Moroni, a fine portraitist

I left work early on my birthday, firstly joined by Mr BB at the Royal Academy to see Moroni, before a dinner with friends at the RA Keepers’ House. I initially thought there was no clear difference between Moroni and other Italian Renaissance painters. To me, at first glance, Giovanni Battista Moroni was closer to Venetian Renaissance painters, such as Giorgione. But I checked afterwards: Moroni’s home town is Albino, in the province of Bergamo, which is closer to Milan than Venice.

I learned from the Royal Academy exhibition that the specificity of Moroni was his depiction of religious subjects. Moroni placed the patron who commissioned the painting at the same level as biblical subjects. His paintings made religion more engaging; anecdotally Moroni represented God closer to a human being, even depicting him with rolled up sleeves! Similarly, Moroni included recognisable church figures and landscapes to provide more immediacy to religion.

Many aristocratic portraits are included in the show. I usually find them boring. However, Moroni’s naturalistic faces and above all his depiction of jewels, textiles and fabrics is extraordinary. We can distinguish the subtleties of velvet vs. satin, and not only women are painted with luxurious fabrics. Moroni extended his client base to lower class patrons, who are presented in a more realistic, less idealised fashion.

Moroni runs until January 25 at the Royal Academy.

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