Ingrid D. Rowland is a Professor at the University of Notre Dame’s Rome Global Gateway. Her latest books are The Collector of Lives: Giorgio Vasari and the Invention of Art, cowritten with Noah Charney, and The Divine Spark of Syracuse. (May 2019)
an exhibition at the Galleria Regionale della Sicilia di Palazzo Abatellis, Palermo, December 14, 2018–February 10, 2019
Antonello da Messina
an exhibition at the Palazzo Reale, Milan, February 21–June 2, 2019
Antonello’s real subjects are universals rather than particulars: love, despair, sorrow, amusement, and, above all, light. No one, not even Leonardo or Piero della Francesca, has ever paid such penetrating attention to the way light works. He knew nothing of photons or electromagnetic waves, but he understood, and recorded with uncanny penetration, the differences among beams, rays, reflections, glow, luminosity, and radiance. At the same time, he was a master of psychological detail and of nature, taking care to paint the reflections of infinitesimal ducks on a distant pond, or to set Saint Jerome at ease in his study by surrounding him with a scholar’s ideal company: a placidly loping lion and a sleeping tiger cat.
Baroque Antiquity: Archaeological Imagination in Early Modern Europe
by Victor Plahte Tschudi
For several decades in the early seventeenth century, German-speaking visitors to Rome could tour the city with a strapping Swiss Guard named Hans Rudolf Heinrich Hoch, who liked to use the Italian version of his name, Giovanni Alto—Tall John. Towering over the average Roman in his billowing guardsman’s uniform, complete with cape, ruff, pantaloons, rosette-studded codpiece, and extravagantly plumed top hat, Giovanni Alto cut a dashing figure as he shepherded his charges through the Eternal City, bringing the ruins back to life with his exuberant descriptions while gently extolling the virtues of the Roman Catholic faith. As a final flourish, he would invite his most illustrious clients to sign his guest book. Perhaps this was the moment when he let it be known that he could recommend some very special souvenirs of Rome at a very special price.
an exhibition at the Munch Museum, Oslo, May 6–October 8, 2017
Så mye lengsel på så liten flate [So Much Longing on Such a Small Surface]
by Karl Ove Knausgård
Edvard Munch was never simply a Norwegian artist. His appeal, like his own life, has always been both local and cosmopolitan at the same time. He may be best known internationally for his anguished paintings of the 1890s, especially for the group of works he created between 1893 and 1910 and called, in German, Der Schrei der Natur (The Scream of Nature). In Norway, on the other hand, he is at least as well known, and deservedly so, for his monumental paintings in the Festival Hall, dedicated to the sun and its pale, oblique Nordic light. Two recent exhibitions, one just closed in Oslo, one just opening in New York, suggest the broad range of this complicated but consistently capable artist.
an exhibition at the National Gallery, London, March 15–June 25, 2017
In theory, they were the perfect combination: a Florentine sculptor and a Venetian painter, a master of line and a master of color, Michelangelo Buonarroti and Sebastiano Luciani, the twin subjects of an exhibition this spring at London’s National Gallery. “Michelangelo and Sebastiano” brought together paintings, drawings, sculpture, and letters …
One of the favorite sports of Renaissance artists was a contest called the paragone, the “comparison,” the age-old debate about the most expressive form of art. Like sport itself, the fun lay in playing the game with headlong passion, insisting that painting, or sculpture, or architecture reigned as queen of all the other arts. This spring and summer, the Florentine exhibition “Bill Viola: Electronic Renaissance,” organized around the work of the acclaimed American video artist Bill Viola, has brought the paragone into the twenty-first century.
As Donald Trump denies entry to the already small number of pre-screened refugees the US had agreed to accept—among them Syrian and Iraqi families fleeing terrorism who have been carefully vetted and approved by the UN Refugee agency and by the US Department of Homeland Security—Europeans face a far more dire situation: the hundreds of thousands of desperate people from North Africa and the Middle East, who, without any UN help, are attempting to reach their shores. This is the focus of the haunting documentary Fuocoammare (Fire at Sea).
In September 2015, the Getty Research Institute in Los Angeles acquired the first photographs ever taken of Palmyra, the great trading oasis in the heart of the Syrian desert. With a history that extends back nearly four thousand years, Palmyra has risen and fallen many times. The worst destruction, certainly, was inflicted between June and September of 2015 by the militants of the Islamic State, who obliterated the ancient buildings amid accusations of paganism and idolatry.