|Desiderio da Settignano portrait bust|
|Filippo Strozzi by Benedetto da Maiano|
|Attr. to Uccello|
The curators have organized the show by both geography and subject – Florentine women and men shown separately, the powerful Medici family, court portraits, Venice.
The organization is brilliant. For painting it reveals -- in the century when Italy was discovering the autonomous portrait and exploring what creates identity – how limited and persistent portrait types were, and how difficult it was for artist or patron to conceive a change, let alone a transformation.
|Mantegna, Cardinal Ludovico Trevisan|
A new twist that worked might be seized upon. In mid-century, for example, Andrea Castagno hit upon what became a new formula – a man with a defiant expression who looks at the viewer, his face in three-quarters, dressed in red, and grasping his cloak. All around the Castagno are other paintings that in some way mimic it – the defiant expression, the three-quarter view, a red garment, a grasping hand.
|Mino da Fiesole, bust of Niccolo di Strozzi, with Castagno painting|
|Antonello da Messina|
Some other highpoints in this exhibition filled with them: the jowly marble sculpture of Niccolo di Strozzi by Mino da Fiesole; the excellent terracotta portrait of Filippo Strozzi, wonderfully introspective, placed next to the more formal marble bust of him, both by Benedetto da Maiano; and a cast of the death mask of Lorenzo de’ Medici.
And for those interested in portrait medals, there are a mess of them by court artist Pisanello, a famous artist in his time who should perhaps be on more people's lips today.
|Donatello reliquary bust|
|Cast of death mask of Lorenzo de' Medici|
|Verrocchio, armor detail|
"The Renaissance Portrait," Metropolitan Museum, 5th Ave. and 82nd St., through March 18, 2012
Benedetto da Maiano and Antonello photos from Bode Museum website. Other photos and text Copyright 2011 Laura Gilbert.