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ART WALK THE M AG A ZI N E F O R M USEUM LOV ERS No. 6

june 2013 / early italian egg tempera paintings

guided tour of eight masterpieces & Historical Context & Explanation of Techniques & Fun Facts!

duccio fra angelico giovanni di paolo botticelli & Other Masters of the Quattrocento


published by a non-profit press for academic purposes only. new york, ny. 2013 editor Theresa Zeitz-Lindamood creative director Francesca da Rimini photography Guido da Montefeltro

further enquiries zeitz@cooper.edu


ART WALK CONTENTS

04 Letter from the Editor 06 The Technique of Egg Tempera 14 All About Altarpieces 16 Florence vs Siena 18 The Tour duccio pietro lorenzetti fra angelico giovanni di paolo pesellino botticelli

34 Further Reading / Bibliography


LETTER FROM THE EDITOR

No.

6

june 2013: early italian egg tempera paintings at the met


WHAT IF YOU COULD BECOME

AN EXPERT

IN A DAY?

museums are wonderful, no doubt about it, but they can be overwhelming. That’s why every issue of ArtWalk concentrates on just a tiny sliver of art history through the lens of a single technique and a particular time period and place. This month we explore Italian panel paintings from about 1300–1500 CE, when ‘Late Medieval’ shades imperceptibly into ‘Early Renaissance.’ The luminous, jewel-like paintings featured in this month's Tour showcase the wonderfully varied artistic styles of the all-star artists who painted them. Our mission is to provide fun, exciting, thoughtprovoking information about the artworks (and the way they were made) so you can instantly view a museum’s collection through the eyes of an expert. Whether you read it on the subway on the way to the museum, browse when you're in the gallery, or share ArtWalk with friends and family, we truly hope it enhances and enriches your next museum visit.

theresa zeitz-lindamood, editor

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IT WAS THE PRIMARY PAINTING METHOD FOR THOUSANDS OF YEARS... THEN IT SLIPPED INTO OBLIVION.

THE TECHNIQUE of

EGG TEMPERA


EGG TEMPERA PAINT NOTHING MORE THAN EGG YOLKS & PIGMENT & WATER popular from ancient egypt until the fifteenth century Egg tempera was the preferred painting medium in the ancient world and all across Europe until it was usurped by oil painting in the fifteenth century. Oil paint, with its slower drying time that permitted subtle, lifelike blending of colors was appealing to many artists. Egg tempera, in comparison, dried almost instantly, so smooth modeling of flesh or fabric or skies was virtually impossible. Instead, artists had to create the illusion of gradients with thousands of carefully applied hair-thin hatch-marks. Egg tempera paint is very durable, but oil paint was even more long-lasting and waterproof, giving artists another reason to switch to the new medium.

e� a simple mixture Tempera paint is nothing more than fresh egg yolks mixed with pigment and water. The fat of the egg yolks binds to the pigment (“tempers” it) and makes it into a paint that, while watersoluble at first, becomes a durable, tough surface after a few months’ time. When it is wet, egg tempera paint flows freely, behaving much like watercolor. Unlike watercolor, it can be applied in layers – in fact, because it is naturally sheer and translucent, many patiently applied layers of egg tempera paint are required to build up an area of rich color.

the wooden panel is essential Egg tempera will peel and flake if it is painted on a flexible surface like canvas or paper, and painting it directly on wood doesn’t work, either: egg tempera can only adhere to an ultraabsorbant ground. Artists went to great trouble to make sturdy supports for their paintings: the process is outlined on the following page.

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THE MANY LAYERS OF AN EGG TEMPERA PANEL

2 1

hardwood Preferably poplar. It was ‘seasoned’ for months before painting to ensure that the panel wouldn’t warp or crack.

muslin Lightweight cotton was glued to the wood panel with gelatin-glue. If the wood expanded and contracted in response to changes in temperature and humidity, the muslin would mitigate cracking in the surface of the paint.


4 3

gesso A viscous mixture of gelatin-glue and chalk (calcium carbonate). In order for the paint to adhere properly, several layers of gesso were required to form an absorbant ground.

gold leaf First, artists applied red bole, a sticky mixture of red clay and gelatin-glue, to all the areas intended for gilding. Then artists moistened the red bole and applied sheets of tissue-thin 24-karat gold hammered to be tissue-thin, so thin that the warm-toned red bole would be slightly visible beneath.

