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The Renaissance Portrait: From Donatello to Bellini

The exhibition is made possible by the William Randolph Hearst Foundation, the Diane W. and James E. Burke Fund, the Gail and Parker Gilbert Fund, and The Horace W. Goldsmith Foundation.

The exhibition was organized by Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, Gemäldegalerie
and The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.

It is supported by an indemnity from the Federal Council on the Arts and the Humanities.

The exhibition catalogue is made possible by the Samuel I. Newhouse Foundation, Inc.

Works of Art

  • A Boy
    A Boy

    Attributed to Gian Cristoforo Romano (Italian, Rome ca.1465–1512 Loreto)

    Date: late 15th–early 16th century
    Accession Number: 32.100.154

  • Portrait of a Woman with a Man at a Casement
    Portrait of a Woman with a Man at a Casement

    Fra Filippo Lippi (Italian, Florence ca. 1406–1469 Spoleto)

    Date: ca. 1440
    Accession Number: 89.15.19

  • Federigo Gonzaga (1500–1540)
    Federigo Gonzaga (1500–1540)

    Francesco Francia (Italian, Bologna ca. 1447–1517 Bologna)

    Date: 1510
    Accession Number: 14.40.638

  • Giovanni Gioviano Pontano (1426–1503)
    Giovanni Gioviano Pontano (1426–1503)

    Adriano Fiorentino (Adriano di Giovanni de' Maestri) (Italian, Florence (?) born ca. 1450–60, died 1499 Florence)

    Date: ca. 1490
    Accession Number: 1991.21

  • Portrait of a Young Man
    Portrait of a Young Man

    Antonello da Messina (Antonello di Giovanni d'Antonio) (Italian, Messina ca. 1430–1479 Messina)

    Date: ca. 1470
    Accession Number: 14.40.645

  • Apollo and Marsyas
    Apollo and Marsyas

    Date: 15th century
    Accession Number: 1986.319.8

Featured Media

The Renaissance Portrait from Donatello to Bellini

Program information

Hear two outstanding scholars consider the art of biography and poetics of portraiture in fifteenth-century Italy.

Presented with the exhibition The Renaissance Portrait from Donatello to Bellini.
Learn more: http://www.metmuseum.org/exhibitions/listings/2011/the-renaissance-portrait-f...

Lectures
Portraits in Words: The Arts of Biography in Fifteenth-Century Italy
Anthony Grafton, Henry Putnam University Professor of History, Princeton University

Leonardo's Ginevra de' Benci and the Poetics of Portraiture in Fifteenth-Century Florence
Caroline Elam, senior research fellow, The Warburg Institute, University of London

This event is made possible in part by the Italian Cultural Institute.
The exhibition is made possible by the William Randolph Hearst Foundation, the Diane W. and James E. Burke Fund, the Gail and Parker Gilbert Fund, and The Horace W. Goldsmith Foundation.
The exhibition was organized by Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, Gemäldegalerie and The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.
It is supported by an indemnity from the Federal Council on the Arts and the Humanities.
The exhibition catalogue is made possible by the Samuel I. Newhouse Foundation, Inc.

The Renaissance Portrait from Donatello to Bellini

December 21, 2011–March 18, 2012

Accompanied by a catalogue and an Audio Guide

It has been said that the Renaissance witnessed the rediscovery of the individual. In keeping with this notion, early Renaissance Italy also hosted the first great age of portraiture in Europe. Portraiture assumed a new importance, whether it was to record the features of a family member for future generations, celebrate a prince or warrior, extol the beauty of a woman, or make possible the exchange of a likeness among friends. This exhibition brings together approximately 160 works—by artists including Donatello, Filippo Lippi, Botticelli, Verrocchio, Ghirlandaio, Pisanello, Mantegna, Giovanni Bellini, and Antonello da Messina, and in media ranging from painting and manuscript illumination to marble sculpture and bronze medals, testifying to the new vogue for and uses of portraiture in fifteenth-century Italy.

During the early Renaissance, artists working in Florence, Venice, and the courts of Italy created magnificent portrayals of the people around them—from heads of state and church to patrons, scholars, poets, and artists—concentrating for the first time on producing recognizable likenesses and expressions of personality. The rapid development of portraiture was linked closely to Renaissance society and politics, ideals of the individual, and concepts of beauty. The object may have been to commemorate a significant event—a marriage, death, the accession to a position of power—or it may have been to record the features of an esteemed member of the family for future generations.

Featuring many rare international loans, this exhibition presents an unprecedented survey of the period and provide new research and insight into the early history of portraiture. It is divided into three sections and spans a period of eight decades. Beginning in Florence, where independent portraits first appeared in abundance, it moves to the courts of Ferrara, Mantua, Bologna, Milan, Urbino, Naples and papal Rome, and ends in Venice, where a tradition of portraiture asserted itself surprisingly late in the century.

In Florence, the most striking innovations occurred first in sculpture and were then taken up in painting. In the courts, thanks in large measure to the genius of Pisanello, the medal became the preferred means of recording a likeness. The medals, which were durable, could be produced in multiple casts, and were easily exchanged among the social elite. In Venice the painted portrait held sway, thanks to the achievements of Antonello da Messina and Giovanni Bellini, whose portraits resolutely abandoned the dominant Italian convention for the profile to present the sitter turned three-quarters, his or her distant gaze and delicately modeled features expressing hints of an interior life.

As Leon Battista Alberti declared in his treatise on painting, composed in 1435: "Painting possesses a truly divine power in that not only does it make the absent present (as they say of friendship), but it also represents the dead to the living many centuries later, so that they are recognized by spectators with pleasure and deep admiration for the artist."

Related Link: Münzkabinett's Online Catalogue (Staatliche Museen zu Berlin)