London, National Gallery

During the Renaissance, people tended to believe that a person's appearance mirrored the soul and that physical beauty reflected virtue and morality. To represent this, artists developed individual approaches to the genre of portraiture, especially as portraits played an important role in all spheres of life, from childhood to marriage, politics and death. This exhibition brings together more than 60 paintings alongside sculptures, drawings and medals, featuring masterpieces by, among others, Raphael, Titian, Botticelli, Van Eyck, Holbein, Dürer, Lotto, Pontormo and Bellini. The diversity of the depicted subjects spans the social spectrum, from the aristocracy to ordinary folk.

Among the fabulous works on display is Giuseppe Arcimboldo's "The Emperor Rudolph II as Vertumnus," who in Greek mythology was the god of the Seasons. The emperor has a pear for a nose, apples for cheeks, berries for a mouth, pods of peas for eyebrows, and flowers on his lapel, typifying Arcimboldo's anthropomorphic style. The highlights also include Tullio Lombardo's romantic sculpture of Bacchus and Ariadne and Quinten Massys' startling portrait of an ugly duchess, which daringly portrays the duchess's facial features as looking slightly deformed.

October 15, 2008, through January 18, 2009
Trafalgar Square
London WC2N 5DN
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