Grumpy Italian Men at the NGA…

Giuliano de’ (grumpy) Medici – Sandro Botticelli, Florentine, tempura on panel, 1478.

On a recent trip to Northern Virginia to visit to our dearly beloved and sorely missed #1 Son, GraceNotes and I took the Metro to the National Gallery of Art on the Mall in Washington DC.   The NGA is an enormous facility with two immense buildings connected by an underground gift shop, pricey Garden Cafe, and pricey Cascades Cafeteria.  (I have to admit the waterfall here is pretty neat!)   The West Building is an enormous, classically-designed building constructed of marble, which houses our nation’s permanent collection of American and European painting and sculpture.  The East Building is a President Carter era Modern building where Modern and Contemporary painting, sculpture and prints are creatively displayed.

To keep us both alert and interested,  I planned to focus solely on the Early Italian Painting of the 13-15th Centuries, located in the West building, galleries 1-13, since we will be studying this period later this year.  We saw a great abundance of religious art – beautiful Madonna and Child icons and paintings with gilt halos, a great variety of Saints receive their due on panel and canvas, and some very realistic painted wooden statuary (one of these was Grace’s favorite piece of the day).  But as we turned the corner on the 1400’s we saw a plethora of Grumpy Italian Men portraits! 

Portrait of a (grumpy) Man – Andrea Del Castagno, Florentine, tempura on panel, 1450.

These men, painted with a pout for posterity, were an unexpected and considerable source of amusement to my daughter.  I suppose we are accustomed to smiling portraits these days.  The only dour looking images we really appreciate are those of  the opposing political candidate caught in an unfortunate moment of frustration, arrogance  or other  unattractive expression.

While I was immersed in the intricate details of landscape, and the increasing use of perspective evidenced in colorfully patterned ceilings and floor tiles and draperies depicted in 15th C scene paintings, GraceNotes was all over the grumpy portraits…

Can I borrow your phone (camera)?  I want to get a picture of that guy over there,”  she says while making a ferocious face. “He looks so grumpy! We have got to show Dad and Ian”

So, without further ado – here is a slide show of Grumpy Men of the Italian City States, photography by GraceNotes.

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This is a link to the 13th-14th C Italian Painting Page of the National Gallery of Art website – there are two online tours you can enjoy from this page!

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