Art museum

Saint Louis Museum of Art Presents an Exquisite Artistic Tradition | Specials

worship of the shepherds, 16th century; Italian School (Venetian); oil on agate; framed: 14 9/16 x 11 13/16 x 2 inches; Collection of the Birmingham Museum of Art; Purchase of the museum in loving memory of Jeannine O’Grody with funds provided by her family and friends

By Maggie Peters | Photo courtesy of St. Louis Museum of Art

While stone is perhaps the oldest artistic material we know of, during the Renaissance artists began to use it again as a basis for depicting religious and mythological scenes, as well as portraits and landscapes. An upcoming exhibition at the Saint Louis Art Museum will feature these detailed depictions, featuring 22 different types of stone and spanning over 200 years.

Judith Mann, curator of European art until 1800, had acquired Cavaliere d’Arpino’s “Perseus Rescue Andromeda”, a lapis lazuli painting, and through research into its history discovered the practice beginning in Rome in the Renaissance.

“When I was trying to find out more about the practice, I contacted some leading scholars of 16th and 17th century painting, a number of whom told me they had never heard of [it]Mann says. “It was then that I realized an exhibition was warranted, one that covered more of Europe and included a full range of the different types of stone used.”

“Paintings on Stone: Science and the Sacred 1530-1800” will open February 20 and feature around 75 paintings – some painted on both sides of the stone. While religious scenes make up the majority of the exhibition, visitors will also see depictions of historical events, portraits and still lifes as the movement progressed from the Renaissance through the Baroque and Rococo periods.

“I think visitors will be struck by the wide variety of subjects and styles, and the fact that so many artists have painted over dark stones to provide backgrounds that read like dark interiors or scenes of night,” adds Mann. “Visitors will also enjoy looking closely to discern what is paint and what is bare, unpainted stone, as many of the stone surfaces used had linear patterns and flecks of color.”