NGV announces 2014 Melbourne Winter Masterpieces

Andrea di Lione, Italian 1610–85 Elephants in a circusTony Ellwood, Director of the National Gallery of Victoria, together with the State Government of Victoria and Art Exhibitions Australia have announced next year’s Melbourne Winter Masterpieces exhibition, Italian Masterpieces from Spain’s Royal Court, Museo del Prado.

This Melbourne exclusive exhibition has been drawn from one of the world’s most celebrated collections, Museo del Prado, Madrid, and will showcase over 100 works comprising 70 paintings, many measuring over 3m, alongside more than 30 superb drawings – the largest number of Italian works the Museo del Prado has ever loaned to one exhibition.

Italian Masterpieces from Spain’s Royal Court, Museo del Prado takes the Melbourne Winter Masterpieces initiative to new heights, once again placing Melbourne firmly on the international stage. In 2014 we look forward to welcoming Victorians, interstate and international visitors to experience these unparalleled masterpieces,” Minister Asher said.

Tony Ellwood said that the holdings of Italian art in the Museo del Prado, Madrid, are unique and unrivalled in museums outside Italy. Italian Masterpieces from Spain’s Royal Court, Museo del Prado will present a rich selection of paintings and drawings spanning 300 years of Italian art, from the early sixteenth to the eighteenth centuries.

“The exhibition will reflect the taste of the Spanish Royal Court whose Kings and courtiers avidly collected Italian art and will present more than 70 Italian masters including Raphael, Correggio, Titian, Tintoretto, the Carracci and Tiepolo,” Mr Ellwood said.

“Italian Masterpieces from Spain’s Royal Court, Museo del Prado will captivate and amaze visitors, and will be complemented by a diverse range of engaging programs, lectures and events.”

The magnificent art collection of the Spanish Royal Family formed the basis of the Museo del Prado, which opened to the public in 1819. The Royal Family had been avid collectors of Italian art since the early 16th century when Emperor Charles V began acquiring Italian paintings. His son, King Philip II, also fell under the spell of Italian art and became the most important patron of the great Venetian master Titian.

The Prado are generously lending a select group of paintings from their unparalleled holdings of Titian’s work. Much of Italy was ruled by the King of Spain and Italian art brought prestige and glamour to the Spanish court, affirming Spain’s pre-eminence in European culture.

Due to the sustained collecting of Italian art by the Royal Family, palaces and chapels throughout Spain were richly decorated with Italian paintings. Soon the taste for Italian art spread throughout the Kingdom and Spanish courtiers also acquired Italian art. Many works from these diverse sources have subsequently entered the Prado, making it one of the richest and varied collections of Italian art in the world.

The taste for Old Master drawings also grew and the Prado now has over 8,000 works on paper in the collection with superb examples by artists who worked for the Royal Family.

The Prado’s remarkable holdings of Italian art are renowned for their high quality and depth, allowing all major facets of Italian art to be represented in this exhibition. Superb portraits, landscapes and still lifes sit alongside intimate genre scenes and spectacular history paintings.

Through Spain and Italy’s shared tradition of Catholicism, religious art speaks most strongly of the close synergy between these two dynamic cultures. Therefore, the exhibition includes many beautiful and powerful images drawn from the Old and New Testaments as well as moving images of revered saints and martyrs.

The exhibition is organised by the Museo del Prado, Madrid, in association with the National Gallery of Victoria and Art Exhibitions Australia.

Italian Masterpieces from Spain’s Royal Court, Museo del Prado will be on display from 16 May – 31 Aug 2014. For more information, visit: www.ngv.vic.gov.au for details.

Image: Andrea di Lione, Italian 1610–85 Elephants in a circus (Gli Elefanti in un circo), (c.1640) (detail), oil on canvas, 229.0 x 231.0 cm, Museo del Prado, Madrid (P00091) – courtesy Museo del Prado, Madrid

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