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paint Made fresh every day:a mixture of egg yolks, powdered pigment, and water.


DID ARTISTS HAVE ALTERNATIVES TO EGG TEMPERA PAINT? Although egg tempera allowed artists to create portable, long-lasting artworks, the process of preparing the panel, then gilding the background and applying dozens of sheer layers of paint, was time-consuming. Artists did have other ways of painting, neither without their own drawbacks:

fresco To make a fresco, an artist applies fresh

watercolor book illumination Paint

plaster to a wall and, working quickly, paints on the plaster before it dries. The result is extremely permanent, since the painting is fused with the wall, not simply resting atop its surface. Since an artist could only work so quickly, a patch of plaster would be applied fresh daily – we can tell how many sessions a fresco painting required by looking at the seams between these patches. Because the painting was part of the wall and practically immovable, and subject to the same vissicitudes as the building itself: fires and floods have destroyed countless precious frescoes around the world.

tends to flake off flexible surfaces like paper and vellum, but painted pages have a better shot at longevity if they are kept safe inside the covers of a book. Illuminated manuscript books were popular in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries; many artists received special training, and earned their living, as miniaturists. They used water-based pigments to paint on vellum (highly finished, paper-thin animal hide). Because this paint didn’t require much layering, and the scale was so small, the technique was faster than egg tempera painting.


the particular advantages of egg tempera Egg tempera has several unique qualities: chief among them its luminous color, which does not fade over the centuries, remaining more vivid than oil paint and richer than the colors of watercolor or fresco. Because of the fat of the egg yolk, the paint has a slight sheen – not matte like watercolor, not glossy like oil paint. Egg tempera is also well-suited for painting crisp details, especially patterns and linear elements like flowing hair.

fresco Pigment painted on wet plaster

watercolor Pigment mixed with water

egg tempera Pigment with egg yolks as a binder

durable

portable

quick

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GILDING THE LILY GESSO DECORATION After finishing Step #3 of the panel preparation process (see p. __), while the gesso was still wet, artists would add dimension to the gilded areas of the painting with these decorative techniques.

pastiglia (pas-teel-ya), the Italian word for “pastework,” involved modelling wet gesso into three-dimensional sculptural forms.

punches were metal-tipped tools that were stamped into the damp gesso to create repeating designs reminiscient of jeweler’s techniques.

incised lines could be made in either wet or dry gesso with a needlelike tool. These could be used to decorative effect, as in the halo above, or to help artists draw precise guides when depicting architecture.


ALL ABOUT ALTARPIECES

who bought paintings, and why? In the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries, a wealthy individual or group would commission a panel painting to broadcast their taste, wealth, and religious devotion. Panel paintings were eye-catching with their brilliant pigments and burnished gold, and compared to other commemorative gifts (a stained glass window, for example), comparatively inexpensive.

private splendor, public devotion Painters had to be flexible about working in a variety of sizes and formats. A single wealthy patron might commission an artist to make a small-scale painting to keep in his or her home for private religious contemplation; for ease of travel, it might have hinged doors that would close protectively over the main image (see above). Larger, multi-panel paintings were often commissioned by groups, such as a monastery or a town committee for the beautification of a public building, like the Cathedral or City Hall. These towering, splendid altarpieces with many images and scenes (see above, top) occupied

the most important place in the church, becoming the focal point of the the altar where the Eucharist was performed.

patron/artist relations Just as twentyfirst century galleries have standardized procedures for selling art, there was an artselling system in the Quattrocento, too. The patron and artist would draw up a contract, mediated by a third party, often another artist who advised on the pricing. Many such contracts survive in archives, and they show that the patron held great sway in dictating the size of the painting, its composition, the number of figures and their relative sizes, even specifying the quality of pigments to be used and clarifying whether the patron or artist would cover the cost of gilding the background. The patron often had specific allegorical goals for the painting they commissioned – a widow commemorating her dead son, for example, might request a Pietà scene, or a group of Franciscan monks buying a painting for they abbey would want it to show scenes from the life of Saint Francis.

