Michiel Sweerts, Flemish, 1618–1664, Self-Portrait with Skull, c.1661. Oil on canvas, 78.7 x 60.9 cm. Gift of Alfred and Isabel Bader, 2004; 47-001. Lent by: Agnes Etherington Art Centre
The Old Masters: 1500-1700
This gallery presents the oldest works in the exhibition; highlights from European artistic production during the 16th and 17th centuries. During this period a zenith in art history was reached. Artistic excellence in portraiture and panoramic landscapes set the leading artists of the day apart, and as a result, they have come to be known as the Old Masters. Biblical narratives feature heavily, interweaving spirituality, devotion, and morality in these Renaissance masterworks. Inspiration was also found in classical literature; in poetry and the retelling of ancient myths. In evidence too is remarkable craftsmanship in the decorative arts, with superb workmanship in silver and gold. Even the incorporation of mechanized movement to delight the user indicates the appreciation of more sensual pleasures. The effect of the Old Masters cannot be underestimated. Their continuing influence throughout art history will come to be seen in a number of successive works throughout the exhibition.