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New discoveries featured in exhibition of Italian master drawings from the Princeton University Art Museum
Remigio Cantagallina: Scene of a Village Square in Tuscany, 1633. Brown ink and brown wash over black chalk and Graphite on light tan paper. Museum purchase, Laura P. Hall Memorial Fund. Courtesy of the Princeton University Art Museum.
PRINCETON, NJ.- More than 90 rarely seen masterworks by legendary artists from the 15th through the early 20th centuries, including Carpaccio, Michelangelo, Tiepolo and Modigliani, will be on view beginning Jan. 25 as part of the Princeton University Art Museum’s special exhibition 500 Years of Italian Master Drawings from the Princeton University Art Museum. A fresh examination of Italian draftsmanship, the exhibition unveils significant new research and insights on the Museum’s collection of more than 1,000 Italian drawings, which is widely considered to be one of the finest collections of its kind in the U.S. The exhibition will be on view from Jan. 25 through May 11, 2014, and is accompanied by an extensive scholarly catalogue, Italian Master Drawings from the Princeton University Art Museum.

“First and foremost this is an opportunity for sheer visual pleasure,” said Museum Director James Steward. “Princeton’s outstanding collection of Italian drawings is widely known to scholars but deserves a broader audience. Through this project we are able to offer new insights into the creative processes of many of the greatest artists of Italian history and to inspire not only drawings experts but also anyone who treasures art on an intimate scale that rewards close looking.”

Curated by Laura Giles, the Heather and Paul G. Haaga Jr., Class of 1970, Curator of Prints and Drawings at the Princeton University Art Museum, the exhibition presents Italian draftsmanship from the early Renaissance to early Modernism. Artists in the exhibition include Barocci, Bernini, Cambiaso, Carpaccio, Annibale Carracci, Cortona, Guercino, Michelangelo, Modigliani, Parmigianino, Rosa, Giambattista and Domenico Tiepolo, Tintoretto and Veronese.

The exhibition is divided into thematic sections that examine drawing technique, studying the masters, the design process, the human body, human expression and collecting and connoisseurship, with in-depth consideration of the figural works of Luca Cambiaso, Guercino and Giambattista Tiepolo, each of whom is richly represented. Beyond its chronological and stylistic sweep, this panoramic exhibition provides dazzling examples of the pivotal role played by drawing, or “disegno,” in Italian intellectual and artistic life, both as a form of mark-making and as an overall design concept.

Among the highlights of the exhibition are two standing Middle Eastern women by Venetian artist Vittore Carpaccio (circa 1501–08); an elegant torso of a man in armor by the mannerist master Parmigianino (circa 1521–22); the rare brush drawing Saint Herculianus Visited by an Angel by celebrated Venetian painter Veronese (circa 1586–87); a rare red chalk study of a nude by the groundbreaking Baroque prodigy Gian Lorenzo Bernini (circa 1618–24); Giambattista Tiepolo’s dynamic Seated Woman and Satyr on Clouds (circa 1740); and a languorous female nude by early modernist Amedeo Modigliani (circa 1914).

Many of the drawings in the exhibition have benefited from new research and discoveries concerning attribution, iconography, date, function and provenance. One of the noteworthy findings is the discovery, first made in the 1990s, of an architectural sketch by Michelangelo on the reverse side of a study of heads that had been tentatively associated with the artist. The ground plan for a chapel in Santa Maria Maggiore was revealed through infrared reflectography, thus confirming the attribution as a work by one of the great masters of the Renaissance.

Authored and edited by Giles, the accompanying catalogue includes an important overview of the collection and its history by Giles and entries by Lia Markey, Princeton University Lecturer in the Department of Art and Archaeology, and independent writer and scholar Claire Van Cleave, with additional contributions by other leading specialists in the field. The publication is the first since 1977 to focus on the Museum’s expansive collection of Italian drawings and received major funding from the Getty Foundation.

In addition to the publication, the Museum’s online collections catalogue will be updated with new research and high-resolution images, providing global access to the Museum’s significant holdings of Italian drawings.

500 Years of Italian Master Drawings from the Princeton University Art Museum has been made possible by generous support from Diane W. Burke; Susan and John Diekman, Class of 1965; John H. Rassweiler; the Allen R. Adler, Class of 1967, Exhibitions Fund; The Peter Jay Sharp Foundation; the Caroline G. Mather Fund; the Apparatus Fund; Marco Grassi, Class of 1956; the New Jersey State Council on the Arts/Department of State, a Partner Agency of the National Endowment for the Arts; and the Partners and Friends of the Princeton University Art Museum. The publication has been made possible, in part, by the Getty Foundation; the Barr Ferree Foundation Fund for Publications, Department of Art and Archaeology, Princeton University; and the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, with additional support provided by Anne Searle Bent.

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