Welcome to Museum Monday, where I showcase some of the great events going on at museums and the interactive museum experience. This week I am pleased to share the latest news from the Art Institute of Chicago and their involvement in the Google Art Project.
Chai Lee, Associate Director of Public Affairs, was kind enough to take time from his busy schedule to discuss the addition of the Art Institute in the expansion of the Art Project. “Google came to us after going around the world approaching different museums. They captured 50 percent of the medium base, and the results were spectacular.”
Impressionism, Post Impressionism, Asian art, and African art galleries are all represented on the Google Gallery views. This ‘street view’ of the various collections was accomplished during December and January over five evenings, photographing the galleries to give the world access to what is available at the Art Institute. The masterpieces featured combine contributions from all 34 curators who chose from the Institute’s 300,000 objects. The 550 choices were reduced to a final count of 155 pieces of art by 125 artists that can be viewed individually or in their gallery setting.
For the mega pixel image, the museum chose the famous “A Sunday on La Grande Jatte”, by Georges Seurat, 1884. An icon of Chicago and the Art Institute, this popular painting of immense proportion commands a majority of its gallery location. A detailed study of the finite brush strokes is difficult to surmount without the technology offered by the Google Art Project. Taken off the wall, the painting was put into the conservation lab, and special photographers worked in the dark detailing this spectacular painting. On display, viewing this work up close is not possible, due to its popularity and size. But thanks to Google, every bit of action captured in this painting can be studied and scrutinized.
I have chosen to highlight some of my personal favorites from the Art Institute, interspersed with my own photographs. The history of these objects on the details page was a bonus to my own museum experience.
Bust of a Youth, 1630/40, Francesco Mochi
This marble statue is believed to be a bust of St. John the Baptist, and instantly commands attention upon entering the gallery where it is displayed. The technical prowess of the sculptor Mochi is shown by the sharp turn of the youth’s head, the distant gaze, and the parted lips.
The provenance of this piece proves interesting; originally from the collection of Federico Gentili di Giuseppe (d. 1940), and the estate sale at the Hotel Drouot, Paris, 1941. This curatorial auction was declared void by the French court; sold at the Arcole auction house in 1988 to the Anthony Roth of London, and subsequently sold to the Art Institute that same year.
Federico di Giuseppe, an Italian of Jewish descent, amassed a large collection of art that he displayed at his home in Paris. He died of natural causes in the weeks prior to the Nazi invasion of France in 1940, which forced many of his family members to flee the country. The French Vichy government auctioned many objects from his collection in 1941. The Art Institute reached an agreement with the heirs of di Giuseppe in 2000, through a purchase and donation agreement that allowed the museum to keep this beautiful sculpture.
Saint George Killing the Dragon, 1434/35, Bernat Martorell
This vivid painting once formed the center of an altarpiece in the chapel of the Catalan government palace in Barcelona. Saint George was the patron Saint of Catalonia, and Martorell was the leading painter of Barcelona, the capital of Catalonia in northeastern Spain. The image was flanked by smaller, narrative panels, now at the Musee du Louvre in Paris, that illustrate the martyrdom of the Saint in typical gothic style and gruesome detail.
To the left of the St. George picture in the museum view is an interesting room that I wish the Google Art Project had been able to share. Several religious reliquaries and icons are displayed in a tightly controlled atmosphere, the darkened room only adding to the mystic of these unusual items.
The Resurrection, 1619/20,Francesco Buoneri, called Cecco del Caravaggio
The only documented painting by Buoneri, commissioned in 1619 by the Tuscan ambassador to Rome, Piero Guicciardini. Originally rejected by the patron, it was subsequently sold to another collector. Buoneri is considered one of Caravaggio’s closest followers, and may have been the “boy Francesco” who assisted the painter during his last years in Rome. This personal connection is suggested by his nickname, Cecco del Caravaggio. References to this artist can be found in Andrew Graham Dixon’s “Caravaggio, A Life Sacred and Profane”, as the model for the artist’s ‘Cupid’, and the assistant who prepared his paints and canvases.
My thanks to Chai Lee at the Art Institute of Chicago, for sharing his experiences with the Google Art Project and the help of Robby Sexton at the Institute for supporting my blog with great information. My next Museum Monday will continue the latest from Chicago with the current exhibition of Roy Lichtenstein. And just for fun, here is the scene from Ferris Bueller’s Day Off featuring the Art Institute of Chicago.
Graham-Dixon, Andrew, “Caravaggio, A Life Sacred and Profane“, WW Norton & Company, New York, London, 2011, pages 247, 248.