Winged. Putti in the art of the Renaissance

Temporary exhibitions

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  • Friday, June 28, 2024 - Sunday, October 6, 2024

Putti are a popular decorative motif which adorn countless works of early Modern European art. This charming phenomenon, showing small, winged boys, intrigues viewers and elicits curiosity. The exhibition at the Main Building presents this art phenomenon with a focus on the Renaissance (mainly examples from Italy and the German lands), presenting putti in the context of the art of antiquity and early modern Europe.

The exhibition includes more than 100 exhibits, mainly comprising drawings and illustrations, although also including sculptures, paintings, applied ceramics and fabrics from Polish and European museum collections (for example, from the Parisian Louvre, London’s Victoria and Albert Museum or the Kunsthistorisches Museum of Vienna). In this way, the exhibition documents the ancient origin, form, and symbolism of putti, mainly in the art of the 15th and 16th centuries. It evidences how it was that a new group of themes was introduced to the culture of the Renaissance, providing an opportunity to compete with antiquity, to reinterpret it, and to enrich it with new themes, in particular religious themes. The viewer may be surprised at, for instance, a group illustrating the origin of the nude, kneeling angel with cross on the dome of the Sigismund Chapel. The drawings which accompany the finished works illustrate the mechanism by which the form of the putto was perfected – initially quite far from the classical ideal, as can be seen from Andrea Mantegna’s copperplate etching – not only by making studies of works from antiquity but also by drawing sketches from life. These were done especially in the circle of artists around Raphael and his students, who designed pictures and tapestries, while sculptors and ceramics decorators also made use of this inventiveness. The exhibition systematises the wide range of content expressed by images of putti in a particular way; from an intuitive interpretation of antiquity and readings of Greek and Roman texts to poetic visions inspired by antiquity, and even to independently formed allegories, one master of which was, for example, Albrecht Dürer. Thus, the putto instructs us in brief on the essence of the Italian Renaissance and its reception in Europe, including in Poland, as well as providing an opportunity for contact with the output of the most important and greatest artists, which to a large degree is inaccessible on a day-to-day basis.

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