Exhibition Review: Michelangelo and Sebastiano

As you will know, from our review of Cagnacci’s The Repentant Magdalene, Theatre Break’s interest in art is of the “common or garden” variety. We are not learned scholars, we are Everyman appreciators. Even Yvonne, who did an art degree and taught art, and who went to the Michelangelo and Sebastiano exhibition at the National Gallery last week, appreciates art in the “Ooh! that’s nice!” way rather than the more academical reviews you’ll get on the pages of an art magazine.

So let me introduce Yvonne O’Connor who can take you through the exhibition with a bit of background taken from the press release!

Michelangelo and Sebastiano at the National Gallery

By Yvonne O’Connor

Having seen from schooldays reproductions in magazines and text books of Michelangelo’s work it was truly amazing to walk through the rooms and see them there, so large and vibrant, and to see also the work of Sebastiano  of whom I knew so little. It was amazing to see not only their individual paintings drawings and sculptures, but also their eloquent and beautiful collaborations. We are so much more used to reading of the bitter rivalries between painters, indeed between Michelangelo, Da Vinci and Raphael.

Our two artists first met when Sebastiano went to Rome in 1511 when Michelangelo was painting the Sistine Chapel. Michelangelo’ drawings and conceptual ideas combined with Sebastiano’s  facility with the more modern medium of oils enabled them to create work of stunning beauty. Their first collaboration was ”Lamentation over the Dead Christ” also known as the “Pieta”. It is rarely seen outside Italy and it is wonderful to see it here.

Sebastiano del Piombo (c. 1485-1547): Pieta’. Viterbo, Museo Civico

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Sebastiano del Piombo
Lamentation over the Dead Christ (‘Pietà’) c. 1512-16
Oil on canvas
(259 x 219 cm)
Viterbo, Museo Civico
© Commune di Viterbo

There are approximately 70 works in the exhibition and this is a unique opportunity to see them together.

Risen Christ

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Michelangelo (completed by anonymous 17th century sculptor)
The Risen Christ
Marble – 205cm high
Monastero San Vincenzo Martire, Bassano Romano
© Photography Alessandro Vasari

Walking through the rooms you have the opportunity to see their individual work as well as their collaborations. In particular Michelangelo’s stunning  “The Risen Christ” (above) which is made even more impressive by the fact that you seem to come upon it suddenly.

It is only when you take a look at the places where the exhibits are borrowed from, that you start to realise what an amazing feet it is to have put together such an exhibition. Sebastiano’s “Visitation” is here and is on loan from the Louvre.

Also on loan, and well worth seeking out because it is the only marble sculpture by Michelangelo in Great Britain, is the Taddei TondoThe Virgin and Child with the Infant St John, on loan from the Royal Academy.

There are also many  preliminary drawings and letters, some  of which give an insight into the closeness  of their friendship, perhaps the most touching is Sebastiano’s letter asking Michelangelo to be Godfather to his child and Michelangelo’s warm reply.

Loans come from all over Europe, including Spain, Italy, Denmark, Germany, Austria, France and Holland as well as loans from all over the UK, including the Royal Collection. There are even some exhibits that have crossed the Atlantic from America, including the J Paul Getty Museum in LA and the San Diego Museum of Art.

This fruitful friendship lasted 25 years but sadly ended in acrimony, apparently about painting technique.

The gallery’s text, accompanying the pictures, is as informative as you would expect.

The exhibition is open until 25 June 2017.

The gallery is open daily from 10am to 6pm (last admission 5pm) with a late night opening on Fridays to 9pm (last admission 8:15pm)

Book tickets in advance for Michelangelo and Sebastiano at nationalgallery.org.uk or call 0800 912 6958