COVID-19 restrictions and closures derailed the National Gallery’s plans to mark the 500th anniversary of the death of the Italian Renaissance master Raphael (1483-1520) in 2020. This delayed exhibition charts the relatively short but varied career of the painter and draughtsman – a ‘universal’ man, in the words of artist and biographer Giorgio Vasari. It does not just feature his famous paintings, but also sheds light on his work in designing sculpture and tapestry, in architecture, archaeology, and even poetry. Works created early in his career in Urbino and elsewhere in Le Marche are featured, as are his Florentine paintings, including various versions of the Virgin and Child (some also produced in his early years in Rome) that have been brought together to illustrate how he made this subject his own.
In 1508, Raphael moved to Rome to work for the illustrious patron Pope Julius II. While there, he created some of his most monumental paintings, a series of frescoes for four rooms in the Pope’s private apartments, including scenes from the history of the Church and a gathering of philosophers of ancient Greece, the School of Athens. While in the city, Raphael also served as surveyor of ancient Rome to Leo X, Julius’ successor as pope. During his survey of the ancient remains, he completed drawings of the major buildings, like the Pantheon, and in 1519, in a letter to Leo on display in the exhibition, described the destruction of ruins as ‘the shame of our age’. He was appointed architect of the new St Peter’s Basilica and designed private townhouses in the city, as well as the Villa Madama for the Medici; this ambitious villa outside Rome was only partially completed.
Until 31 July 2022
Persia: Ancient Iran and the Classical World
Los Angeles, California, USA
All three of ancient Persia’s great empires – the Achaemenids, Parthians, and Sasanians – confronted and interacted with Greece and Rome. Spanning more than 1,000 years, this exhibition explores the cultural and political connections, and artistic and religious exchanges between Persia and the classical world.
In the mid-6th century BC, Cyrus the Great – founder of the vast Achaemenid Empire – conquered Greek settlements in western Asia. Decades later, the Graeco-Persian Wars (490-479 BC) resulted in a Greek victory. These historic events feature on Greek works in the exhibition, while Achaemenid sculpture and jewellery showcase the spectacular skills of Persian makers. And in Lydia, Caria, and Lycia in Asia Minor, works created in Greek and Persian styles bear witness to the cultural influences at play.
Alexander the Great conquered the Achaemenid Empire, leading to a period of Greek Seleucid rule towards the end of the 4th century BC. The Parthians arose in the 3rd century, overthrowing the Seleucids in Iran and ruling for nearly 500 years between 247 BC and AD 224, with the Romans as their great rivals. Their artworks show signs of Greek, Mesopotamian, Achaemenid, and nomadic Iranian influences. The Sasanians took over in AD 224 until the Arab conquest in AD 651, and were also rivals of the Romans. Spectacular silver plates depicting kings on the hunt and other royal courtly subjects are a distinctive feature of Sasanian art. They are paired in the exhibition with Late Roman and Byzantine examples of silver.
The exhibition is the second in the Getty’s The Classical World in Context programme, which will continue in 2024 with Thrace and the Classical World. It features an immersive on-site film and an online digital experience (available at https://persepolis.getty.edu) that gives visitors a chance to walk through a digital reconstruction of the Achaemenid palaces and chambers of Persepolis.
Getty Villa museum
Until 8 August 2022
Troy: beauty and heroism
A select few objects from the British Museum’s 2019 exhibition on Troy have gone on a tour of the UK. This British Museum Spotlight Loan explores two of the most prominent figures in the story of the Trojan War: Helen, the Greek wife of King Menelaus who was taken to Troy by Paris, leading to the outbreak of the war, and Achilles, the famed warrior who died on the battlefield. The tour includes an Etruscan urn depicting Helen’s abduction (below), an Athenian amphora illustrating the vengeful side of Achilles, who drags the body of the Trojan prince Hector, as well as somewhat more recent depictions of these characters by Pietro Testa and Dante Gabriel Rossetti, and specially created 3D scans of the objects accessible through QR codes in a collaboration with Sketchfab. The exhibition is currently on view at the Haslemere Educational Museum, Surrey (until 8 May), and will travel to The McManus in Dundee shortly afterwards (19 May-14 August 2022).
Haslemere Educational Museum, Haslemere, Surrey
Until 8 May 2022
Artist David Bellamy (born 1943) has created atmospheric watercolours of scenic surroundings he has journeyed through, such as the changing light of the Arctic. Bellamy first travelled to the Middle East in 1963, and this exhibition showcases about 50 paintings from the region, capturing archaeological sites, deserts, mountains, and scenes of city life in Egypt, Lebanon, Jordan, and South Arabia. Among the scenes on view are the ruins of Baalbek in Lebanon, the Egyptian temple on the island of Philae, and the spectacular rock-carved buildings of Petra, like Urn Tomb (below).