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FLORENCE versus

SIENA all of the paintings in this month’s tour come from florence of siena. both cities were both prosperous cultural centers in the middle ages, developing an intense rivalry that still persists. siena’s golden age began in 1260 c.e. when the sienese defeated the florentines at the battle of montaperti, but florence would emerge as the dominant city by the year 1400. these historical power struggles are not far form the modern italian mind: in 2002, a banner at a socccer match in siena read: ‘remember montaperti.’


FLORENCE artistic style Florence is generally regarded as the birthplace of the Renaissance, a city that encouraged artists to revive Classical ideals by looking back to the realistic human proportions of Greek and Roman art and using mathematical two-point perspective to portray space accurately.

building blooper Florence’s magnificent cathedral was built before architects figured out how to cover it. Il Duomo was completed in 1418, but was roof-less until 1436, when the city held a competition to solicit solutions and the goldsmith Filippo Brunelleschi devised a plan for its giant octagonal dome.

famous religious zealot Fra Savonarola: the most

The campanile (bell-tower) of the Duomo in Florence, designed by the painter Giotto

puritanical Italian who ever lived, who preached hellfire sermons, hosted a “bonfire of the vanities” where citizens were encouraged to burn worldly possessions, and enjoyed immense fame and popularity which was followed by a devastating reversal of public opinion: he was burned at the stake in the center of Florence.

culinary specialty Bistecca alla fiorentina, a giant T-bone steak grilled simply with salt and olive oil.

SIENA artistic style The artists and art-patrons of Siena were more concerned with mystical vision than realism or accuracy; they had a long-lasting predilection for gold backgrounds, bright colors, and intricate patterns even after these became unfashionable elsewhere, especially in Florence.

building blooper Siena already had one of the most impressive cathedrals in Europe, but in 1339 the city decided to double its size; construction started on a new giant nave that would intersect the existing church, but the Black Death arrived in 1348; the fragment of abandoned wall still stands.

famous religious zealot St Catherine of Siena: she

The Palazzo Pubblico (Town Hall) in the center of Siena

died in Rome, but the Sienese wanted her body, or at least part of it, to remain in her birth city. They managed to smuggle the corpse’s head out of Rome – legend has it, when the Roman guards inspected the bag, it turned into flower petals – and the preserved head of St Catherine is still on display in Siena.

culinary specialty Fruitcake.

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THE TOU| SEE THE TRANSITION FROM MEDIEVAL TO RENAISSANCE IN SEVEN MASTERPIECES OF EGG TEMPERA PAINTING

1 3 00 C E

13 5 0

14 0 0

1 45 0

1500 CE


DUCCIO DI BUONINSEGNA ITALIAN, ACTIVE BY 1278– DIED 1318 SIENA

B

Madonna and Child, ca. 1300 Tempera and gold leaf on wood 27.9 x 21 cm (11 x 8 ¼ inches) 2004.442

why did the met spend a fortune on this tiny panel? This painting dates from the so-called Golden Age of Siena. However, his style departs from Duccio's in the jewel-like use of color and intricate application of gold ornaments. The solidity of his massive, statuesque figures (particularly the figure in the orange cloak) recall Giotto's pioneering style. Overall, it was well worth the extravagant price-tag!

check out the original frame In this way, Pietro Lorenzetti's art is based on a fusion of the styles of Giotto and Duccio, the two great Trecento masters. Andit aperum si occum, sunt volupta sit volor a derate sectiume nonem recti officte magnis dendipiet eumquis nimaxim illorrum quis niet eostrumquam ipsam estiam estrum quid molor sunt.

what made this painting revolutionary ca. 1300? Et erum in ped que ent aborempore as dipiscil estia id magnatu reicit pellam fugit, Torumus Cuperrae auterita ac factum. Valius aus, quit, us hos ca; Cat. Ur ia verdinam co ina, cus sus porae dem facchi, quastis terum, ficesendam ocaeque intieni stasties! Atius bonscriste cem parissus vilis, nontimius bon trit.

can you identify the layers of the painting? Ahabi prit. Igna, mod factus; noviviv ivivid fur. Optil ve, dem sed Catiam tum tum ex num se det det deris es inere int.

