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All that Glitters: Life at the Renaissance Court
August 28–December 2, 2018

Courtiers feasting at elaborately set tables, knights in gleaming armor, a richly clad monarch presiding over elegant festivities—these are the images often associated with the medieval and Renaissance courts of Europe. For rulers and members of the nobility at the center of these privileged spaces, the visual arts—illuminated manuscripts, paintings, drawings, enamels, and textiles—were central aspects of their political and cultural identities. All that Glitters: Life at the Renaissance Court, on view from August 28 to December 2, 2018 at the J. Paul Getty Museum, focuses on court culture during the transition between “late medieval” and “Renaissance” (or “early modern”) Europe.

“During this critical period, the court was often a place of leisure, entertainment, and display, where members of the aristocracy engaged in tournaments, hunting, feasting, and games such as chess,” explains Timothy Potts, director of the J. Paul Getty Museum. “The settings for these pursuits were designed to impress—sumptuous and spectacular displays of art and pageantry that reaffirmed their status and prestige. The manuscripts that recorded such courtly pastimes were themselves valued as luxury goods and much sought after by the nobility.”

The objects featured in All that Glitters include a selection of luxury textiles and clothing, a drawing, a hand-colored print, and glass that complement the wide variety of lavishly illuminated manuscripts that found an enthusiastic audience in the palaces and châteaux of late medieval and Renaissance Europe.

In aristocratic households all over continental Europe, even expressions of religious faith took a luxurious material form. Court artists produced small illuminated prayer books that could be worn as fashionable accessories, decorated with elegant fabrics, precious metals, and glittering jewels that adorned the residences of Europe’s elite.

The adherence to chivalric code and the way it governed both belief and behavior at the Renaissance courts was established in the Middle Ages but emerged with renewed vigor during the late medieval period. A number of dazzling and complex objects including manuscripts and stained glass explore the display of heraldry at court, where rank and systems of social hierarchy were incredibly important. Objects produced for kings, queens, and courtiers enshrined ideals of chivalry, especially in the form of jousting that continued to guide official conduct into the sixteenth century.

“The incredible material luxury of the objects in the exhibition shows how ostentatious life at court could be, but when you dig a little deeper, the same objects can also be evidence of how courtiers were expected to behave and how they built their social hierarchies and identities,” says Larisa Grollemond, assistant curator of manuscripts and curator of the exhibition.

The exhibition concludes with a display of illuminated manuscript leaves from the court of King Louis XIV at Versailles, where the splendor of European court life reached its apex in the seventeenth-century. The display of heraldry, personal emblems, fine textiles, and luxury books continued to affirm social standing and good taste. Ultimately, the very trappings of magnificence that once cemented the king’s authority would also be what helped spark a revolution.

Related programming includes a performance of music from the period by the group Cappella Pratensis and An American Court: A Conversation with Former White House Curator William Allman, a discussion that will reveal the history of the White House collection and how various presidents have used art to help define their administrations and deliver cultural messages. Additional information can be found at getty.edu/360.

Art of Three Faiths: A Torah, a Bible, and a Qur’an
August 7, 2018 through February 3, 2019

The J. Paul Getty Museum recently announced the acquisition of the Rothschild Pentateuch, a manuscript of the first five books of the Hebrew Bible, known as the Torah. Its acquisition, coupled with works already in the Museum’s manuscripts collection, allows the Getty to represent the medieval art of illumination in sacred texts from the three Abrahamic religions—Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. Art of Three Faiths: A Torah, a Bible, and a Qur’an, on view August 7, 2018 through February 3, 2019, showcases three spectacular examples of each of these three: a Christian Bible and a Qur’an will be shown alongside the newly acquired Torah.

“This landmark acquisition fulfills one of the Museum’s longstanding goals of adding to our collection a Hebrew manuscript that can stand comparison in quality and importance to our finest illuminated manuscripts of other languages and faiths,” explains Timothy Potts, director of the J. Paul Getty Museum. “It has taken 35 years, but the Rothschild Pentateuch fills this gap more brilliantly than we could ever have imagined. An amazingly rare and beautiful object, richly illuminated with all manner of real and imaginary animals, it also broadens greatly the narratives we are able to tell about life, culture and religion in the Middle Ages. The acquisition will be a highlight of an upcoming exhibition that brings together – for the first time at the Getty – the sacred texts of the three Abrahamic religions, something that I am sure will deepen the experience of these works for many of our visitors, and be a rich subject of study for scholars.”

