LONDON, Feb. 26 (Xinhua) -- One could hardly understand the sketches of several hands and a cat sleeping on the floor. But when these pictures, by Federico Barocci, were hung side by side with the Italian painter's masterpieces, they could tell visitors some stories behind the canvas.
The National Gallery will present the first major monographic exhibition dedicated to Barocci from Wednesday to May 19. Supported by the Joseph F McCrindle Foundation, it collected nearly 20 oil paintings, most of which devotional, and more than 70 drawings.
"We have two aims for the exhibition," said Judith W. Mann, organizing curator for the exhibition and curator of European Art to 1800 with the Saint Louis Art Museum.
"Barocci is an artist everyone should know," she told Xinhua. Besides, she hoped that the exhibition could shed light on the steps of a Renaissance artist for a finished painting
Many people may reckon that an artist sat behind the canvas for a while before a painting was born. "But actually it was a long process. You need to think about how to compose, and do specific studies."
Living in the 16th and 17th century, Barocci from Urbino combined the beauty of the High Renaissance with the dynamism of what was to become known as the Baroque, a genre he was instrumental in pioneering.
He was slow in completing a painting, partially because of his illness. But an important reason was that Barocci was a perfectionist and meticulous about details.
"Before him nobody sketched in oil as consistent practice," Mann said.
Among the oil paintings, the Last Supper cost him nearly 10 years, while for another one, the Visitation, Barocci made 45 preparatory drawings, 12 of which were exhibited. Two oil drawings for the study of Saint Joseph's head were so delicate that some collector once planned to buy them.
The drawings showed the change of painter's ideas. One for the Immaculate Conception portrayed the Madonna wearing a mantle, implying her sheltering the world. But Barocci later abandoned the cloak, after finding that people underneath would not be able to see the Madonna's face.
The Institution of the Eucharist was made for the Pope. The sketch showed a brighter scene, with Satan whispering to Judas. But the Pope was not happy with the idea of having Satan so close to the Christ, and pointed out that the dinner should have been in the evening. These changes were seen on the final version.
Influences from famous painters Raphael and Titian were obvious. The left foot of Christ in Il Perdono was thrusting forward into viewer's space. The bold motif was inspired by Titian's Resurrected Christ. Whereas in Entombment, John the Evangelist was straining to carry Christ in his winding sheet, which had debt to Raphael's Entombment.
However, telling these stories seemed not the only purpose for the exhibition. Nicholas Penny, director of the National Gallery especially talked about Aeneas Flight from Troy, the only secular narrative painting.
"There was another version of the painting auctioned in the UK 150 years ago," he said. Maybe that one was still somewhere on the same land with the exhibited, and Penny wished that it could be found some day.