Barocci: Lacking the wow factor

Barocci at the National Gallery is not an exhibition about baroque art as I admittedly first thought. Barocci is a 16th-century Italian artist, post-Italian Renaissance and contemporary of the Mannerists, active in its native city Urbino and Rome. The exhibition gives evidence of the artist’s meticulousness by showing very detailed studies alongside the final paintings.

Although Barocci was credited with influencing Rubens, the NG show and Barocci failed to impress me. Barocci’s works reminded me of Corregio’s in some instances but lacked the sensuality of the latter. Barocci’s portraits of idealised faces with pink cheeks and his expertise in life drawing were lacking the high stylisation and sophistication of the Mannerists.

The NG exhibition has at least the merit of showing a relatively unknown artist, his attention to detail, his dexterity in life drawing (note that he used his male assistants as models for his female characters) and his astute placing of characters in the foreground of his paintings. However, I have seen drawings by Leonard de Vinci and Michelangelo and Barocci’s did not have a similar wow factor.


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