The National Gallery Opens Devotion by Design: Italian Altarpieces before 1500

. July 6, 2011 . 0 Comments

The National Gallery in London presents Devotion by Design: Italian Altarpieces before 1500 on view 6 July – 2 October 2011.

Detail from Sassetta, ‘The Funeral of Saint Francis’, 1437-44.

As part of a new series of summer exhibitions drawn from the National Gallery’s permanent collection, ‘Devotion by Design’ focuses on Italian altarpieces ranging from the 13th century to the end of the 15th century. This exhibition of over 40 works will investigate the original functions and locations, as well as formal, stylistic and typological developments of altarpieces, drawing on the wealth of scientific examination and scholarly study undertaken in this field over the past 30 years.

Visitors to the National Gallery will encounter these works in an unfamiliar way. Several altarpieces will be free-standing, enabling visitors to examine their construction, while frames of certain works will be removed – revealing clues as to their original function and appearance. Virtual reconstructions of disassembled altarpieces will set dislocated fragments in context, and one room will evoke a Renaissance-era church, giving visitors the sense of encountering altarpieces in a 15th-century sacred space. While many will be familiar with the works by artists such as Piero della Francesca and Andrea Mantegna, a number of the pieces in the exhibition are not normally on public view.

Using the Gallery’s own collection, this exhibition investigates the development of altarpieces, looking at changes in form, style and type. It examines not only the evolution of their physical structure but also their relationship to their frames and to the monumental architecture that surrounded them.

A small section of ‘Devotion by Design’ will be dedicated to altarpiece fragments, explaining the role different elements of altarpieces played in the overall ensemble. The exhibition examines the reasons why altarpieces came to be dismembered (often with the dissolution of religious institutions in the 18th and 19th centuries) and the methods that art historians now use to reassemble them.

‘Devotion by Design’ showcases altarpieces by well-known artists such as Piero della Francesca, but includes many which are less familiar. It revisits works in the National Gallery Collection in a fresh and innovative light, drawing on the wealth of scholarship undertaken in this field in recent years.

With support from The Jerusalem Trust

The National Gallery houses the national collection of Western European painting from the 13th to the 19th centuries. It is on show 361 days a year, free of charge.

Category: Fine Art

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