Hidden Faces at the MET

January 30 2024

Image of Hidden Faces at the MET

Picture: MET

Posted by Adam Busiakiewicz:

The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York will be opening their latest Old Master exhibition in April. Hidden Faces: Covered Portraits of the Renaissance will be examining why some portraits hide or conceal the faces of their sitters.

According to the blurb on the museum's website:

This exhibition is the first to examine an intriguing but largely unknown side—in the literal sense—of Renaissance painting: multisided portraits in which the sitter’s likeness was concealed by a hinged or sliding cover, within a box, or by a dual-faced format. The covers and reverses of these small, private portraits were adorned with puzzlelike emblems, epigrams, allegories, and mythologies that celebrated the sitter’s character, and they represent some of the most inventive and unique secular imagery of the Renaissance. The viewer had to decode the meaning of the symbolic portrait before lifting, sliding, or turning the image over to unmask the face below.

This widespread tradition in Italy and Northern Europe during the 15th and 16th centuries will be explored through approximately 60 double-sided and covered portraits from The Met collection and other American and European institutions, including the reunion of several portraits and their covers that had been split and made part of separate collections. Painted by artists such as Hans Memling, Lucas Cranach, Lorenzo Lotto, and Titian, the works range from portraits intended as portable propaganda to those designed to conceal a lover's identity. These varied three-dimensional, hand-held ensembles shed significant light upon the intimate and personal nature of portraits designed as interactive objects.

The show will run from 2nd April 2024 until 7th July 2024.

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