Duccio’s Maesta, a giant altarpiece, nearly ten feet wide, that has remained in his native city of Siena.

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PIETRO LORENZETTI SIENESE, ACTIVE 1320 –44

C

The Crucifixion, ca. 1340 Tempera and gold leaf on wood 41.9 x 31.8 cm (16 ½ x 12 ½ inches) 2002.436

the jewel-like sienese style This painting dates from the so-called Golden Age of Siena. However, his style departs from Duccio's in the jewel-like use of color and intricate application of gold ornaments. The solidity of his massive, statuesque figures (particularly the figure in the orange cloak) recall Giotto's pioneering style. Overall, it was well worth the extravagant price-tag!

lorenzetti's spirited narrative In this way, Pietro Lorenzetti's art is based on a fusion of the styles of Giotto and Duccio, the two great Trecento masters. Andit aperum si occum, sunt volupta sit volor a derate sectiume nonem recti officte magnis dendipiet eumquis nimaxim illorrum quis niet eostrumquam ipsam estiam estrum quid molor sunt.

look for groups of two Et erum in ped que ent aborempore as dipiscil estia id magnatu reicit pellam fugit, Torumus Cuperrae auterita ac factum. Valius aus, quit, us hos ca; Cat. Ur ia verdinam co ina, cus sus porae dem facchi, quastis terum, ficesendam ocaeque intieni stasties! Atius bonscriste cem parissus vilis, nontimius bon trit.

original frame & mint condition Ahabi prit. Igna, mod factus; noviviv ivivid fur. Optil ve, dem sed Catiam tum tum ex num se det det deris es inere int.Optis hos me qui stropublis, que conumunum prit; nonena imis, que intemen trarbit. Ad mo ves? quius fur. Cuperet; esi te ad

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FRA ANGELICO (GUIDO DI PIETRO) VICCHIO DI MUGELLO CA. 1395–1455 ROME

D

A Bishop Saint, ca. 1425 Tempera and gold leaf on wood 15.9 x 15.6 cm (6 ¼ x 6 ⅛ inches) 1991.27.2

beguiling egg tempera technique This painting dates from the so-called Golden Age of Siena. However, his style departs from Duccio's in the jewel-like use of color and intricate application of gold ornaments. The solidity of his massive, statuesque figures (particularly the figure in the orange cloak) recall Giotto's pioneering style. Overall, it was well worth the extravagant price-tag!

check out the original frame In this way, Pietro Lorenzetti's art is based on a fusion of the styles of Giotto and Duccio, the two great Trecento masters. Andit aperum si occum, sunt volupta sit volor a derate sectiume nonem recti officte magnis dendipiet eumquis nimaxim illorrum quis niet eostrumquam ipsam estiam estrum quid molor sunt.

what made this painting revolutionary in the year 1300? Et erum in ped que ent aborempore as dipiscil estia id magnatu reicit pellam fugit, Torumus Cuperrae auterita ac factum. Valius aus, quit, us hos ca; Cat. Ur ia verdinam co ina, cus sus porae dem facchi, quastis terum, ficesendam ocaeque intieni stasties! Atius bonscriste cem parissus vilis, nontimius bon trit. Fra Angelico’s paintings often feature dozens (even hundreds!) of distinct figures, such as his Coronation of the Virgin in the Louvre

can you identify the layers of the painting? Ahabi prit. Igna, mod factus; noviviv ivivid fur. Optil ve, dem sed Catiam tum tum ex num se det det deris es inere int. Optis hos me qui stropublis, que conumunum prit; nonena imis, que intemen trarbit. Ad mo ves? quius fur. Cuperet; esi te ad il tatu inpraec fac ilis, quam in Ita volto publinat, orum intentereo, Patorac iemque abutemq

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GIOVANNI DI PAOLO SIENA 1398–1482 SIENA

F

Paradise, ca. 1445 Tempera and gold leaf on canvas, transferred from wood 47 x 40.6 cm (18 ½ x 16 inches) 06.1046

why did the met pay a fortune for this tiny panel? This painting dates from the so-called Golden Age of Siena. However, his style departs from Duccio's in the jewel-like use of color and intricate application of gold ornaments. The solidity of his massive, statuesque figures (particularly the figure in the orange cloak) recall Giotto's pioneering style. Overall, it was well worth the extravagant price-tag!

check out the original frame In this way, Pietro Lorenzetti's art is based on a fusion of the styles of Giotto and Duccio, the two great Trecento masters. Andit aperum si occum, sunt volupta sit volor a derate sectiume nonem recti officte magnis dendipiet eumquis nimaxim illorrum quis niet eostrumquam ipsam estiam estrum quid molor sunt.

what made this painting revolutionary in the year 1300?

