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Painters of Reality: The Legacy of Leonardo and Caravaggio in Lombardy

Exhibition dates: May 27 – August 15, 2004
Exhibition location: Iris and B. Gerald Cantor Exhibition Hall
Press preview: Monday, May 24, 10:00 a.m. – noon

A major loan exhibition exploring the rich tradition of naturalism in painting of the North Italian region of Lombardy — most famously expressed in the works of Caravaggio — will open at The Metropolitan Museum of Art on May 27, 2004. Painters of Reality: The Legacy of Leonardo and Caravaggio in Lombardy, will feature some 80 paintings and 40 drawings that document the region's distinctive emphasis on observation of the natural world, beginning in the 15th century, with Leonardo da Vinci's stay in Milan, through the 18th century. A central figure in the exhibition is Caravaggio, through whom this naturalist approach came to Rome and became of key importance to Baroque art there and throughout Europe. On view through August 15, 2004, the exhibition will also feature works by such notable exemplars of the Lombard school as Lorenzo Lotto, Giovanni Girolamo Savoldo, Giacomo Ceruti, and the important women artists Sofonisba Anguissola and Fede Galizia. This will be the first time that this great school of Italian painting will be presented in the U.S.A in such depth.

The exhibition is made possible in part by the William Randolph Hearst Foundation.

The exhibition catalogue is made possible by The Drue E. Heinz Fund and the Doris Duke Fund for Publications.

The exhibition has been organized by The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York and the Associazione Promozione Iniziative Culturali di Cremona.

Full recognition of the contribution of Lombard painters to the history of Italian art is relatively recent. Yet, it is arguable that North Italian painting was among the most innovative schools of Italian art and the galvanizing force behind the creation of Baroque art. Caravaggio, who was trained in Milan, and Ludovico and Annibale Carracci all viewed themselves as Lombard painters and heirs to a rich legacy. This groundbreaking exhibition broadens understanding of the important contributions of the many original and highly influential artists working in Northern Italy, especially in the areas of portraiture, still life, nature studies, and the Leonardesque idea of capturing in paint "the motions of the mind."

Painters of Reality will focus on the aspects of Lombard painting that set it apart in the minds of contemporaries — such as the insistence on drawing and painting from a live model — and led to its practitioners being considered "even greater imitators of nature" than the Venetians. Caravaggio's Supper at Emmaus (ca. 1600-1610, National Gallery, London) or Moretto's Supper in the House of Simon Pharisee (ca. 1550, S. Maria in Calchera, Brescia) perfectly exemplify the Lombard preference for devotional painting grounded in humble reality. The development of still life and genre painting, another key element in Lombard art, will also be examined. The haunting canvases of Giacomo Ceruti, who was active between

1720 and 1767 and was best known for his sympathetic portrayals of the poor, such as Scuola di Ragazze (Private Collection, Brescia), will be a great revelation to American audiences.

The exhibition is organized chronologically and thematically into four sections, beginning with "Leonardo and the Idea of Naturalism," which will include an important group of Leonardo's nature studies as well as works by his followers. "Brescia and Bergamo: Humble Reality in Devotional Art and Portraiture" focuses on a region that produced numerous artists, such as Moretto da Brescia and Giovanni Battista Moroni, whose work had a great impact on Caravaggio. The following section, "Towards a New Naturalism," looks at Cremona and Milan at the time of Caravaggio, and the fourth section, "Painters of Reality," considers artists in Lombardy after Caravaggio. This last section, and the exhibition as a whole, takes its name from a classic exhibition presented in Milan in 1953 in which the remarkable naturalism of these later Lombard artists, such as the great portraitist Fra Galgario, was introduced to a larger public for the first time.

Painters of Reality is organized by Andrea Bayer, Associate Curator in the Department of European Paintings at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Professors Mina Gregoi, Professor Emeritus, University of Florence, and Ivana Iotta, Director, Cremona Civic Museums in Cremona.

The exhibition is accompanied by a fully illustrated catalogue published by The Metropolitan Museum of Art and distributed by Yale University Press.

A variety of educational programs will be offered in conjunction with the exhibition, including lectures and gallery talks.

An Audio Guide of the exhibition will be available; the fee for rentals will be $5.00 for members of the Museum, $6.00 for non-members, and $4.00 for children under 12.

The Audio Guide program is sponsored by Bloomberg.

The exhibition will be featured on the Museum's Web site, www.metmuseum.org.

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