Inspired Design: Love and Death
2 DECEMBER 2011 (until 9 April)
Galleries 9, 10 and 11
Inspired Design: Love & Death takes its cue from the new Gallery publication Inspired Design: European and North American Decorative Arts. In the exhibition some of the ‘stars’ of the book have been thoughtfully curated alongside works from the European painting, sculpture and print collections in which artists from the Renaissance to the twentieth century have responded to the universal themes of love and death.
Christianity and classical mythology offer fertile grounds for the progressive development of these themes. The first gallery looks at classical mythology and saints, the second explores the notion of time, and the third considers Christian devotional imagery.
Classical mythology is investigated through works illustrating the Underworld, Ovid’s Metamorphoses, Diana the Huntress, Venus, Bacchus and Samson and Delilah. A range of works associated with the early depiction of saints and martyrs accompanies the Elizabethan embroidery Patience and the seven Christian virtues, c.1595.
The central room focuses on the theme of time and the impermanence of life, a notion often represented in the Renaissance by women in the presence of death (shown by a skull or skeleton) and the hourglass with its connotations of time. Displayed alongside these prints are the Gallery’s early and rare Thomas Tompion Bracket clock, c.1678, and a superb glass-beaded Mirror frame from 1660–85. The frame depicts allegorical figures and acted as a moral lesson for the viewer, as mirrors were intimately associated with the sin of vanity.
The final ‘devotional’ room has as its focal point the sumptuous Morris & Co. tapestry The Adoration of the Magi, 1900–02. The tapestry, inspired by medievalism and the Renaissance, is supported by the Italian paintings of Garofalo, Madonna and child, c.1505–10, and Bernardo Strozzi, St Francis of Assisi adoring the Crucifix, c.1615. Also rarely displayed in its entirety is German Renaissance master Albrecht Durer’s The life of the Virgin series, published in 1511.
The exhibition coincides with the release of the illustrated publication Inspired Design: European and North American Decorative Arts from the collection of the Art Gallery of South Australia, which will be available from the Gallery Shop.