All Hail Maryan Ainsworth

February 26 2011

Image of All Hail Maryan Ainsworth

Of the many positive reviews of the excellent ‘Jan Gossaert’s Renaissance’ at the National Gallery (Guardian, Telegraph, Independent), none mention the driving force behind the show, Met Museum curator Maryan Ainsworth. I am in awe of what she has achieved. [More below]

Not only has she put on a first-class display in both New York and London devoted to a relatively unknown artist – not easy in this age of blockbuster shows – but she has compiled a monograph catalogue to accompany it. I thought monographic exhibitions were dead and buried, but happily not. The catalogue even has a section  called ‘Paintings previously Attributed to Gossart’, which immediately suggests thoroughness, and, whisper it, connoisseurship. Finally, the acknowledgments reveal that the exhibition and catalogue were first proposed only in 2007. What an undertaking.

The 484 page catalogue costs £60, but is well worth it. If only there was a cheaper paperback available at the National Gallery so that more people could learn about this great painter. Instead visitors have to make do with a £20 ‘Exhibition Book’ called ‘From Van Eyck to Gossart’, which includes only a handful of works by Gossart.  

Ps – I can’t help but feel sorry for Gossart. His name is changed so often, it is hardly surprising he is so little known. He preferred to call himself ‘Joannes/Johannes Malbodius’, or ‘John of Mabuse’. For many centuries he was therefore known as ‘Mabuse’. Now art historians call him ‘Jan Gossart’. In England, we persist in spelling this incorrectly as ‘Jan Gossaert’.

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