The Museum’s Collection Revisited
Late in 2008, the Museum’s galleries of European art underwent their first major rotation in over a decade. The new installation highlights some of the museum’s familiar masterpieces—Giorgione’s Portrait of a Man (ca. 1506), or Juan Sánchez Cotán’s iconic Quince, Cabbage, Melon, and Cucumber (ca. 1602) —but it also brings to light a number of significant paintings that have not been seen in the galleries for some time. This latter group includes works by major artists, and the return to view of Veronese’s Apollo and Daphne, El Greco’s Adoration of the Shepherds, Jacob van Ruisdael’s Wooded Landscape, and Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres’s study for his monumental Apotheosis of Homer will serve as a reminder of the depth of the Museum’s collections. Other works, including two stained glass panels after designs by Hans Holbein the Younger, are exhibited for the first time.
The new installation begins in the newly reopened Lois and Donald Roon Gallery, where SDMA’s collection of Italian Renaissance art is brought together. Early panels by Giotto and Fra Angelico are among the highlights here. Moving next to the Mr. and Mrs. Walter Fitch, Jr. Memorial Gallery, the display includes Spanish and Northern European art of the fifteenth and sixteenth century in addition to seventeenth-century painting from Italy, Spain, and France. The focal point of the gallery is Sánchez Cotan’s masterpiece (recently returned from the exhibition El Greco to Velázquez: Art during the Reign of Philip III), which is surrounded by paintings by Sánchez Coello, El Greco, and Francisco de Zurbarán; together these constitute one of the finest groups of Spanish painting in North America. Finally, the Ingrid and Joseph Hibben Gallery is installed with art of the seventeenth, eighteenth, and early nineteenth centuries, including remarkable portraits by Frans Hals, Pompeo Batoni, and Francisco de Goya as well as a group of view paintings by the Venetian artists Canaletto, Bellotto, and Guardi.
The new presentation of these paintings is intended to reflect a broader campaign of new research on the Museum’s collections. Recent work has revealed, for example, much new information about the attribution, dating, provenance, and iconography of the works on view. Another aspect of the new research comes through collaboration with Professor Maurizio Seracini, Director of the Center of Interdisciplinary Science for Art, Architecture, and Archaeology (CISA3) on the University of California’s San Diego campus. Professor Seracini’s work is devoted to the development of diagnostic imaging technology that can explain how great works of art were created, how they have fared over time, and how they might be preserved for future generations. The San Diego Museum of Art is working with CISA3 to develop a series of “digital clinical charts” that will encompass a variety of multi-spectral scans, archival information, interpretive materials, and analytical reports. The multi-spectral scans include high-resolution and microscopic photography that enable examination of a painting’s finest details, as well as X-radiographs, photography in ultraviolet light that can highlight retouching and repair work on the paintings, and infrared photography can reveal preparatory drawings hidden beneath the painted surfaces. A sampling of the multi-spectral scans and of related interpretive material, which results from the collaboration of Professor Seracini and Museum curator Dr. John Marciari, will also be presented in the Roon Gallery in the coming months. An online video highlighting the collaboration may be seen online at this link Focusing on the Museum’s paintings by Carlo Crivelli, Cosmé Tura, and Giorgione, these extraordinary images will give the public the opportunity to see Italian Renaissance art quite literally in a new light.