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Borsheim Art Newsletter:

by Kelly Borsheim copyright 12 July 2011

  1. Authenticating Artwork: Caravaggio and Ricci
  2. Events - Invitation for This Sunday!
  3. Something Borrowed, Something Blue
  4. Blog Highlights
  5. Subscription Info.

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[Sebastiano Ricci art]

"Saint Antoine de . . . "
oil on canvas by Sebastiano Ricci
(Louvre, Paris)

Dear Art Lover,
There are so many good artists out there, even if one limits the conversation to the art in the museums. You could confine your search to a style, a time period, or even a country, and still be overwhelmed. I went to visit the Blanton Museum of Art in Austin, Texas, last month with a friend. While I have seen many of the paintings before, it is always interesting when the museum rearranges works because you see the art related to other pieces in a new way and often take a fresh look at a familiar "face."

Recently The National Gallery of Canada in Ottowa added a new painting to its listing of exhibited works in the show that began on June 17. The painting of Saint Augustine was discovered in a private collection in Britain after being lost for hundreds of years and is now being attributed to Caravaggio.

[St Augustine attributed to Caravaggio] Italian artist Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio (1571-1610) became known for his dramatic use of chiaroscuro (light and dark), as well as his depicting "normal" (vs. idealized or aristocratic) people in his often religious-themed paintings. Now, I did not get my art education the usual way and thus, am still trying to learn a lot about art history, but this painting did not look like a Caravaggio to me. I do not have a problem being wrong on something I know little about, especially when I have not thoroughly educated myself on the topic or even seen the real painting, but I would not mind seeing more information on this one.

The painting was dated when the artist was 28 years old or the year 1600. The leading scholar on this (and co-author of the book coming out with the new attribution proclaimed), Sebastian Schütze, explained that the painting was never thought to be as dramatic as the work of the well-known Caravaggio until the work was restored.

The reason that statement caught my attention has to do with some of my past experiences in Florence, Italy. Now, let me preface: Many things are discovered when we go looking, as well as when we clean up and organize things we already have in our possession. That is natural. And treasures need a good dusting off once in a while. In addition, of course, once we really LOOK at something, we notice so much more.

That said, many years ago I attended a lecture at the Charles Cecil art school in Florence. It was given by Richard Serrin and was about how the restoration of the Sistine Chapel not only ruined it with non-fresco and overly bright colors, but also changed much of the design work that Michelangelo completed. Mr. Serrin's slides give an incredible and compelling argument. Later on, one of my streetpainting colleagues had confided to me that she wanted to learn how to draw in a more classical style as I do. Her studies were in restoration and did not cover the usual training that fine artists receive. This completely surprised me since I had the assumption that most restorers were technically proficient artists who did not want to deal with the complexities of producing and selling their own fine art. Restoration gave them a paycheck while keeping them involved in the art world and they kept learning and using their skills. After asking around a bit, I understand that most restorers do not receive fine art training to the level of fine artists.

So, back to my visit to the Blanton Museum . . . I had admired quite a large painting titled "Flora" by Sebastiano Ricci (Italian 1659-1734). Lately I have been studying classical paintings and sculpture to see how artists used composition to help tell a story. Composition is sometimes used by artists to hint at a figure's future or past. Almost every character in mythology and the religions around the world has specific attributes or symbols to identify them and often describe what they represent. Much of that is lost on today's audiences and thankfully, the museums give interesting write-ups to help viewers see what the artists' contemporary public understood.

[Flora original oil painting by Italian master Sebastiano Ricci]
Sebastiano Ricci
125.3 cm x 153.7 cm (49 5/16 in. x 60 1/2 in.)
Oil on canvas, circa 1712-1716
The Suida-Manning Collection, with support from The Cain Foundation in memory of Effie Marie Cain

In Ricci's "Flora" I noticed that the angelic figures in the painting surrounded the main figure of the woman in a circular pattern, the positions of their bodies and limbs leading the eye around her and thereby emphasizing her as the subject of the painting. The sign at the Blanton explained what is going on:

"In Ovid's Fasti, the nymph Chloris is seduced by the West Wind, Zephirus, and renamed Flora, goddess of flowers and spring. An important Roman deity, she was associated with voluptuousness. This painting renders the moment before her seduction: as Flora flirts with one putto and suggestively grasps the stem of an iris, Zephirus approaches from behind, indicating his quarry and cautioning silence to another putto. At the right, a vessel spills over with blossoms that portend the result of their union and celebrate their namesake. The design is so equilibrated, the rhythm so elegant, and the handling so rich that a quotation from antique statuary -- the Kneeling Venus -- appears seamless. The painting recalls the great mythological works of sixteenth-century Venice."

The next painting that caught my attention that day depicted some beautifully executed figures with higher contrast and dramatic angles on the musculature, almost the way a sculptor might paint. The lighting was bold, the background architecture helped lead the eye to the main characters, and there was again an intelligent composition of figures. However, I was surprised to see that the same artist, Sebastiano Ricci, had painted the artwork. See what you think of "The Return of the Prodigal Son," circa 1720.

[Prodigal Son painting by Sebastiano Ricci] [Detail figure art The Return of the Prodigal Son original oil painting by Italian master Sebastiano Ricci]

This next painting brings me full circle on my thought processes today. The Blanton Museum had this posted next to "The Entombment of Christ," circa 1694-97, listed as having been painted by Sebastiano Ricci:

"This painting had long been attributed to the extravagant Genoese painter Alessandro Magnasco, whose "Mythological Scene with Ruins" hangs on the same wall. Conservation treatment in 2005 revealed drawing that is firmer, light that is sharper, and a palette that is more varied than in Magnasco's works. Between 1694 and 1697 Sebastiano Ricci was engaged in major projects in and around Milan. His influence upon Magnasco, long active in the Lombard capital, is evident in many works and well known. This painting, on the other hand, represents the reciprocal but less recognized response of Ricci to the highly eccentric and deforming style of the Genoese master."

