In reading about the Georgia Museum of Art at the University of Georgia’s new exhibition, “Wealth and Beauty: Pier Francesco Foschi and Painting in Renaissance Florence,” I was excited to find that one of the most important pieces in the show was a loan from the Cummer Museum of Art and Gardens in Jacksonville.
The painting, Portrait of Bartolomeo Compagni, was completed in 1549. It’s oil on panel, 40 1/2 × 32 1/2 inches.
“This portrait is one of Foschi’s finest. Bartolomeo Compagni and Foschi were related, as Foschi’s mother was a Compagni. This painting has never been included in a scholarly publication before, so the catalogue accompanying ‘Wealth and Beauty’ will contribute new scholarship to the field with the entry on the Cummer portrait,” Ashlyn Davis, Pierre Daura Curatorial Research Assistant at the Georgia Museum of Art, told me. “Foschi also includes a series of objects in the portrait to allude to Bartolomeo Compagni’s status and identity which helped (exhibition curator) Nelda (Damiano) curate some of the objects in the show, such as the watch and signet ring on his writing table.”
Damiano, Georgia Museum of Art’s Pierre Daura Curator of European Art, has been devoted to seeing this exhibition come to life for years.
Surprisingly, “Wealth and Beauty” marks the first exhibition dedicated to Pier Francesco Foschi (1502 – 1567), despite his long and prolific career which spanned nearly 50 years. Such are the whims of history where brilliant artists are routinely praised, lost and rediscovered.
Vermeer and Caravaggio, siting just two prominent examples, experienced periods of success as living artists only to have their work largely forgotten in the decades following their deaths, later to be rediscovered and now considered absolutely essential to the art historical cannon.
Could Foschi follow in their footsteps?
I find this to be one of the most exciting aspects of the art world. Despite hundreds of years of galleries and collectors and museums and historical research, fascinating “new” old artists continue to be rediscovered regularly. Contemporary scholars viewing art history through modern perspectives reassess the likes of Hilma af Klint or Artemisia Gentileschi, rescuing them from obscurity, placing them firmly alongside the icons of their eras.
In addition to the Cummer Museum loan, other pictures on view come from the most prestigious art collections in the world including Gallerie degli Uffizi (Florence), the Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza (Madrid) and the Royal Collection Trust (London). Paintings that have never been presented in the United States.
“Wealth and Power: Pier Francesco Foschi and Painting in Renaissance Florence” can be seen from January 29 through April 24, 2022 at the Georgia Museum of Art in Athens, GA.