The Masterpieces from World Museums in the Hermitage
Three paintings from the State Hermitage, the Guggenheim
Museum (New York and the Kunsthistorisches Museum (Vienna)
18 June, 2002 - Oktober, 2002
The three masterworks coming from three different museums include Van
Dyck's Madonna of the Partridges (State Hermitage) and The Vision
of the Blessed Hermann Joseph (Kunsthistorisches Museum)and Oskar
Kokoschka's Knight Errant (Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum).
Both of Van Dyck's paintings were executed for the Confraternity of Bachelors,
a congregation in Antwerp patronized by the Jesuits which consisted of
unmarried laymen who dedicated themselves to the Virgin Mary, led a life
of chastity and were engaged in charity works. The pictures reveal special
devotion to the Virgin Mary for which the confraternity was noted.
In The Vision of the Blessed Hermann Joseph from the Vienna museum
Van Dyck skillfully conveys the sacred atmosphere of the event. The restrained
movements of his characters betray the artist's temperament and striving
to create idealized sublime images. In 1630 the painting was used for
the decoration of the chapel of the Confraternity of Bachelors who saw
in it an ideal of pious life devoted to God.
The Hermitage Madonna of the Partridges by the same artist is also
connected with the special veneration of the Virgin. The focus of the
painting is the figure of Mary. Her graceful pose and other-worldly look
directed at the playing angels define the rhythm of the composition and
unify its two unequal parts: the group of main characters placed close
to the left border and the merry-making, dancing in a ring cherubim. The
artist seems not to be interested in the narrative. The slow rhythm of
the composition gives it a ceremonial quality, characteristic of altarpieces.
The rich vivid colours with the dominant intense blue of Mary's cloak
(the largest colour spot on the painting) are also in tune with its solemn
character. In Christian art blue is considered a symbol of heavens, heavenly
love, faithfulness and truth, all of which are embodied in the Virgin
The Knight Errant by Oskar Kokoschka is also dominated by blue,
but its cold, gloomy colour scheme alarms the viewer and arrests his attention.
Though its subject is rather obscure, the viewer can easily recognize
its focal point - the figure of the wounded knight clad in the mediaeval
armor. The distorted forms and disquieting colours help to express the
suffering and loneliness of man surrounded by a hostile world. The artist
makes use of various expressive means to show not simply the pain of the
perishable mortal body but the agony of the unseen immortal soul and the
loftiness of spirit.
Man's search for transcendence, his spiritual aspirations and communion
with God have always been dominant themes in art. The present exhibition
features two Baroque and one Expressionist works interpreting these themes.
They have been created by two different painters who although living in
different epochs both had a masterly command of the contemporary artistic
Madonna of the Partridges
Anthony Van Dyck
The Vision of the Blessed Hermann Joseph
Anthony Van Dyck