Leonardo da Vinci:
Lady with an Ermine, ca. 1490
Oil on panel
Czartoryski Foundation, National Museum, Cracow
Photo courtesy of The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston
Leonardo da Vinci and the Splendor of Poland
HOUSTON • The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston • Ongoing
|Cultural and political oppression culminated in the radical dismantling of Polish collections and museums during Nazi and later Soviet rule. Today museums in Poland are retrieving their collections and redefining themselves within a reconfigured Europe. Many of the paintings on view were stolen or displaced during World War II, and several are being shown for the first time since their recovery and conservation. This exhibition documents Poland´s history of collecting and royal patronage.|
The centerpiece of the collection of 77 paintings representing French, Italian, Dutch and German artists is Leonardo da Vinci’s Lady with an Ermine, an undisputed masterpiece of the Italian Renaissance. The powerful work also is particularly significant in that it was painted in approximately 1491 and anticipates the Mona Lisa (1505-14). Although Leonardo´s Mona Lisa is more famous around the world, the elegant Lady is equally alluring. Leonardo depicted a teenage beauty, veiled and robed in velvet. She holds an ermine in the crook of her arm. One theory holds that the model of this portrait is Cecilia Gallerani, a mistress of Ludovico Sforza, the Duke of Milan.
Published by Yale University Press, the exhibition catalogue documents Poland’s cultural contact with Italy, the history of collecting through the 17th and 18th centuries, Polish Art through the 19th century, restoration and collecting in Poland and the current state of Poland’s museums.
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