We recently asked our new director David Franklin to share his five favorite works from our collection. Here they are along with his personal take on their importance in art history.
Andrea del Sarto, Sacrifice of Isaac.
Sarto’s great panel was originally commissioned in Florence as a political gift for Francis 1, King of France but was left unfinished and substituted with another version now in Dresden. One of the most articulate, tensely harmonized paintings of the entire Florentine Renaissance, its incomplete state conveniently reveals to us the painter’s highly experimental and daring approach.
Caravaggio, Saint Andrew.
Not since Michelangelo or Raphael had one artist in Europe influenced so many of his contemporaries over such a broad geography and irrevocably changed the course of painting as did Caravaggio. This monumental canvas expresses the artist’s dramatic and humane vision that has not relinquished its raw, uneasy power from the moment it was produced.
Bust of a Girl
Despite their colossal achievements the individuality of the ancient Romans is expressed to us in surviving works of art that provide traces of a poignant emotional life, even a sense of sadness as in this exquisite example. The degree of humanity the now anonymous sculptor discovers in this figure seems to collapse time and bring us directly into their emotional as well as physical space.
Although it is merely a superficial, decorative fragment, the elegant handling of a delicacy approaching watercolour reveals something of the character of the ancient Romans to us – their love of pleasure and fantasy. The fact that it is fragment seems now less disturbing if we consider the material object a metaphor for the fraility of beauty itself.
Sargent, Portrait of Lisa Colt Curtis, Inv
Sargent’s painting is like a fashion portrait familiar to us from magazines with the beautiful sitter captured in a mellifluous pose breathlessly addressing the viewer. The mother of pearl finish of the painting seems appropriate to an image suffused with an over-arching sense of grace and effortless facility.