Saturday, June 5, 2010
Raphael treated well by the Milwaukee Art Museum
How does a museum stage a one-painting show, you might ask? It can be done in different ways. This isn’t the first one I’ve seen. In fact, although I was only 11 when I saw her at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in NY in 1963, I vividly recall the Mona Lisa. To be more accurate, I recall the scene: the framed painting hung between two guards flanked by red velvet curtains. On a school trip in from the suburbs, I and my classmates stood in a long line before finally confronting that scene one at a time. It all proved her celebrity. I’ve seen her reproduced so often since (and the actual painting again) that I can’t honestly recall whether the actual portrait made an impression on me.
I’ve never forgotten my encounter with the Mona Lisa, but I might as well have been seeing a photograph of Marilyn Monroe for all she meant to me. (I might have enjoyed the Monroe more at the time!) She was a celebrity and she had never come to New York and so we all had to see her.
The Milwaukee Art Museum tried to make the most of Raphael’s celebrity. I submit the rather surreal detail of La Donna Velata’s face (below) that graces the drive-through entrance as evidence. Why not? That’s what attracts a crowd today, as in 1963. But I’m so glad I didn’t have to wait in line. Overjoyed at the intimacy of the installation. One painting can make for a very powerful exhibit, one way or another. As an eleven-year-old I would not have appreciated the Zen character of this quiet presentation. I’m quite satisfied with it now. It suits.