The figures in this painting were based on sculptures from Jacopo della Quercia’s fountain, the Fonte Gaia, located in the center of Siena.

Et erum in ped que ent aborempore as dipiscil estia id magnatu reicit pellam fugit, Torumus Cuperrae auterita ac factum. Valius aus, quit, us hos ca; Cat. Ur ia verdinam co ina, cus sus porae dem facchi, quastis terum, ficesendam ocaeque intieni stasties! Atius bonscriste cem parissus vilis, nontimius bon trit.

can you identify the layers of the painting? Ahabi prit. Igna, mod factus; noviviv ivivid fur. Optil ve, dem sed Catiam tum tum ex num se det det deris es inere int.

the influence of dante’s inferno Optis hos me qui stropublis, que conumunum prit; nonena imis, que intemen trarbit. Ad mo ves? quius fur. Cuperet; esi te ad il tatu inpraec fac ilis, quam in Ita volto publinat, orum intentereo, Patorac iemque abutemq

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G I O V A N NI DI P A OLO S I E N A 1 39 8– 1482 S I E NA G

Paradise, ca. 1445 Tempera and gold leaf on canvas, transferred from wood 47 x 40.6 cm (18 ½ x 16 inches) 06.1046

why did the met pay a fortune for this tiny panel? This painting dates from the so-called Golden Age of Siena. However, his style departs from Duccio's in the jewel-like use of color and intricate application of gold ornaments. The solidity of his massive, statuesque figures (particularly the figure in the orange cloak) recall Giotto's pioneering style. Overall, it was well worth the extravagant price-tag!

check out the original frame In this way, Pietro Lorenzetti's art is based on a fusion of the styles of Giotto and Duccio, the two great Trecento masters. Andit aperum si occum, sunt volupta sit volor a derate sectiume nonem recti officte magnis dendipiet eumquis nimaxim illorrum quis niet eostrumquam ipsam estiam estrum quid molor sunt.

what made this painting revolutionary in the year 1300? Et erum in ped que ent aborempore as dipiscil estia id magnatu reicit pellam fugit, Torumus Cuperrae auterita ac factum. Valius aus, quit, us hos ca; Cat. Ur ia verdinam co ina, cus sus porae dem facchi, quastis terum, ficesendam ocaeque intieni stasties! Atius bonscriste cem parissus vilis, nontimius bon trit.

Above: Giovanni di Paolo was commissioned to create an illustrated version of Dante’s Paradiso. His familiarity with Dante’s text informs his art from that time period onwards.

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PESELLINO (FRANCESCO DI STEFANO) FLORENCE CA. 1422–1457 FLORENCE

H

Madonna and Child with Six Saints, ca. 1447 Tempera and gold leaf on wood 22.5 x 20.3 cm (8 ⅞ x 8 in) 50.145.30

the best-preesrved work of a mysterious artist In this way, Pietro Lorenzetti's art is based on a fusion of the styles of Giotto and Duccio, the two great Trecento masters. Andit aperum si occum, sunt volupta sit volor a derate sectiume nonem recti officte magnis dendipiet eumquis nimaxim illorrum quis niet eostrumquam ipsam estiam estrum quid molor sunt.

start at the feet This painting dates from the so-called Golden Age of Siena. However, his style departs from Duccio’s in the jewel-like use of color and intricate application of gold ornaments. The solidity of his massive, statuesque figures (particularly the figure in the orange cloak) recall Giotto’s pioneering style. Overall, it was well worth the extravagant price-tag!

