Thursday, 30 October 2014

Le Perugin at Musee Jacquemart-Andree, Paris

Last week we went over to Paris to visit the marvellous Musee Jacquemart-Andree to see the exhibition of works by Perugino, who was a student alongside Leonardo da Vinci and, later, was Raphael's master. He's in an odd place in the history of art because I've only ever come across him in the context of other people (like I've just described in relation to Leonardo and Raphael) rather than in his own right. So when I was told about the exhibition I thought, yes, let's find out something about the man.

I went to the Musee Jacquemart-Andree three years ago to see the great exhibition of works by Fra Angelico. On that occasion I immediately joined the queue to get into the exhibition and paid little attention to the standing collection at the musee. This visit was a bit more leisurely and I at least looked at some of the collection and I'm jolly pleased I did.

I found two panels by Carlo Crivelli of three saints each and my favourite is this one with a grumpy looking Saint Jerome wagging his finger at someone.  Don't you just love it when you find a great - and fun - painting when you're least expecting it? The colours are vibrant and the poses lifelike. There were some lovely Renaissance paintings on display and some day I really must look round the standing collection at the musee, it seems to house some fascinating stuff.

Unlike the Fra Angelico exhibition, there wasn't a queue to get in but it was reasonably and comfortably full. There were lots of paintings of the Virgin and Child in various poses (including a very sly looking Virgin with wafer thin red lips) and virtually all of the paintings were religious in theme (Saint Sebastian being pierced by arrows seemed quite popular). But I didn't fall in love with any of them. It was good to see them, especially those still glowing with vibrant colours but none helped me understand the man or see where he was coming from or where he was taking me.

One of my favourite paintings was an altarpiece with three scenes, beginning with the adoration of the Magi, which is a lovely piece. I love the composition and the colours but I can't help feeling that the perspective is wrong. If Mary stood up she'd dwarf Joseph who's standing behind her. It has a lovely Italian landscape background, changing colour as it moves into the distance and I like the gentlemen posing in their Renaissance tights. So lifelike!

The painting that realy stood out for me was the 'Battle of Love and Chastity' that I suppose should really be translated as sex and virginity. We have cupids shooting arrows to kill and centaurs killing virgins, all trying to get the upper hand in the battle. I've not seen (or heard of, for that matter) a painting like this before so it was really interesting to see it as part of the 'profane' element of an otherwise religious exhibition. Bloodshed and sex, what more could a patron look for?  How odd!

The visit to the musee ended by stepping into the  Cafe Jacquemart-Andree and lunch. In turn this ended with a glorious patisserie that was most yum. And yum indeed. If you're in Paris and have some time to kill you could do worse that going to Boulevard Haussmann and visiting the Musee Jacquemart-Andre to see the winter garden, the glorious staircases, the 18th century furniture and standing collection - and whatever exhibition happens to be on at the time. I shall certainly go back!

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