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MUSEO ARCHEOLOGICO NAZIONALE DI NAPOLI

Piazza Museo 19, Napoli 80135

Il Museo Archeologico Nazionale di Napoli, uno dei primi costituiti in Europa, può vantare il più ricco e pregevole patrimonio di opere d’arte e manufatti archeologici in Italia.

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An Incomplete History of Medieval Art XV

KONRAD WITZ

The German painter Konrad Witz (German, 1400 – 1447) transferred his workshop to Basel to seek work among the wealthy bishops, abbots and cardinals who had converged on the Swiss city to participate in Church Council of 1431-45. While in Basel, he received important commissions to paint the wings for large, sculptural altarpieces, none of which survive intact today. After his death he fell out of memory until 1901, when the curator of the Basel Kunstmuseum, Daniel Burckhardt-Werthemann, linked a panel painting in Geneva signed Konrad Witz to similar works in the Basel collection, hitherto attributed to an unbekannte Maler. The municipal archives of Basel from the period yielded several references to Witz, which allowed for the dating of some works and identified the patrons of others.

Witz’s most important work produced in Basel is the now-dismembered Heilsspiegel altarpiece, probably created for the church of St. Leonard. The iconography is based on the Speculum Humanae Salvationis, a popular 14th-century typological compendium. The 11 surviving panels depicting scenes from the Old Testament and pagan Antiquity bear a formal resemblance to events of the New Testament that they prefigure. Witz has a magic touch when it comes to depicting sumptuous garments and exotic head gear, particularly in the Heilsspiegel Altarpiece.

Despite Witz’s long association with Basel, the greatest commission of his career took him to Geneva, in the western, French-speaking part of Switzerland, to paint the high altarpiece for the Cathedral of St Pierre. The work was donated by Cardinal François de Metz, resident bishop of Geneva since 1436, who probably became acquainted with Witz’s work while at the Council of Basel. Witz took measures to insure he would remembered as the creator of this major civic monument, adding an inscription to the frame of the Miraculous Draught of Fishes, that reads, hoc opus pinxit magister conradus sapientis de basilea MCCCCXLIV (Master Konrad Witz of Basel painted this work 1444). His surname, Witz, which means wit or mental sharpness in Middle High German, is rendered in Latin as sapientis or wise.

In the paintings that survive, Witz, like his contemporary Jan van Eyck, shows a serious interest in developing ways to represent certain types of visual experience in two-dimensions. In both the Miraculous Draught and the St Christopher panel, he pays a great deal of attention to effects of refraction of light in water, as well as to color changes and different degrees of sharpness among submerged bodies, including stones and the lower body of St Peter.

On land, Witz experimented with different devices for creating the illusion of three-dimensionality on a two-dimensional surface. Reflecting a knowledge of Italian trecento paintings, the interior spaces of Sts Catherine and Mary Magdelene and the Annunciation are well ahead of Witz’s Geman contemporaries. In an outdoor scene such as Joachim and Anna Meeting at the Golden Gate, Witz compensates for the flat gold backdrop by having the dramatically foreshortened wooden gate project directly into the viewer’s space. Nothing in the narrative requires the gate to be so assertively present, and late medieval artists, on the whole, do not take liberties with religious iconography. The gate must have been of special importance, perhaps as a way of compensating for viewing angle, for Witz to have taken the liberty of foregrounding it.

MIKE KELLEY (American, 1954-2012)

 

6mike kelley, american artists – 20thc, stuffed animals

At first, I didn’t realize that the stuffed animals had a monstrous quality. It took me a while to see it. When I first started buying craft objects it was because they were, obviously, gifts. I was interested in gift-giving. Artists were going on about this in the art world at the time-the artwork, as gift, was supposed to be an escape from the commodification of art. So I began buying things that I recognized were made by hand. My assumption was that they were meant to be given away-most craft objects are generally made, specifically, to be gifts. The handmade objects I found in thrift stores were, most likely, not sold. I started hoarding them; I had never really looked at dolls or stuffed animals closely before. I became interested in their style-the proportions of them, their features. That’s when I realized that they were monstrosities. But people are not programmed to recognize that fact-they just see them as generically human. Such objects have signifiers of cuteness-big eyes, big heads, baby proportions. You can empathize with those aspects of them. But when I blew them up to human scale in paintings they were not so cute anymore; if you saw something like that walking down the street, you’d go in the other direction. I became interested in toys as sculpture. But it’s almost impossible to present them that way, because everybody experiences them symbolically. That’s what led to my interest in repressed memory syndrome and the fear of child abuse. This wasn’t my idea-I was informed by my viewers that this is what my works were about. I learn a lot from what my audience tells me about what I do.

From Glenn O’Brien, “Mike Kelley” Interview (2008)