[Entombment of Christ painting by Sebastiano Ricci] [Detail figure art Entombment of Christ original oil painting by Italian master Sebastiano Ricci]

And that makes the detective work even more difficult, does it not? Not only are artists constant explorers and may not follow an easily traceable path of growth, but they also influence each other, just as the public taste or "fads" sometimes can. In addition to that, Sebatiano collaborated with his nephew and accomplished painter, Marco Ricci, in his later years, adding another painting voice to the mix.

Incidentally, The National Gallery of Canada believes its "new Caravaggio" is authentic. In any event, even without "Saint Augustine," its current exhibition "Caravaggio and his followers in Rome" includes a dozen Caravaggios. A collection like this is a rare grouping and you should go see it if there is any possible way. Exhibit continues through September 11, 2011, in Ottawa.

For your reading pleasure:

Original Artworks by Italian painter Sebastiano Ricci

I tried to organize these images by the dates they were created. The last one from the Louvre was not dated on the site...

[Tarqin The Elder Consulting Attius Navius Sebastiano Ricci]
Tarqin The Elder Consulting Attius Navius
Oil on Canvas 1690, The J. Paul Getty Museum
[Allegory Of The Arts by Italian master Sebastiano Ricci]
Allegory Of The Arts
Oil on Canvas 1690-94

[The Rape Of The Sabine Women Sebastiano Ricci]
The Rape Of The Sabine Women
Oil on Canvas 1700, Liechtenstein Museum
[Note the influence of Bernini's marble group
'Pluto and Proserpina' (in the Galleria Borghese, Rome).]
[Battle Of The Romans And The Sabines Sebastiano Ricci]
Battle Of The Romans And The Sabines
Oil on Canvas 1700, Liechtenstein Museum

[painting Venus and Cupid Sebastiano Ricci]
Venus and Cupid
Oil on Canvas 1700

[Diana and Her Dog Sebastiano Ricci]
Diana and Her Dog
Sebastiano Ricci
29 1/8 x 21 7/8 in.
Oil on Canvas 1700-1705, The J. Paul Getty Museum
[Perseus Confronting Phineus With Head Of Medusa Sebastiano Ricci]
Perseus Confronting Phineus With Head Of Medusa
25 3/16 x 30 5/16 in.
Sebastiano Ricci, Italian
Oil on Canvas 1705-10, The J. Paul Getty Museum

[The Death Of Seneca Sebastiano Ricci]
The Death Of Seneca (recto), Study Of A Man (verso)
Ink Brown Wash Black Chalk 1705, The J. Paul Getty Museum
[Apostelkommunion Sebastiano Ricci]
Oil on Canvas 1720-25

[Triumph Of The Marine Venus oil painting Sebastiano Ricci]
Triumph Of The Marine Venus
Oil on Canvas 1713, The J. Paul Getty Museum

[Venus Entouree De Nymphes Regardant Une Rounde D'Amours Sebastiano Ricci]
Venus Entouree De Nymphes Regardant Une Rounde D'Amours
Louvre, Paris

Events - Invitation for This Sunday!

You are invited to see over 120 sculptures in a variety of materials and styles by over 45 sculptors, including three of my own sculptures. Organized as the summer exhibition of The Texas Society of Sculptors, the Georgetown City Library in central Texas is a wonderful space for viewing 3-d art. There is even a HUGE charging bronze rhinoceros to great you as you enter the library.

Award ceremony and reception: THIS Sunday, July 17
1:00 - 3:00 p.m. on the second floor of the library
Awards will be announced at 1:30 p.m. Live music starts at 2 p.m.

Georgetown City Library
402 W. 8th St. (just west of the courthouse)
Georgetown, Texas 78626

See you there! [Exhibit continues through 23 September 2011.]


Mark your Calendars for "First Friday Art Walk" in September … in Indianapolis.
Won't you join me at The Franklin Barry Gallery on Friday, September 2, as the galleries on Massachusetts Avenue in downtown Indy will be open late to allow you to browse and mingle and check out the latest works of art. I will be showing artworks inspired by "Italian Living" and I always enjoy my visits to the Franklin Barry Gallery with owner Don Elliott. Start your Labor Day weekend off with some fun!

Something Borrowed, Something Blue:

And speaking of The Franklin Barry Gallery, they currently have on exhibit something COOL for your summer viewing pleasure: the original artwork for the image (below) titled "L'Inverno" (means 'winter' in Italian). The inspiration ("something borrowed") for this pastel and charcoal artwork comes from an Italian window display that I admired in Florence, Italy, many years ago. It is near a chocolate shoppe that I am still dying to try out. You see, when I am in that part of town, I seem to always be on my way to somewhere else. I prefer for my first experience there to be savored, and yet, when I do find time for indulging and think of it, the shoppe is closed. But hey, it is good to have goals, and I am looking forward to returning to Italy later this year.

The "something blue" refers to the primary hue of the drawing. I was playing with an idea for putting in lots of color (layers of a variety of warm colors in the lights, contrasted with multiple cool colors in the shadows), one of the joys and challenges of working with pastels.

[pastel painting of Winter by Kelly Borsheim]

See a larger version and a detail shot online here:


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As always, I do enjoy your feedback and suggestions for topics you would like to read about. Thank you for reading and by all means, forward this newsletter to anyone you think would enjoy it.

Pace (peace),
Kelly Borsheim
12 July 2011

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