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Summer 2016 Exhibitions

There’s much to be said for avoiding Mediterranean countries between May and October, but some attractions won’t wait until the more temperate autumn, notably exhibitions in Madrid, Rome and Venice, the latter two now in their last days. At the Prado is a large show of the proto-surrealist “El Bosco,” or Hieronymus Bosch (until September 11), which marks the cinquecentenary of his death, and was first seen in his native city of ‘s-Hertogenbosch in the Netherlands. Madrid is anyway a second home for Bosch, since several of his greatest pictures, including the “Adoration of the Magi” triptych, normally reside at the Prado. Until recently a visitor could also see an exhibition of Georges de la Tour, that once neglected but increasingly appreciated early French master of light and shade, far in advance of his age, and it was hard to believe that he was born in the century in which Bosch died.

In Rome, “Correggio and Parmigianino: Art in Parma in the 16th Century” at the Scuderie del Quirinale (until June 26) pays homage to that city’s artistic golden age: Parma had seen nothing like it before the cinquecento, and has seen nothing like it since. That brief flowering was thanks to two painters, Antonio Allegri, known as Correggio, and Francesco Mazzola, or Parmigianino. The two worked together, and just how much Parmigianino learned from the older man can be seen in the amazing organ doors which Parmigianino painted for the church of Santa Maria della Steccata church.

There are two days left to see the riveting “Aldo Manuzio and the Venetian Renaissance” at the Accademia in Venice. Aldus wasn’t the first printer when he set up his business in the 1490s, but he was as responsible as anyone for the way that the advent of printing 500 years was ago the equivalent of the digital revolution in our own time, as the show claims, “and Venice its Silicon Valley,” although maybe with better taste in paintings and buildings. More than Gutenberg, Aldus showed that printed books could approach the status of works of art, as with his 1499 edition of the “Hypnerotomachia Poliphili,” which has been called the most beautiful book ever printed.

One other sobering reflection occurs as the British stand on the brink of “leaving Europe,” politically at any rate. The Parma show at the Quirinale is curated by an Englishman, the art historian David Ekserdjian, and several of its best drawings are from collections in England, the British Museum, the Ashmolean in Oxford, and the Duke of Devonshire’s house at Chatsworth. Likewise some of the Aldine books seen in Venice are also loaned from England, notably that “Hypnerotomachia Poliphili”, which belongs to Eton College. However it may be with the European Commission in Brussels, we have ties with Europe which are harder to break.

“Bosch” is on view at the Prado through September 11. “Correggio and Parmigianino: Art in Parma in the 16th Century” is at the Scuderie del Quirinale through June 26. “Aldo Manuzio and the Venetian Renaissance” is at the Gallerie dell’Accademia in Venice through June 19.

Category: Exhibition