The exhibition At the Cradle of Art. Italian Drawings and Paintings from Giotto to Botticelli focuses on the beginnings of the Italian Renaissance in the 14th and 15th centuries, during the period of transition from the Middle Ages to the Early Modern era, when artists such as Giotto, Fra Angelico, Filippino Lippi, Pintoricchio and Sandro Botticelli adopted a completely new approach to realism.
With their lively engagement with their surroundings and the application of the developing principles of perspective, they opened up new pictorial space, while the simultaneous rediscovery of the legacy of classical antiquity also extended the traditional thematic repertoire. In consequence, the ideal and the strikingly realistic, the sacred and deeply religious and the secular and profane appear side by side.
In a very literal sense, the exhibition affords in-depth insights into the works on display: in recent years, all drawings and paintings of the Italian Late Gothic and Early Renaissance periods in the holdings of the Kupferstich-Kabinett
and the Gemäldegalerie Alte Meister have been closely examined using radiodiagnostic imaging techniques. These research methods revealed underdrawings and other elements invisible to the naked eye, new information on the state of preservation of the works, and in particular, insight into how they were created. Thus, it is now possible half a millennium later to understand how the very first strokes were applied to paper or canvas, giving the viewer a virtual glimpse over the artists shoulder as the image begins to take shape.
The research findings presented here, along with a special section of the exhibition on the function of drawing, highlight the fundamental importance which work in pen and metalpoint assumed during this period. Indeed, drawing be it on paper or as underdrawing for paintings long remained the essential foundation for the creative process in art throughout Europe. This exhibition presents drawings and paintings in close juxtaposition, in a comparative view which provides fascinating insights into one of the most creative eras in the history of western art.
A catalogue, published by Deutscher Kunstverlag Berlin, accompanies the exhibition: this documents the entire holdings of 14th- and 15th-century drawings in the collections of the Kupferstich-Kabinett and the Gemäldegalerie Alte Meister, and provides further explanation of the research methods used.