Judaism, Christianity, and Islam trace their belief in the singular God to a common patriarch, the figure of Abraham. The practitioners of all three religions have been called “people of the book” for their shared belief in the importance of the divine word, rendered in medieval manuscripts in glowing gold and luminous colors on parchment.

The Torah is the central sacred text of Judaism. In the strictest sense, the word refers to the Pentateuch, which contains the books of Moses: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy. Illuminated copies of the Hebrew Bible in codex form, rather than Torah scrolls, began to appear in the mid-thirteenth century. In northern Europe, these manuscripts served the needs of members of the Ashkenazi Jewish community who had settled in the area along the Rhine River. Lavishly illustrated Hebrew manuscripts are exceedingly rare, since Jewish artisans were forbidden by law to join painting guilds. Hebrew manuscripts were often written by itinerant Jewish scribes and illuminated by local, sometimes Christian, artists. Illumination of the Hebrew Bible centers on the calligraphic forms of the letters, such as initials, word panels, or decorative frames around blocks of text.

”The three objects on display are exceptionally beautiful artworks that we hope will spark meaningful dialogue among various audiences,” said Elizabeth Morrison, senior curator of Manuscripts at the Getty Museum. “Museums offer more than simply an aesthetic experience. Through exhibitions such as this one, they foster a deeper understanding of history that helps us to reflect on our own shared experiences.”

Among the earliest bound and illuminated codices from the Mediterranean world are copies of the Christian Bible written in Greek, Latin, Syriac, Ge’ez, Armenian, and other languages. The first part of the Christian Bible consists of texts from the Hebrew Bible, referred to since the second century by Christian writers as the Old Testament. Medieval Christians understood it not only as a historical document but also as a body of prophecy that specifically foretold the coming of Christ. The New Testament comprises accounts of Christ’s life, the Gospels, letters to churches or individuals from his disciples, such as apostles Peter and Paul, and a text about the end of time known as Apocalypse or Revelation. Illuminated Bibles—handwritten and printed alike—are among the most enduring forms of Christian book art produced during the Middle Ages.

The words that the angel Jibril (Gabriel) recited to the prophet Muhammad ibn Abdullah, about 560-632, formed the sacred text of the Qur’an. The opening line, “In the name of Allah, most gracious, most merciful,” a central tenet of Islam that expresses submission to the will of Allah, is repeated in almost every surah or chapter. Muslims transmitted scripture through oral tradition for the first few centuries, and later recorded it through beautiful and ornate calligraphy. Artists incorporated Quranic verses into books, textiles, coins, ceramics, and architecture, demonstrating reverence for the written word. Throughout the Middle Ages, the Islamic word spanned a vast territory, from the Iberian Peninsula to northern and coastal Africa, across the Mediterranean basin, and as far as Central and Eastern Asia.

Art of Three Faiths: A Torah, a Bible, and a Qur’an is curated by Kristen Collins, Bryan Keene, and Elizabeth Morrison, of the department of Manuscripts at the J. Paul Getty Museum. The exhibition will be on view August 7, 2018 through February 3, 2019.

Masterful Likeness: Dutch Drawings of the Golden Age
July 24–October 28, 2018

During the seventeenth century, Dutch political and religious freedom as well as maritime trade and military strength ushered in an era of economic prosperity. In this golden age, artists inspired by the everyday made vast numbers of highly finished drawings. Masterful Likeness: Dutch Drawings of the Golden Age, on view July 24–October 28, 2018, at the J. Paul Getty Museum, brings together landscapes, topographical views, portraits, and scenes of daily life, underscoring Dutch artists’ masterful description of the world around them.

The seventeenth-century Dutch Republic’s art market flourished as members of a rising merchant class sought luxury goods to decorate their homes and assert their status. To meet the demands of these new patrons, Dutch artists not only produced paintings but created and sold drawings. Stimulated by the bounty brought to the Netherlands on mercantile ships and an emerging national pride, artists chronicled their observations and ideas. This exhibition presents their proud commemorations of Dutch places, people, and pastimes, revealing how drawings reflect and shape national identity.

“Dutch artists documented and invented their world masterfully. The same attention to detail seen in capturing the specific – portraits of burghers, panoramic views of cities – is also used to create more generic subjects of artful fantasy,” says Stephanie Schrader, Curator of Drawings and organizer of the exhibition.

