Earlier this year, we covered the Denver Art Museum's show Cities of Splendor: A Journey Through Renaissance Italy, which was comprised largely of items from the museum's Kress Collection, a gift of 37 works from mid-14th century to mid-17th century Renaissance works.
In July, a catalog of the DAM's Kress Collection was published, written by Cities curator Angelica Daneo. Though the topic could be potentially quite dry, given its focus, it's truly a lovely and lively read, breaking down each painting or sculpture from the subject matter to the work's provenance.
Though it's true that enough versions of a Madonna and Child become tedious, Daneo assuages any boredom by pointing out the differences between, say, a Flemish Madonna and Child versus an Italian one. Or regale the reader with a tale about the artist's life. On an anecdotal note, I found that Daneo answered nearly every question I had in her write-ups, even touching on something so insignificant as a small, strange shape in a carving.
Yet this book is far from exhausting, despite how much research went into it. It's very manageable, both in size and length.
And whether or not it was intentional, I thought Daneo saved the best for last, with "Portrait of Don Diego Félix de Esquivel y Aldama" by Bartolomé Esteban Murillo, one of the great Spanish artists.
"As his style progressed he gradually abandoned the severe Spanish style of composition and successfully experimented with richer tones and more elaborate settings," Daneo writes. She also includes this quote from Edmondo de Amicis:
"Now let us speak of Murillo in our gentlest tones. Velasquez is in art an eagle; Murillo an angel. One admires Velasquez and adores Murillo. By his canvases we know him as if he had lived among us. He was handsome, good, and virtuous ... He combines the truth of Velasquez, the vigor of Ribera, the harmonious transparency of Titian, and the brilliant vivacity of Rubens."