Osborne Studio Gallery, London
17-28 May 2022
Japan: Courts and Culture
Lacquer, porcelain, fans, embroidered screens, and armour are among the wide array of Japanese works from the UK’s Royal Collection going on display in this exhibition. Some of the pieces featured are diplomatic gifts and so tell the story of relations between the royal families of both countries. It was under James I in 1613 that this relationship and English trade in Japan began. Shoˉgun Tokugawa Hidetada presented the king with a stunning suit of samurai armour (below) in exchange for the letters and gifts James had sent with the first English ship to reach Japanese shores. Another highlight is a pair of folding-screen paintings depicting the changing seasons sent to Queen Victoria by Shoˉgun Tokugawa Iemochi in 1860, recently rediscovered in the Royal Collection. Conservation work has revealed details such as the use of Victorian railway timetables to patch up wear and tear.
The Queen’s Gallery, Buckingham Palace, London
Until 26 February 2023
In Focus: The Grand Tour – the two Horaces and the Court of Florence (1740-1786)
Horace Walpole (1717-1797), the author of Gothic novel The Castle of Otranto, once had in the library at his equally Gothic Strawberry Hill House three volumes of Studio d’architettura civile sopra gli ornamenti di porte, e finestre… tratte da alcune fabbriche insigni di Firenze, a survey of Florentine architecture illustrated by Ferdinando Ruggieri. The work was produced 300 years ago in 1722. The three volumes were dispersed in 1842, when they were sold, but they have now returned to Strawberry Hill. Putting these volumes in the spotlight, this display looks at the friendship between Walpole and Horace Mann, the British envoy to Florence; Walpole’s Grand Tour to Italy; both men’s interest in all things Florentine and the Medici family; and their various antiquarian pursuits.
Strawberry Hill House, Twickenham
Until 24 July 2022
Gold in America: Artistry, Memory, Power
Resplendent and never tarnished, gold has often been used for objects of symbolic and emotional value – for example, betrothal and mourning rings. These pieces of jewellery, other goldwork, paintings, and photographs have been brought together to examine the role of the precious metal in America over the past 400 years. Among the highlights are a ‘Freedom Box’ given to Baron Friedrich Wilhelm von Steuben when, in 1784, he was granted the freedom of the City of New York in recognition of his leadership in the Revolutionary War, and a 1735 thimble made for Elizabeth Good Hubbart (below). Though ornate, the thimble reflects Hubbart’s profession: she opened a haberdasher’s in Boston after the death of her husband.
Yale University Art Gallery, New Haven, Connecticut
Until 10 July 2022
In America: An Anthology of Fashion
The Costume Institute’s exhibition of American fashion continues with its second part, An Anthology of Fashion, which will see men’s and women’s clothing from the 18th century to the present day installed in the period rooms of the Met’s American Wing to consider the histories of the rooms and the place of dress in shaping American identity over time. In the 1830s Shaker Retiring Room, displays examine American sportswear, while John Vanderlyn’s extraordinary panoramic 1819 mural of Versailles provides a backdrop for the recreation of the 1973 fashion event the ‘Battle of Versailles’, a showdown between American and French designers. The smaller first part of the exhibition (A Lexicon of Fashion) is already open and will also run until 5 September.
Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York
5 May-5 September 2022
Indian Textiles: 1,000 Years of Art and Design
Exquisite textiles from the Indian subcontinent are celebrated in this exhibition. Dating from the 8th to the early 20th century, the fabrics on view illustrate the development of a rich design vocabulary. Some of the oldest known designs from the region include abstract circles, stripes, and zigzags. The 13th century saw floral patterns become more widespread – one early example is an 11th- to 16th-century fragment (below) – and these patterns were adapted for international markets. Figurative patterns also feature and these textiles show the role of different religions in creating refined works – for instance, a 15th-century cloth from Gujarat depicts deities in the Jain religion, while a shrine cloth from Uttar Pradesh commemorates the Muslim warrior-saint Sayyid Salar Mas’ud, who was also venerated by Hindus.
George Washington Museum and Textile Museum, Washington DC
Until 6 June 2022
Mind Over Matter: Zen in Medieval Japan
Ideas associated with Zen, the Japanese school of Buddhism that stresses the importance of meditation, have retained their power into the modern age, with many people using its lessons to seek calmness. This exhibition showcases the art of Zen in Japan and China, especially the monochrome ink paintings of Japan’s Zen monks in the medieval period (c.1200-1600), including Sesson Shuˉkei, Ryoˉzen, Ikkyuˉ Soˉjun, Kaihoˉ Yuˉshoˉ (below), and Chuan Shinko.
National Museum of Asian Art, Washington DC
Until 24 July 2022
Iron Men: Fashion in Steel
The place of armour in European Renaissance art and culture is investigated in this new exhibition at the Kunsthistorisches Museum Vienna. Drawing on the Viennese Imperial Armoury and other European and American collections, the show features stunning examples of armour from the late 15th to the early 17th century, as well as paintings, textiles, and sculptures to further set them in context. Different types of armour served for different occasions – in warfare, tournaments, or court celebrations – but they might also be political symbols, diplomatic gifts, and mementos. Among the highlights is the north German costume helmet (c.1526) of Margrave Albrecht of Brandenburg-Ansbach (below).
