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Joy of Museums

Museums, Art Galleries and Historical Sites

Masterpieces of the National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C

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Masterpieces of the National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C

The National Gallery of Art is an art museum located on the National Mall, between 3rd and 9th Streets, at Constitution Avenue NW. The National Gallery of Art contains many masterpieces of art and objects of historical significance.

Masterpieces at the National Gallery of Art

  • “Ginevra de’ Benci” by Leonardo da Vinci
    • Ginevra de’ Benci by Leonardo da Vinci depicts a well-known young Florentine aristocrat. Leonardo painted the portrait in Florence in 1474 to commemorate Ginevra’s marriage at the age of 16. The juniper bush that fills much of the background was regarded as a symbol of female virtue, in Renaissance Italy, while the Italian word for juniper, echo’s Ginevra’s name. Ginevra is shown beautiful but reserved with no hint of a smile. Her gaze, although forward, seems indifferent to the viewer.
  • “A Young Girl Reading” by Jean-Honoré Fragonard
    • “A Young Girl Reading” by Jean-Honoré Fragonard depicts a girl in profile wearing a lemon yellow dress with a white ruff collar and cuffs and purple ribbons. The girl is reading from a small book held, and a cushion resting against a wall supports her back. Her face and dress are lit from the front. Fragonard used fine brushwork on the face and looser brushwork on the dress and cushion, and the ruff which was scratched into the paint with the end of a brush.
  • “Small Cowper Madonna” by Raphael
    • The “Small Cowper Madonna” is a painting by Raphael, depicting Mary and Child, in a 1500’s Italian countryside. It has painted around 1505 during the middle of the High Renaissance.
  • “The Alba Madonna” by Raphael
    • “The Alba Madonna” by Raphael depicts three figures all looking at the cross; they represent the Madonna with the Christ Child and Saint John the Baptist as a child. The figures are grouped to the left in the round composition, and the outstretched arm of the Madonna and the resting elbow on the stump with her enveloping cloak balance the group image.
  • “Nude on a Divan” by Amedeo Modigliani
    • “Nude on a Divan” by Amedeo Modigliani is one of the dozens of nudes created by Modigliani in a modern style characterised by elongation of faces and figures, that echo precursors such as Titian, Goya, and Velázquez. However, Modigliani’s figures differ significantly in the level of raw sensuality they transmit. Unlike depictions of female nudes from the Renaissance to the nineteenth century, in which female nudity is couched in mythology or allegory, this series of paintings are without any such context, highlighting the painting’s eroticism.
  • “Nude on a Blue Cushion” by Amedeo Modigliani
    • “Nude on a Divan” by Amedeo Modigliani is one of the dozens of nudes created by Modigliani in a modern style characterised by elongation of faces and figures, that echo precursors such as Titian, Goya, and Velázquez. However, Modigliani’s figures differ significantly in the level of raw sensuality they transmit. Unlike depictions of female nudes from the Renaissance to the nineteenth century, in which female nudity is couched in mythology or allegory, this series of paintings are without any such context, highlighting the painting’s eroticism.
  • “Saint Jerome” by El Greco
    • “Saint Jerome” by El Greco show him as an ascetic with gaunt, sunken features and a white hair and beard which are symbolic of his history as a penitent and his retreat to the Syrian desert. The cave-like setting recalls St Jerome’s years as a hermit in the desert. The book symbolises his scholarly activity. During the Renaissance, paintings showed Saint Jerome either in his study or performing acts of penance in the wilderness. These pictures adorned the walls of the homes of many humanists and scholars.
  • “The Houses of Parliament, Sunset” by Claude Monet (National Gallery of Art, DC)
    • “The Houses of Parliament” by Claude Monet is one in a series of paintings of the Palace of Westminster, home of the British Parliament, created during the early 1900s while Monet stayed in London. All of the series of paintings with similar titles share the same viewpoint from Monet’s terrace at St Thomas’ Hospital overlooking the Thames. The set of pictures depict different times of the day, and different weather and light conditions, interestingly all on canvases are of approximately similar size.
  • “Breezing Up (A Fair Wind)” by Winslow Homer
    •  “Breezing Up (A Fair Wind)” by Winslow Homer is an iconic painting of a father and three boys out for a spirited sail. Homer had a sensibility which allowed him to distil art from potentially sentimental subjects and yielding straightforward views of American life of the period. Homer painted warm and appealing images that appealed to the postwar nostalgia for a simpler, more innocent America. Following a trip to Europe in 1866–1867, Homer adopted a warmer palette and a technique, which owed much to the influence of French artists such as Courbet, Manet, and Monet.
  • “Madame Moitessier” by Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres
    • “Madame Moitessier” by Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres is a portrait of Marie-Clotilde-Inès Moitessier (née de Foucauld) completed in 1851 which depicts the subject standing in a black dress looking directly at the viewer. Madame Moitessier (1821–1897) was the daughter of a French civil servant who married a wealthy banker and merchant, who was a widower twice her age.

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“Washington, D.C., has everything that Rome,
Paris and London have in the way of great architecture – great power bases.
Washington has obelisks and pyramids and underground tunnels and great art and a whole shadow world that we really don’t see.”

– Dan Brown

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Photo Credit: Public Domain, Link

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