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Press release

Rare North Italian Renaissance Drawings Featured in New Installation at Metropolitan Museum

November 3, 2009–January 31, 2010

North Italian Drawings, 1410–1550: Selections from the Robert Lehman Collection and the Department of Drawings and Prints, on view from November 3, 2009–January 31, 2010, features 31 exceedingly rare drawings from The Metropolitan Museum of Art's Robert Lehman Collection, with an additional nine chosen from the Department of Drawings and Prints. The installation showcases a period in Italian art that saw the emergence of drawing as an essential tool for artists and includes a selection of works that illustrate the versatility of the medium over more than a century. Drawings from the later 15th century show how artists used the medium to work out elaborate, multi-figured compositions, and several works from the 16th century reveal the close relationship between drawing and painting.

Highlights include a magnificent colored drawing of a Gazelle from the circle of Michelino da Besozzo; a large pen-and-ink drawing from the circle of Giovanni Bellini depicting Vulcan Building a Fence Around the Mount of Venus; Romanino's Concert Champêtre; and two landscape drawings by Domenico Campagnola.

North Italian Drawings, 1410–1550 is organized into four sections: "Verona," "Andrea Mantegna and his Influence," "Venice," and "Lombardy and Emilia-Romagna." The "Verona" section includes several very rare drawings from the 15th century that Robert Lehman acquired in 1924, including four sheets associated with Stefano da Verona, the preeminent painter in Verona in the early part of the century, as well as works by late 15th–century painters including Francesco Morone, Michele da Verona, Niccolò Giolfino, and the Caroto brothers.

The section "Andrea Mantegna and his Influence" demonstrates the profound impact the important 15th–century painter had on artists working in the northern regions, where he spent his entire life. The sheets exhibited reveal a debt to Mantegna in both the subjects depicted—which include sacred and secular themes—as well as in style. A number of the works in this section were produced in the orbit of the master, with one example, the captivating Descent into Limbo, sometimes given to the hand of Mantegna himself. Other drawings demonstrate Mantegna's influence on artists in Padua, Ferrara, and Bologna.

"Venice" emphasizes the graphic production of this region, one of the most important artistic centers during the Renaissance. Venice had a strong and diverse school of painting, and several of the works on view in this section are studies for paintings, executed in a range of techniques, including brush on blue paper, red chalk, and metalpoint. Other highlights in this section include an early drawing of a unique design for an altar frontal, which documents an art form—embroidered textiles—for which Venetian artisans were renowned in the early 15th century, and of which very few have survived. Finally, two drawings by Domenico Campagnola, conceived as finished works of art, demonstrate the evolution of drawing into a respected art form in its own right.

The group of drawings in the "Lombardy and Emilia-Romagna" section offer a rare chance to compare a variety of early Italian drawing techniques. The earliest example, the splendid Gazelle from the early 15th century, shows not only the naturalism for which Lombardy was famous in the early Quattrocento, but also the typical practice, especially associated with Northern Italy, of carefully recording animals in model books for later use in paintings and manuscript illuminations.

North Italian Drawings, 1410–1550 is organized by Sarah Cartwright, Research Associate in the Robert Lehman Collection at The Metropolitan Museum of Art.

The exhibition is featured on the Museum's website at


November 2, 2009

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