Born around 1459 in a small village at the foot of the Dolomites mountains, Italian Renaissance artist Cima da Conegliano is known as one of the masters of devotional paintings. Cima’s work possesses an ethereal grace, at the same time immobile and luminous. However, this subtlety has led the artist to be lesser known than his predecessor Giovanni Bellini or his contemporary Vittore Carpaccio. The Musée du Luxembourg is now attempting to correct this injustice, and those staying at the Hotel de la Tour Maubourg can see for themselves from April 5 until July 15, 2012.
Through its retrospective Cima da Conegliano, Master of the Venetian Renaissance, the Musée du Luxembourg reveals powerful paintings such as the peaceful “Madonna and Child” and the somber “Saint Sebastian,” depicted as he is being offered up for sacrifice. Deep blues, reds and oranges—seldom used up until that point for sacred works—burst off of the canvas without being vulgar. Air and light circulate throughout the space of the landscapes. As for the central figures of the paintings, their fine, carnation-hued faces express an intense calm that is also slightly melancholic.
One feature that visitors will undoubtedly notice is the delicateness of Cima’s work. This is due to the artist’s use of a rabbit’s fur paintbrush that allowed him to augment the number of glazes applied to the canvas. Applying as many as eight layers of glaze, the master could model the face of his Virgin Mary using barely any pigment. He implemented the same extreme precision when creating backgrounds for his paintings, and sometimes he even integrated reminders of home: researchers have recently demonstrated that the village that symbolizes Jerusalem in certain altarpieces is in fact a representation of Cima’s village of Conegliano.