St Michael (c. 1633), a powerful work by Luca Giordano, one of the masters of Italian Baroque, is coming to the Netherlands in February. De Nieuwe Kerk Amsterdam will be exhibiting this impressive painting, on loan from the Gemäldegalerie in Berlin, for the eighth edition of its Masterpiece series. With this work, featuring the archangel Michael, the series returns to classical religious episode. Paintings by Giordano are rarely exhibited in the Netherlands, making this an exceptional event. The work is breathtaking not only for its sheer size, beauty and powerful energy, but also for its symbolism, which is typical of the Counter-Reformation: the triumphant Roman Catholic Church waging battle against the forces of Protestantism.
Luca Giordano’s masterpiece
The painting depicts the Biblical story in which the archangel Michael defeats Satan and the fallen angels (Revelation 12:7–9). In addition to its rich Counter-Reformation symbolism, the painting’s portrayal of the battle between the angel and the demonic figures also expresses the conflict between good and evil.
Giordano was a devout Catholic, and the Church was a very important patron. He probably painted this work as an altarpiece. Giordano’s style was marked by the hallmarks of Italian Baroque, which featured strong contrasts of light and dark, dynamic compositions and dramatic scenes and gestures. He admired Dürer, Raphael and Titian, but was also inspired by Rubens and Rembrandt. St Michael is part of Giordano’s enormous oeuvre of no fewer than 1,200 paintings. He was known as ‘Luca Fa Presto’ (Luca, work fast) and could paint an altarpiece in just 24 hours. Luca Giordano, St Michael (Der Heilige Michael), c. 1633, oil on canvas, 198 x 147 cm. Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, Gemäldegalerie, property of the Kaiser-Friedrich-Museums-Verein
Eighth edition of Masterpiece
This edition of Masterpiece will be held from 16 February to 7 April 2019. The series features works of art so extraordinary that they are almost never lent, because of their fragility or their status as beloved favourites. The works featured in the series have an obvious or unexpected religious or spiritual dimension. Each one is a work that calls for contemplation and introspection and dazzles visitors in the breath-taking surroundings of De Nieuwe Kerk’s gothic interior. The eighth edition of Masterpiece is made possible in part by Van Lanschot Bankiers.
Earlier editions of the Masterpiece series featured The Holy Family by Rembrandt (2011), Andy Warhol’s The Last Supper (pink) (2012), Francis Bacon’s triptych In Memory of George Dyer (2014), Tristan’s Ascension (The Sound of a Mountain Under a Waterfall) / Fire Woman by Bill Viola (2015), Marc Chagall’s Calvary (2016), Pentecostés by El Greco (2017) and Gazing Ball (Perugino Madonna and Child with Four Saints) by Jeff Koons (2018).
Tickets will soon be available online.