gothic gold & renaissance figures Et erum in ped que ent aborempore as dipiscil estia id magnatu reicit pellam fugit, Torumus Cuperrae auterita ac factum. Valius aus, quit, us hos ca; Cat. Ur ia verdinam co ina, cus sus porae dem facchi, quastis terum, ficesendam ocaeque intieni stasties! Atius bonscriste cem parissus vilis, nontimius bon trit.

can you identify the layers of the painting? Ahabi prit. Igna, mod factus; noviviv ivivid fur. Optil ve, dem sed Catiam tum tum ex num se det det deris es inere int. Optis hos me qui stropublis, que conumunum prit; nonena imis, que intemen trarbit. Ad mo ves? quius fur. Cuperet; esi te ad il tatu inpraec fac ilis, quam in Ita volto publinat, orum intentereo, Patorac iemque abutemq

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BOTTICELLI FLORENCE 1444 –1510 FLORENCE

I

The Last Communion of St Jerome, ca. 1490 Tempera and gold leaf on wood 34.3 x 25.4 cm (13 ½ x 10 inches) 14.40.642

famous in its own day In this way, Pietro Lorenzetti's art is based on a fusion of the styles of Giotto and Duccio, the two great Trecento masters. Andit aperum si occum, sunt volupta sit volor a derate sectiume nonem recti officte magnis dendipiet eumquis nimaxim illorrum quis niet eostrumquam ipsam estiam estrum quid molor sunt.

following gazes and hands Et erum in ped que ent aborempore as dipiscil estia id magnatu reicit pellam fugit, Torumus Cuperrae auterita ac factum. Valius aus, quit, us hos ca; Cat. Ur ia verdinam co ina, cus sus porae dem facchi, quastis terum, ficesendam ocaeque intieni stasties! Atius bonscriste cem parissus vilis, nontimius bon trit.

the pinnacle of egg tempera technique Ahabi prit. Igna, mod

Botticelli’s painting is displayed in a frame that is contemporary to the painting, but not original. Botticelli did not paint the scene in the lunette (half-circle) at the top.

factus; noviviv ivivid fur. Optil ve, dem sed Catiam tum tum ex num se det det deris es inere int.Optis hos me qui stropublis, que conumunum prit; nonena imis, queintemen trarbit. Ad mo ves? quius fur. Cuperet; esi te ad il tatu inpraec fac ilis, quam in Ita volto publinat, orum intentereo, Patorac iemque abutemq

textures galore Ahabi prit. Igna, mod factus; noviviv ivivid fur. Optil ve, dem sed Catiam tum tum ex num se det det deris es inere int.Optis hos me qui stropublis, que conumunum prit; nonena imis, queintemen trarbit. Ad mo ves? quius fur. Cuperet; esi te ad il tatu inpraec fac ilis, quam in Ita volto publinat, orum intentereo, Patorac iemque abutemq

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bibliography & suggeested reading

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painting in renaissance siena by christian kristoff. Tucked in the back

painting in renaissance siena by christian kristoff. Tucked in the back

painting in renaissance siena by christian kristoff. Tucked in the back

of the museum, these rooms (decorated exactly as they were during Lehman’s lifetime) escape the notice of many visitors. The Lehman Collection is a treasure

of the museum, these rooms (decorated exactly as they were during Lehman’s lifetime) escape the notice of many visitors. The Lehman Collection is a treasure

of the museum, these rooms (decorated exactly as they were during Lehman’s lifetime) escape the notice of many visitors. The Lehman Collection is a treasure

painting in renaissance siena by christian kristoff. Tucked in the back

painting in renaissance siena by christian kristoff. Tucked in the back

painting in renaissance siena by christian kristoff. Tucked in the back

of the museum, these rooms (decorated exactly as they were during Lehman’s lifetime) escape the notice of many visitors. The Lehman Collection is a treasure trove of Medieval and Early

of the museum, these rooms (decorated exactly as they were during Lehman’s lifetime) escape the notice of many visitors. The Lehman Collection is a treasure

of the museum, these rooms (decorated exactly as they were during Lehman’s lifetime) escape the notice of many visitors. The Lehman Collection is a treasure trove of Medieval and Early


art walk is mind-expanding... certainly the smartest new way to experience a museum. The New Yorker


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