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The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Vol. 6, Europe in the Age of Monarchy

The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Vol. 6, Europe in the Age of Monarchy

The Metropolitan Museum of Art, introduction by John T. Spike
158 pages
132 illustrations
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The seventeenth century in Europe rings with the names of the great sovereigns who had succeeded in creating nations by subjugating the feudal aristocracy and at whose courts power and wealth were concentrated and the arts flourished.

Elizabeth I of England secured for her heirs the Protestant succession and for her country mastery of the seas; Louis XIV of France assembled his defeated vassals at Versailles; Gustavus II Adolphus and Christina of Sweden were for a time the most powerful Protestant monarchs on the Continent; Philip III and Philip IV of Spain ruled a vast empire in the New World and intrigued to maintain Habsburg power in the old; and Peter the Great of Russia consolidated the power of the House of Romanov and used it to push his country into the mainstream of European political, intellectual, and artistic life.

Challenges to national unification and the absolutist principle, of course, were frequently successful: Italy remained largely a group of city-states, though the papal court resembled in power and prestige those of the great monarchs. The Netherlands secured its freedom from Catholic Spain and established a Protestant republic; while Belgium remained Catholic and subject to Habsburg domination. Germany was merely a conglomeration of principalities and, like Italy, would achieve national unity only late in the nineteenth century. But despite these exceptions, the political complexion of Europe indeed changed irrevocably during the seventeenth century, and in the wake of the Protestant Reformation, the once universal Church was now asunder.

Europe in the Age of Monarchy reproduces over 125 works of art in every genre and medium from the collections of the Metropolitan Museum. They give a breathtaking picture of a turbulent and exciting epoch, which was at once the Age of Monarchy and a Golden Age of art. Just as its kings and queens are still exemplars of glorious majesty and shrewd statesmanship, so the artists of that century remain for us the Old Masters of European art: Caravaggio, Bernini, Tiepolo, Guardi; El Greco, Velázquez; Rubens, van Dyck; Hals, Rembrandt, Vermeer, van Ruisdael; de La Tour, Poussin, Claude, Watteau, Boucher, Chardin. In every medium, the clash and complicity of the traditional Classical style and the newer Baroque vision bequeathed us a rich treasure.

As befitted an age where splendor bespoke power, kings, courtiers, and burghers all demanded furnishings appropriate to their station. Thus workers in stucco, wood, and marble crafted rooms of splendid proportions and exquisite detail. Goldsmiths and porcelain designers produced objects that epitomize luxury. And in France, where the Sun King demanded unparalleled splendor, the weavers at Beauvais, the porcelain factories at Sèvres, and the royal cabinetmakers at Versailles developed the grand gout—a style forever associated with France in her "splendid century."

The Musicians, Caravaggio (Michelangelo Merisi)  Italian, Oil on canvas
The Coronation of the Virgin, Annibale Carracci  Italian, Oil on canvas
after 1595
Triton Sounding a Conch Shell, Annibale Carracci  Italian, Charcoal or soft black chalk on blue-gray paper; traces of framing outlines in pen and black ink and black chalk
ca. 1597–1602
Madonna and Child with Saints Francis and Dominic and Angels, Giulio Cesare Procaccini  Italian, Oil on canvas
ca. 1612
Landscape with Moses and the Burning Bush, Domenichino (Domenico Zampieri)  Italian, Oil on copper
Bacchanal: A Faun Teased by Children, Gian Lorenzo Bernini  Italian, Marble, Italian, Rome
ca. 1616–17
Neptune with a dolphin, Gian Lorenzo Bernini  Italian, Bronze, Italian
late 17th century or early 18th century
Study for a Triton (recto); Anatomical Studies ? (verso), Gian Lorenzo Bernini  Italian, Red chalk, the background tinted with an almost imperceptible pale brown wash, framing lines in pen and brown ink (recto); black chalk (verso)
Marcantonio Pasqualini (1614–1691) Crowned by Apollo, Andrea Sacchi  Italian, Oil on canvas
Study of Two Figures for the Age of Gold, Pietro da Cortona (Pietro Berrettini)  Italian, Black chalk, slightly reworked by the artist with the wet tip of the chalk stick
Pope Alexander VII (Fabio Chigi, 1599–1667; reigned 1655–67), Melchiorre Cafà  Maltese, Bronze, Italian, Rome
Cardinal Scipione Borghese (1577–1633), Giuliano Finelli  Italian, Marble, Italian, Rome
Youth Kneeling before a Prelate (recto); Another Study of a Youth Kneeling before a Prelate (verso), Guercino (Giovanni Francesco Barbieri)  Italian, Pen and brown ink, brush and light brown wash (recto and verso)
ca. 1620
Charity, Guido Reni  Italian, Oil on canvas
ca. 1630
Witches' Sabbath, Salvator Rosa  Italian, Pen and brown ink, brush and brown wash
Self-Portrait, Salvator Rosa  Italian, Oil on canvas
ca. 1647
Circe with the companions of Ulysses changed into animals, Giovanni Benedetto Castiglione (Il Grechetto)  Italian, Etching, touches of red chalk added by hand
Pilate Washing His Hands, Mattia Preti (Il Cavalier Calabrese)  Italian, Oil on canvas
The Flight into Egypt, Luca Giordano  Italian, Oil on canvas
Jael Slaying Sisera, Carlo Maratti  Italian, Red chalk, highlighted with white chalk, on blue paper
Showing 20 of 125

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———, ed. 1987. Europe in the Age of Monarchy. New York: Metropolitan museum of art.