Picture Gallery, Kunsthistorisches Museum Vienna
Until 26 June 2022
Tales from the underground – Bruges in the year 1000
Finds from archaeological excavations in the picturesque Belgian city of Bruges are on display in this exhibition, which offers a snapshot of the metropolis and its inhabitants around AD 1000, a vital period in its development into the flourishing trading hub of the late medieval period. By the year 1000, the city already occupied an important location with access to waterways, was inhabited by traders and a range of craftspeople, and was protected by a count – factors that all contributed to its later successes. Whale bones, reflecting the importance of the sea and the river to medieval Bruges, ice skates, jewellery, pottery, and even the skull of a bear all help to bring the city back to life. Also on view, returning to the city from Denmark (where it was found), is the high-quality seal of Boudewijn IV, Count of Flanders from 988 to 1035, who ruled from Bruges.
Until 27 October 2023
PHARAOH OF THE TWO LANDS: The African Story of the Kings of Napata
In the 8th century BC, the vast kingdom of Kush in what is now northern Sudan arose around the capital Napata. For decades, the rulers of this Nubian kingdom also controlled Egypt: ever since King Piankhy’s conquest around 730 BC, which marked the start of the 25th Dynasty. In a reversal of fortunes, as Egypt had long dominated Nubia, the two lands were ruled together under the Kushite kings until 655 BC. This exhibition explores the art of the 25th Dynasty, the importance of the Kingdom of Kush and its kings, especially Taharqa, who ruled between 690 and 664 BC and is shown making an offering to the falcon-god Hemen (below).
MusÉe du Louvre, Paris
28 April-25 July 2022
Rome: City and Empire
More than 400 artefacts are on display in Lens to tell the story of Rome from the 2nd century BC (during the Republic) up to around AD 300, when the Empire was facing difficulties. The Roman rooms in the Louvre in Paris are temporarily closed, and so now more than 300 pieces have relocated to Lens, where they are joined by works from other French collections. This expansive offering sets out to show what life was like for inhabitants of the Empire, and to consider the role of art in Rome’s history, addressing themes such as the spread of images of rulers, how Roman styles merged with other traditions in provinces like Gaul, and how trade and immigration, other cultures, and religious influences shaped artistic production in Rome. Exquisite works on show include silver goblets, mosaics, frescoes depicting the Muses – for example, Melpomene (below) – and a spectacular gilded bronze sculpture of Apollo.
Until 25 July 2022
For a flame that burns on: Antiquities and Memory, Thessaloniki-Macedonia (1821-2021)
This exhibition, which opened last year to mark the bicentenary of the start of the Greek War of Independence in 1821, looks at the relationship between antiquities and collective memory, and how antiquities were used in the Revolution and Macedonia’s joining the independent Greek state in 1912. Ancient artefacts, archival material, and more chart the years of the Revolution and the longer course of the history of Thessaloniki (in the region of Macedonia), and are used to frame questions about the changes to the city after the Ottoman conquest, the city walls as a record of its history, and how visitors viewed its ancient Greek monuments.
Archaeological Museum of Thessaloniki, Thessaloniki
Until 17 July 2022
The Farnese: Architecture, Art, Power
Renaissance collecting is the theme of this exhibition, held across different spaces at the Complesso Monumentale della Pilotta, the 16th-century palace built by Duke Ottavio Farnese. The prominent Farnese family used art and architecture to proclaim their place in the European political and cultural spheres between the 16th and 18th centuries. Included in the exhibition (part of a project to relaunch the restored spaces of the Pilotta Complex this year) are a group of some 200 architectural drawings showing the Farnese’s ambitious building projects, paintings by the likes of Raphael and El Greco which help recreate the family’s art gallery, and coins, medals, and ancient artefacts – such as the Farnese Cup, the substantial sardonyx cameo (above) – which together form a Renaissance curiosity cabinet.
Complesso Monumentale della Pilotta, Parma
Until 31 July 2022
5,000 Years of Beads
Mainly using beads excavated in the Netherlands, this exhibition delves into the lives of beads from 5,000 years ago to the present. Though small and often simple in shape, beads come in a rich range of colours and materials, from wood to gold, and are found all around the world. How beads were used, who they were worn by, and what they symbolised are all considered. As well as examples of beads – including from prehistoric megalithic tombs and Merovingian graves – images illustrating the use of beads helps set these decorative objects in further context. A statue shows a Mesopotamian prince wearing beads, while an illuminated manuscript with images of coral rosaries (below) emphasises the important role played by the late medieval prayer beads on view.
Rijksmuseum van Oudheden, Leiden
Until 7 May 2023