The Frick Collection in New York City will present the first major North American exhibition featuring Renaissance painter Giovanni Battista Moroni entitled Moroni: The Riches of Renaissance Portraiture.
In 16th century Italy, one of the aims of portraiture was to make the absent seem present through a naturalistic representation of the sitter. The notion that art can capture an individual exactly as he or she appears, is exemplified in the works of Giovanni Battista Moroni. The artist spent his entire career in and around his native Bergamo, northeast of Milan, in the region of Lombardy. Moroni left a body of work and portraits that far outnumbers those of his contemporaries who worked in major artistic centers, including Titian in Venice and Bronzino in Florence.
Giovanni Battista Moroni was born around the year 1520 and died 440 years ago on February 5, 1579. Painting during the Late Renaissance period, he is best known for his elegantly realistic portraits of both local nobility and the emerging class of professionals from northern Italy and was one of the greatest portrait painters of the period.
The son of architect Andrea Moroni, he trained under Alessandro Bonvicino “Il Moretto” in Brescia, where he was the main studio assistant during the 1540s. He worked in Trent, Bergamo and his home town of Albino, where he was born and died. His two short periods in Trento coincided with the first two sessions of the Council of Trent, 1546-1548 and 1551-1553. On both occasions, Moroni painted a number of religious works, including the altarpiece of the Doctors of the Church for the Church of Santa Maria Maggiore in Bergamo, as well as portraits in the style that he is renowned for.
During his stay in Trent he also made contact with Titian and the Count Bishop Cristoforo Madruzzo, whose own portrait is by Titian, but it was Moroni who was selected to paint the portraits of his sons. Moroni’s period as the fashionable portraitist of Bergamo is unexpectedly condensed, spanning primarily the years 1557 through 1562, after which Bergamo was involved in internal strife. Moroni retired permanently to Albino, where he continued to paint, but was more selective in the choice of commissions that he accepted.
His output at Bergamo, influenced in part by study of the realism of Savoldo, produced within the span of a few years, a long series of portraits that are imbued with dignified humanity and grounded in everyday life. The subjects were not drawn exclusively from the Bergamasque aristocracy, but also from scholars and professionals.
Though Moroni never achieved the fame of some of his contemporaries, he innovated the genre of portraiture in spectacular ways. This winter and spring, the Frick will present the first major exhibition in North America devoted to his work, bringing together nearly two dozen of Moroni’s most arresting and best-known portraits from international collections to explore the innovations and experiments that belie his masterful illusion of recording reality.
The portraits will be shown alongside a selection of complementary objects, such as Renaissance jewelry, textiles, arms and armor, as well as other period luxury items that exemplify the material and visual world that Moroni recorded, embellished and transformed. Moroni: The Riches of Renaissance Portraiture, was organized by Aimee Ng, Associate Curator, The Frick Collection; Simone Facchinetti, Curator, Museo Adriano Bernareggi, Bergamo and Arturo Galansino, Director General, Palazzo Strozzi, Florence. The exhibition will be presented in the Frick’s main floor Oval Room and East Gallery and will be accompanied by a catalogue and series of public programs. The exhibition will open on Thursday, February 21 and continue through June 2. The Frick Collection is located at 1 East 70th Street in New York City.