The very rare and exquisite Alana collection is on show at the Musée Jacquemart-André in Paris. An overview of Italian painting from Gothic art to the 17th century.
Orazio Gentileschi (Pisa, 1563-London, 1639), The Annunciation, ca. 1600-1605, oil on alabaster mounted on slate, 49.5 x 38.5 cm. Alana Collection, Newark, DE, USA.
© Allison Chipak
Rarely has an exhibition made such a splash at the venue hosting it. The decision to loan their Italian paintings to the museum by Alvaro Saieh and Ana Guzman (Alana is a contraction of their two first names) was no accident. They chose to lend 77 of their 450 paintings because of the close links between their works and the collections assembled by another exceptional husband and wife team. The common theme is Renaissance Italy. Pierre Curie, curator of the Paris museum and co-curator of the exhibition, is visibly thrilled to be able to present this rarely-loaned group. "Here we have unique evidence, in private hands, of the Italian schools' vitality and the coexistence of different pictorial languages within the same timeline." This explains the decision to hang the works nose to tail in the first room, with schools and periods in no specific order, as in the collectors' apartment. Florence rubs shoulders with Venice; Mannerism with the Baroque; a tondo by Jacopo del Sellaio with a panel by Vittore Carpaccio. The idea is to provide an overview of Italian art from the 13th to the 17th century. The eye, intrigued, stops, moves on then travels back and forth to read the notices and compare styles. We then find a chronological circuit reflecting the collection's main themes. Charm reigns supreme, with the glowing golds of the Primitives (the paintings selected are in impeccable condition) and various key pieces like Lorenzo Monaco's Annunciation. The first Florentine Renaissance opens onto perspective and spirituality, finding full humanistic expression in The Man of Sorrows, painted in around 1490 by Cosimo Rosselli, while Venice ushers in the 16th century and Luminism. A spectacular Tintoretto, recently acquired, still awaits the identification of its battle scene, while Pontormo and Bronzino hark back to the Florence of the Medici, illustrating the magisterial art of the portrait, and an Allegory of autumn fruits by Giorgio Vasari heralds the first still lifes. The exhibition ends on a Baroque note with Annibal Carrache, Manfredi and an eminently tender Orazio Gentileschi. We can only rejoice in the collectors' desire to push out their chronological limits to encompass the splendid 17th century.