In the last post I intended to talk about some more highlights beyond Gallery A but having gone off on one about Arthur Ransome’s oeuvre I thought it best to split my ramblings into two more digestible helpings. There are two temporary offerings at the National that any self-respecting art lover finding themselves with an afternoon in London should get to.
Firstly, Chris Ofili’s wonderful Weaving Magic. A collaboration with the Dovecot Tapestry Studio the work is the brightest jewel in London right now. Ofili’s preparatory drawings in the ante room give you the context of the tapestry’s design, including the information that the cocktail waiter is based on Mario Balotelli.
The tapestry itself is in a grand, subtly lit room where it glows with pure sensual pleasure. If the Trinidad Tourist Board had any sense they’d snap it up immediately for their publicity because it’s the best argument for visiting the Caribbean that I’ve seen since the retirement of Brian Lara.
But Ofili’s isn’t the only gem. Tucked away by the front door of the NG is a grand baroque canvas by an artist I’d never come across before, a glimpse of which can be seen in the image above. Cagnacci’s Repentant Magdalene is another work of sensual delight on a par with Ofili’s, even if it comes in the guise of a work of religious devotion. The Magdelene is repentant but in the depiction of her transition from sin to contrition she seems to have her carnality multiplied by Cagnacci’s brush. Not even the devil, in the allegorical figure of Vice, has the best tunes in this piece. For once they belong to the godly; Vice barely merits a glance.
Individual sections of the painting are worth studying closely. The Magdalene’s blue robe a gorgeous slather of colour on the floor, a sunlit balcony straight from a perfect holiday on the Med and Cagnacci’s own signature (Guido Cagnacci, Inventor) deserve patient attention before your gaze is inevitably pulled back to the central, intense relationship between Mary and Martha. Catch it while you can, it closes today!
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Blue Badge guide to London and academic specialising in early twentieth century history. Blogging on history, academia, and food and culture in the capital (and occasionally elsewhere).