Dutch masters, including Rembrandt van Rijn, Albert Cuyp, and Hendrick Avercamp, will be featured alongside recent acquisitions of drawings by Gerard ter Borch, Willem Buytewech, and Esaias van de Velde.

Masterful Likeness: Dutch Drawings of the Golden Age will be on view July 24-October 28, 2018, at the J. Paul Getty Museum. The exhibition is curated by Stephanie Schrader, curator in the Department of Drawings, and co-curated by Casey Lee, curatorial assistant in the Department of Drawings. Related programming will include gallery talks, a drawings hour, and more. Additional information can be found at getty.edu/360.

Icons of Style: A Century of Fashion Photography, 1911–2011
Jun 26, 2018-Oct 21, 2018

This exhibition surveys the rich and varied history of modern fashion photography, exploring the ways in which photographers whose careers have been closely associated with the industry have shaped evolving notions of style and beauty. Drawn from the Getty Museum’s permanent collection and supplemented by loans from private and public sources, Icons of Style features more than one hundred-sixty photographs presented alongside a selection of costumes, illustrations, magazine covers, videos, and advertisements.

IN FOCUS: EXPRESSIONS
May 22—October 7, 2018

LOS ANGELES—From Leonardo da Vinci’s Mona Lisa, to Edvard Munch’s The Scream, to Dorothea Lange’s Migrant Mother, the human face has been a crucial, if often enigmatic, element of portraiture. Featuring 45 works drawn from the Museum’s permanent collection, In Focus: Expressions, on view May 22 to October 7, 2018 at the J. Paul Getty Museum, addresses the enduring fascination with the human face and the range of countenances that photographers have captured from the birth of the medium to the present day.

The exhibition begins with the most universal and ubiquitous expression: the smile. Although today it is taken for granted that we should smile when posing for the camera, smiling was not the standard photographic expression until the 1880s with the availability of faster film and hand-held cameras. Smiling subjects began to appear more frequently as the advertising industry also reinforced the image of happy customers to an ever-widening audience who would purchase the products of a growing industrial economy. The smile became “the face of the brand,” gracing magazines, billboards, and today, digital and social platforms.

As is evident in the exhibition, the smile comes in all variations—the genuine, the smirk, the polite, the ironic—expressing a full spectrum of emotions that include benevolence, sarcasm, joy, malice, and sometimes even an intersection of two or more of these.

In Focus: Expressions also probes the role of the camera in capturing un-posed moments and expressions that would otherwise go unnoticed. The photograph provides a frank moment, one that confronts the viewer with its candidness and calls to mind today’s proliferation and brevity of memes, a contemporary, Internet-sustained visual phenomena in which images are deliberately parodied and altered at the same rate as they are spread.

Perhaps equally radical as the introduction of candid photography is the problematic association of photography with facial expression and its adoption of physiognomy, a concept that was introduced in the 19th century. Physiognomy, the study of the link between the face and human psyche, resulted in the belief that different types of people could be classified by their visage. The exhibition includes some of the earliest uses of photography to record facial expression.

The subject of facial expression is also resonant with current developments in facial recognition technology. Today, mobile phones and social media applications even support portrait mode options, offering an apprehension of the human face and highlighting its countenances with exceptional quality.

In addition to photography’s engagement with human expression, In Focus: Expressions examines the literal and figurative concept of the mask. Contrary to a candid photograph, the mask is the face we choose to present to the world.

In Focus: Expressions is on view from May 22 to October 7, 2018 at the J. Paul Getty Museum, Getty Center. This exhibition is curated by Karen Hellman, assistant curator of photographs at the J. Paul Getty Museum.

A Queen’s Treasure from Versailles: Marie-Antoinette’s Japanese Lacquer
Through January 6, 2019
South Pavilion, Plaza Level

Free | No ticket required

A Queen’s Treasure brings to the Getty precious examples of Japanese lacquer from the personal collection of the French queen Marie-Antoinette (1755–1793). Her collection of small lacquer boxes was one of the finest assembled in Europe, and she considered them to be among her most cherished possessions. The elaborate and costly works reveal a fascinating example of the queen’s sophisticated taste and demonstrate the consistent level of achievement attained by Japanese lacquer artists during the mid-Edo period (about 1681–1764) when these pieces were created.

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