Some of the masterpieces of Italian printmaking go on rare display in the Art Gallery of South Australia
s new exhibition, A beautiful line. The exhibition, which is the most comprehensive study of Italian printmaking undertaken at the Gallery in over 25 years, includes 135 prints dating from the mid-fifteenth to the eighteenth centuries, by masters such as Andrea Mantegna, Titian, Tiepolo, Canaletto, and Piranesi.
There are around 2000 Italian prints in the Art Gallery of South Australias collection but due to their fragility and sensitivity to light, they can be displayed only rarely. A beautiful line presents a once-in-a-generation opportunity to see the most outstanding works from this collection including many new acquisitions, showcased together for the first time, to tell the story of Italian printmaking from the Renaissance to the Rococo.
A beautiful line offers an insight into the rich visual culture of Italy during this time by showcasing etchings, engravings and woodcut prints which emerged from the major printmaking centres of Venice and Rome, as well as Florence, Verona and Bologna.
Among the highlights, at almost three metres long, is Stefano Della Bellas commanding six-part work, The entrance of the Polish Ambassador into Rome, 1633. This important new acquisition is revealed publicly for the first time in this exhibition and is believed to be the only one of its kind in Australia.
Other attractions include Andrea Mantegnas Renaissance masterpiece The Entombment, woodcuts by Titian and his contemporaries, and G.B. Piranesis dark and evocative prints of imaginary prisons from the eighteenth century. Subjects range from scenes of the commedia dellarte, Biblical stories, Roman Emperors, gods and goddesses, to views of cities and architectural landmarks, such as Romes colosseum.
The Art Gallery of South Australias Italian print collection began over a century ago when Scottish-born Adelaide businessman and art collector David Murray bequeathed 3000 European old master prints to the Gallery, which later purchased a further 1600 prints from his estate. The collection has since grown using funds from the bequests of Sir Samuel Way, A.R. Ragless and others. More recently, key works for this exhibition have been purchased using the V.B.F. Young Bequest Fund and with donations through the Art Gallery Foundation.
A beautiful line is curated by Maria Zagala, the Gallerys Associate Curator of Prints, Drawings and Photographs.
A beautiful line: Italian prints from Mantegna to Piranesi is showing only at the Art Gallery of South Australia in Adelaide, daily from 20 August until 31 October 2010.