The large altarpiece The Raising of Lazarus by Sebastiano (NG1) was one of the first paintings in the National Gallery and so it seems quite surprising that Sebastian is not so well known with those not so immersed in the Renaissance art world.
The National Gallery’s latest exhibition is the first to explore the creative partnership between Michelangelo (1475-1564) and Sebastiano (1485-1547). This is done through around 70 works, including paintings, drawings, sculptures and letters produced by Michelangelo and Sebastiano before, during, and after their friendship and in so doing provides us with a unique insight into both men’s professional and personal lives.
Michelangelo was working on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel when Sebastian arrived in Rome from Venice. The two men quickly became friends, a friendship which lasted over twenty-five years. Sebastiano was the only oil painter in Rome to rival Raphael who was enjoying his increasing popularity at the time. His skills and friendship must have benefited Michelangelo who favoured neither oil painting nor Raphael. A young Sebastiano would doubtlessly have benefited from the friendship, from Michelangelo’s drawings and conceptual ideas. They collaborated on a number of works including the Pieta for the church of San Francesco in Viterbo, the Raising of Lazarus for the Cathedral of Narbonne, and the Borgherini Chapel:
The are other firsts; Sebastiano’s Visitation ventures from the Louvre; and the Lamentation over the dead Christ from the State Hermitage Museum, St Petersburg. The exhibition tells a story from origins, via friendship and rivalry through to an acrimonious end.
Michelangelo’s Pieta never fails to impress. Although a cast of the original, this is a chance of seeing it as to how it was designed to be seen, at floor height rather than up and out of reach in Chapel of the Pieta in S. Peter’s Basilica, Vatican City. Try to find, hidden in the folds of Mary’s left hand, a subtle “M” believed to stand for Michelangelo.
A combination of 3D printing technology and traditional forming methods has enabled the successful reconstruction of the Borgherini Chapel. Even though it is slightly smaller than the original it is still impressive.
I very much enjoyed looking at works from different angles, be it earlier versions such as The Risen Christ by Michelangelo which is a larger-than-life-size marble statue (1514-1515) lent by the Church of S. Vincenzo Martire, Bassano Romano. The Risen Christ stands proudly next to a plaster cast of Michelangelo’s second version of the same subject (1519-21) which is permanently housed in the S. Maria sopra Minerva, Rome. This is the first time visitors have had the opportunity to see these two versions side by side. To also see Sebastiano’s painting and study for Christ carrying the Cross whose style at this time seems so closely aligned with Michelangelo’s was particularly special.
The focus of the exhibition is collaboration and nothing highlights this more than the informal charcoal studies on the reverse of the Viterbo Pieta (1512) which are believed to be by both artists. Some of the smaller figure studies appear to be Michelangelo’s ideas for designs that he would paint on the Sistine Chapel ceiling of the same year, (The Creation of Man) and The Brazen Serpent).
You don’t need to be knowledgeable about Michelangelo, Sebastiano or Italian Renaissance art to enjoy this exhibition as it carefully guides you, providing enough to see and read to build a better understanding of these Renaissance artists as individuals and collaborators.
Visit: Credit Suisse Exhibition: Michelangelo & Sebastian
The National Gallery, Trafalgar Square, London, WC2N 5DN
15 March – 25 June 2017
Daily 10am-6pm (last admission 5pm) | Fridays 10am-9pm (last admission 8.15pm)
Buy your tickets online here or call 0800 912 6958.
Adult £18 | Senior £16 | National Art Pass (Art Fund holders) £9
Student / Jobseeker / 12-18 years £9
Under-12s (ticket required) Free
Members go free
You may also enjoy Sensational Butterflies at the Natural History Museum
Written by Hazel at London Guided Walks
Hazel Baker is a qualified CIGA Tour Guide who delivers guided walks and private tours in London. View all of Hazel’s walking tours.