Dreier’s Société Anonyme Collection of Yale University Art Gallery and those Dreier bequeathed to The Phillips Collection, include key modernist masterpieces such as Joseph Stella’s Brooklyn Bridge and Franz Marc’s Deer in the Forest I."

El Lissitzky: Futurist Portfolios

October 14, 2006–January 21, 2007

"Nineteen prints by Russian artist El Lissitzky comprising two complete lithographic portfolios will be shown in conjunction with the Société Anonyme exhibition. Lissitzky (1890–1941), also an architect and theorist, created the Victory over the Sun portfolio as designs for a futurist opera, and the Proun portfolio ("Proun" is the Latin acronym for "design for the confirmation of the new") to embrace utopian ideals through the use of abstract architectural forms. A gallery will be designed as a Proun room to convey some of Lissitzky's concepts in three dimensions."

The Phillips Collection

THURSDAY November 9, 2006

5–8:30 p.m. Artful Evening

6–8 p.m. Special Event

An Evening with the Art of the Future

In the 1920s, New York City welcomed a host of international artists—from Marcel Duchamp to Alfred Stieglitz—who replaced traditional art ideas and practices with new materials and techniques. The revolutionary works of this era seen in the Société Anonyme exhibition will be celebrated with a performance by award-winning pianist Gilles Vonsattel, gallery talks, film screenings, and more. Included in museum admission.


Charles T. Downey, Washington's music and arts curator at, lists the program to the above special recital by Swiss pianist Gilles Vonsattel as comprising works by Bach, Brahms, Bartók, Debussy, and Liszt -- but you may want to double check.

Or you may want to attend also the concert the next day:

November 10, 2006 (Fri)

8 pm

New Music Salon, American Composer's Forum

Music by Schoenberg, Cage, Kirchner, Harris, Schuller

Hasse Borup (violin) and Mary Kathleen Ernst (piano)

Patricia M. Sitar Center for the Arts

Michel Sittow
Netherlandish, c. 1469 - 1525/1526
Portrait of Diego de Guevara (?), c. 1515/1518
oil on panel, 33.6 x 23.7 cm (13 1/4 x 9 5/16 in.)
Andrew W. Mellon Collection

"Michel Sittow, a northern painter who was born in Estonia on the Baltic Sea but apprenticed in Bruges, was an acclaimed portraitist at the Spanish court. After Queen Isabella's death in 1504, his peripatetic career took him to several northern European centers, including Burgundy, where he probably painted this portrait.

The sitter gazes with serious mien, not at the viewer, but at an unseen point beyond the picture's frame. The ornate carpet covering the stone parapet on which his hand rests provided scholars with an important clue that led to the discovery of the object of his concentration -- a painting of the Madonna and Child, of similar dimensions, in the Gemäldegalerie in Berlin. In that panel a larger portion of the parapet, covered by the same carpet, appears as a support for the Christ Child. It seems certain that the Berlin and Washington panels were originally hinged together to form a devotional diptych.

Circumstantial evidence suggests that the National Gallery's portrait represents Diego de Guevara, a nobleman whose family came from Santander in northern Spain. For forty years Don Diego was a valued member of the Habsburg court in Burgundy. Supporting this identity is the embroidered cross of the Spanish Order of Calatrava on his golden doublet; after serving in numerous positions of trust in the households of Philip the Fair and Charles V, Don Diego was appointed to the wardenship of that order."

Image and text credit: (c) National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C. With thanks.


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