Exhibitions and Installations, J. Paul Getty Museum, Paintings

From the Black Death to Black Friday

Saint Eloy in His Goldsmith’s Workshop / Master of the Misericordia

Saint Eloy in His Goldsmith’s Workshop, about 1370, Master of the Misericordia. Tempera and gold leaf on panel, 13 3/4 x 15 3/8 in. Museo Nacional del Prado, Madrid, no. 2841

There’s been a lot of talk about shopping over the past few days, from Black Friday to Cyber Monday (now expanded to Cyber Week). In late medieval Florence, shopping—for art—was also all the rage. In the years leading up to the Black Death of 1348, citizens of Florence could buy works of art from an artist’s workshop, which was often located on the ground level of a building on a street corner. In this painting by the Master of the Misericordia, we see Eloy, a seventh-century French saint, laboring in his goldsmith’s workshop. The saint diligently finishes making a golden saddle, while four assistants work at various tasks: two hammer metal objects, one stokes the fires with a bellows, and another adds finishing touches to a crucifix using a stylus or chisel.

In the first half of the 14th century, Florentine patrons commissioned huge amounts of art with a variety of goals: decorating a family chapel within newly built churches, supplying choir books or a laudario (book of hymns) for religious and lay ceremonies, or for facilitating private devotion. Some of the hottest brand names, so to speak, were paintings by Giotto and illuminated manuscripts by Pacino di Bonaguida (who also created panel paintings with innovative imagery).

Now that the holiday season is upon us, I hope you’ll break up your shopping trips with a visit to the exhibition Florence at the Dawn of the Renaissance: Painting and Illumination, 1300–1350, where you’ll encounter 95 stunning objects made in Florence at that time. Also, check out the exhibition store both on-site and online for the perfect Florence-themed gifts for family and friends.

You can also read more about the painting above on the Museo del Prado’s website.

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      It’s been 125 years since Van Gogh’s death, today we celebrate his life’s work.


      5 Ways to See Van Gogh’s Irises

      Through observations, visitor conversations, and some sneaky eavesdropping, we’ve compiled the top 5 ways people enjoy this painting.

      1. In a Crowd
        One of the most obvious ways that people see the painting is in a crowd. The gallery is almost always filled, and you might have to wait before you can get up close. The anticipation builds as you start in the back row, and slowly move until you are close enough to see the brushstrokes of Van Gogh’s thick paint.

      2. Online
        David from Colorado said that this was his first visit, but he had already seen the painting online. In addition to being available through the Getty’s Open Content program, the painting is often seen on social media. Just search #irises on Instagram for a taste of the painting’s popularity. 

      3. Alone
        If you arrive right at 10 a.m. when the museum opens, the quiet gallery provides a perfect backdrop to really examine the painting. Solitude and seclusion gives the gallery a sense of intimacy. 

      4. Multiple Times
        Repeat visits can give rise to multiple interpretations. Is it a melancholy or joyous painting? Expressive or depressive? 

      5. Internationally
        Visitors from all across the world viewed this famous Van Gogh. In just one hour I heard multiple languages—French, Italian, Chinese, Korean, German, and more. Irises seems to rise above cultural boundaries—a Dutch painting inspired by Japanese ukiyo-e prints—to strike an emotional resonance amongst all viewers. 

      What is your favorite lens to view Van Gogh’s work through? 

      07/29/15

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