Portraits of popes, couples, and kings will swarm London's National Gallery with the October opening of "Renaissance Faces: Van Eyck to Titian." The exhibition is sponsored for an undisclosed amount by Axa SA, Europe's second-biggest insurer.
"Renaissance Faces," on view from October 15, 2008, through January 18, 2009, is the first show staged by the gallery's new director, Nicholas Penny, 58, since his arrival in February. Mr. Penny, who spoke out against crowd-pleasing "blockbuster" exhibitions when he took over, was asked at a press breakfast this week whether this didn't qualify as one.
"There is a real distinction between exhibitions which people have planned because they hope they're going to be popular, and exhibitions which they've planned because they're going to be good," Mr. Penny said. "This is an exhibition we've planned because it's going to be good, and if it's popular, that's great."
The exhibition will bring together paintings, drawings, and sculptures from the Louvre, the Museo di Capodimonte in Naples, and the Museo de Arte Thyssen-Bornemisza in Madrid, among other institutions.
Highlights include Domenico Ghirlandaio's "An Old Man and His Grandson" (c. 1490), from the Louvre; Titian's portrait of Pope Paul III (1548), from Capodimonte, and Palma Vecchio's "Portrait of a Young Woman ('La Bella')" (1518-20), from the Thyssen-Bornemisza collection in Madrid.
Jan van Eyck's 1433 "Portrait of a Man," believed to be a self-portrait, will be displayed alongside the 1439 picture of his spouse, "Margaret, the Painter's Wife."