Today an American beauty goes on view in the Museum’s European Beaux-Art Court. The Virgin by the Italo-American Futurist Joseph Stella joins the Court’s Old and Modern Masters on the northern wall nestled in between Renaissance portraits of women painted in Italy and Peru.
Pairing works from different geographical regions and historical periods promotes new perspectives on familiar themes and compositions. Such cross-cultural juxtapositions are found in select galleries throughout the Museum.
Here, for example, visitors encounter three female saints, all painted half-length and accompanied by their principal attributes: a crucifix, lilies, and a jar of ointment. The source for all three works is the New Testament, but the technical execution of each is unique, reflecting the artist’s individual training and zeitgeist.
In the 1920s, after numerous trips to Italy, Joseph Stella painted a series of archaizing Madonnas in the style of the early Renaissance masters, among them Giotto and Piero della Francesco. Stella once confessed to a friend: “The beauty which smiles all around Italy from innumerable masterpieces spurs me to create a new beauty equal in power to the old one.” Framed by a festoon of brilliant birds and fruit, The Virgin stands before the Bay of Naples, a nod to the painter’s native region. She appears both medieval and modern in her simplicity and highly saturated color.