Chris Rupp, Westmont Museum collections manager, uncrating the Tisi painting. Image courtesy of Westmont Ridley-Tree Museum of Art
SANTA BARBARA, CA— The pride of a great museum is its collection. Presently, the Westmont Ridley-Tree Museum of Art is showing off its recent acquisitions. The exhibition features works by Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Pablo Picasso and Mary Cassatt. Also included in the exhibition is a painting by Benvenuto Tisi titled Il Garofalo.
Valued at about a half-million dollars, Il Garofalo is a promised gift to Westmont by Michael Huffington in honor of Lady Leslie Ridley-Tree. A contemporary of Titian (1485-1576), Tisi was an Italian Mannerist painter of the School of Ferrara. He studied in Rome with Giulio Romano (1499-1546) and Raphael (1483-1520). Well –known for his paintings of religious subjects and mythological themes, Tisi worked through the 1550s. His career ended with the onset of blindness before his death in 1559.
La Nativité from the mid-16th century is one of the major works in the Westmont exhibition. The piece reflects an important subject of Christian art dating back to the second century. During this period, Nativity scenes depicting Christ’s birth were common place.
Judy L. Larson, Askew professor of art history and director of the Westmont Ridley-Tree Museum of Art notes that “Garofalo’s painting is typical of an iconography that first appeared in Europe during the late 14th century.” She added that “In this style of representation, the Virgin Mary is not depicted as recovering from childbirth; rather, she kneels before the Christ Child in adoration, who is not placed in a manager but reclines contentedly on a pile of straw. The inclusion of angels is another iconographic development originating in the Renaissance.”
This exhibition serves as a prelude to what art lovers can expect when the museum celebrates its fifth anniversary this year. A new season at the museum Aug. 28-Sept. 11 with its annual show 5×5: Celebrating Five Years. More than 500 five-inch-square works of art will be available for viewing and purchase through an online auction with proceeds benefiting the museum.