November 29, 2015

On the trail of Andrea del Sarto

If you're looking for a little peace and quiet this holiday season, may I suggest a visit to The Frick Collection - one of New York's cultural gems and a calm oasis from crowds and commercialism.  This fall The Frick offers yet another reason to visit its magnificent permanent collection as it presents a special exhibition entitled "Andrea del Sarto:  The Renaissance Workshop in Action".
Though Andrea del Sarto (1486-1530) is not a familiar name to many modern Americans, he was, in his time, a very successful artist and an even more influential teacher.  Born Andrea d'Agnolo, he was called Andrea del Sarto after his father's profession as a tailor, or sarto.  He was also known during his lifetime as an artist senza errori ("free from errors") although his fame was later eclipsed by other High Renaissance artists such as Leonardo da Vinci and Michelangelo.

This exhibition, curated in conjunction with The Getty Center in Los Angeles, is the debut of Andrea's drawings and paintings in the United States.  On display in the Lower Galleries are eighty superb drawings, mostly executed in red or black chalk on paper, depicting head and figure studies and composite preparatory sketches for his oil paintings.  Exquisitely rendered from live models as well as sculptures, these drawings are examples of Renaissance draftsmanship at its finest.

 "Study of a Woman", c. 1517-1525

Upstairs in the Frick's beautiful Oval Room, we find three masterful oils including "Portrait of a Young Man" believed to be a self portrait, "St. John the Baptist" and "The Medici Holy Family" (see below), each with accompanying sketches.

If I've piqued your interest in the work of Andrea del Sarto you might continue your tour up Fifth Avenue to the Metropolitan Museum of Art where a special mini-exhibition is on view in Gallery 624.  Here you will find two magnificent works, one part of The Met's extensive collection of Italian Renaissance art entitled "Holy Family with Young Saint John the Baptist" (see below) and the other, "Charity" on loan from the National Gallery of Art in Washington DC.

This is a very special opportunity not only to compare these two great paintings but also to see the "underpinnings" of these works.  Using state of the art technology, we can now see what lies beneath the surfaces and how exactly Andrea was able to create these large images.

Working from preparatory drawings like the ones now on view at the Frick, Andrea and his workshop created full size sketches called "cartoons".  These cartoons were arranged on top of the painting's canvas with a sheet of carbon-black coated paper placed in between.  The image was then traced with a stylus from the cartoon, though the carbon paper and onto the canvas beneath.  This proved to be a very efficient method as the same cartoons could be rearranged and reused on a variety of images.  Infrared examination shows that they could also be manipulated and adjusted for the final product.

"Charity", before 1530

In 1512 Andrea married the widow of a hatter, a woman named Lucrezia whom he portrayed in many of his paintings, often as the Madonna.  According to contemporary accounts, she was not as devoted to her husband as she might have been and all but abandoned him as he succumbed to the Bubonic Plague at the age of 43.  Despite this short career he left an impressive body of work and American museum goers are fortunate indeed to enjoy this artistic re-introduction thanks to The Frick, The Met and The Getty.
Andrea d’Agnolo (1486–1530), called Andrea del Sarto after his father’s profession as a tailor (sarto), transformed the art of drawing in Renaissance Florence. An extraordinary artist and innovator, he also ran a large and highly esteemed workshop from which several pupils went on to achieve notable careers. - See more at:

No comments: