Dressing an Italian Countess: Moroni at the RA

I spent Halloween this year at the Royal Academy of Arts, at an exhibition of little-known Italian renaissance artist Giovanni Battista Moroni. The exhibition showcases some of the painter’s best works, including several altarpieces and portraits. As it was a blogger preview event, I met several bloggers (including Tabish Khan from the Londonist, Joy from The Joyous Living, Lizzie from Lizzie’s World and Nigel), who can without a doubt provide a more academic review of the exhibition, which is curated by Arturo Galasino. Galasino is clearly passionate about the artist, and the conservation of his work – naming him among the greatest 16th century Italian painters.

Gian Girolamo Albani, c.1570 Oil on canvas, 107 x 75 cm Private Collection Photo: Private collection

Gian Girolamo Albani, c.1570
Oil on canvas, 107 x 75 cm
Private Collection
Photo: Private collection

Giovanni Battista Moroni Young Lady, c.1560-65 Oil on canvas, 51 x 42 cm Private collection Photo Private collection

Giovanni Battista Moroni
Young Lady, c.1560-65
Oil on canvas, 51 x 42 cm
Private collection
Photo Private collection

Although skilled in execution, the altarpieces didn’t appeal to me as much as the portraits did – as a former student of anthropology, I’ve always been interested in what portraits can say about the context they were created in. The most striking aspect of the collection was the use of colour, and how skilled Moroni was at capturing textures – the different shades of black he used added to the realism of the work, and the folds and patterns on the material in his work are so impressive – you’d never know there were so many shades of black!

Giovanni Battista Moroni The Tailor, 1565-70 Oil on canvas, 99.5 x 77 cm The National Gallery, London Photo © The National Gallery, London

Giovanni Battista Moroni
The Tailor, 1565-70
Oil on canvas, 99.5 x 77 cm
The National Gallery, London
Photo © The National Gallery, London

A review of the collection wouldn’t be complete without the impact of fashion and tailoring on the artist. The image of the Tailor, the portrait of a worker as a gentleman, as well as the exquisite details in his work really show how respectability was shown through dress.

Moroni at the RA

Before previewing the exhibition, I was invited to a lecture given by the curator, as well as former Director of Theatre Design at the Globe, Jenny Tiramani and actor and former Artistic Director Mark Rylance. Rylance was dressed in his outfit commissioned for his role as Countess Olivia, an exquisite garment that cost in the tens of thousands to create. Although beautiful, it was an absolute mission to get on! It was really interesting to discuss how garments were developed by male tailors, for women – and how corsets could often cause miscarriages in noblewomen. Although beautiful, I am more than a little glad that corsets are not in style.

Moroni at the RAdressing an italian countess

The Moroni exhibit is on until the 25th of January 2015, between 10am – 6pm. Prices range from £13.50, although concessions are available and children under 16/Friends of the RA go free.

Moroni at the RA

  • Joy

    lovely write up… Just loved all those shades of black he incorporated x