Giulio Clovio - The greatest miniaturist of the Renaissance

time: 08.11.2012. - 20.01.2013.
place: Zagreb, Croatia
organiser: Klović Gallery
The exhibition Giulio Clovio - The greatest miniaturist of the Renaissance is currently on view at the Klovićevi dvori Gallery in Zagreb. The exhibition remains opened till January 20, 2013.

The greatest miniaturist and illuminator of the Renaissance period, Juraj Julije Klović (1498-1578), won in his time the reputation of and the respect due to a consummate artist.  This fame, with which the name of the country of his birth is inseparably connected, has lasted for centuries. Indeed, he is often mentioned as one of the greatest painters of miniatures of all times.   According to tradition, his dexterity in the miniature was so great that he was able to paint the whole of the Last Supper on a fingernail.  The Croatian artist who is best known in the world, who signed some of his miniatures Julio Clovio de Croazia, is physically present in Croatia with only three works, although many prayer books, lectionaries and breviaries commissioned by the greatest dignitaries of his age were illuminated by his hand. As they were then, so they are today cherished as some of the greatest of treasures.  Once they were watched over by those who had commissioned  them, and today are jealously guarded in the vaults of the best known museums and libraries of the world. In fact, the public has just as little access to them today as it did when the works were created. It is most unusual for them to be sent out on loan from the places in which they are kept.

Accordingly the exhibition of Juraj Julije Klović, which is being prepared by the Klovićevi dvori Gallery to mark the thirtieth anniversary of its successful activity, is a remarkable enterprise indeed.  For the loan of Klović’s works from the treasuries of Europe, Klovićevi dvori had to provide special and very rigorous conditions of exhibition and safekeeping.  These are in fact precious items that are kept in safes and vaults.  Having met these extremely stringent criteria, Klovićevi dvori Gallery, which bears the name of the famed miniaturist in its title, is able to put before the Croatian – and indeed world – public the miniature painting oeuvre of Juraj Julije Klović for the first time. For it is to Zagreb and Croatia that goes the honour of showing, for the first time,  a large part of this famed painter of Mannerism assembled in a single place.

Born in Grižane, in the Hrvatsko primorje region of the northern Adriatic, Juraj Julije Klović went while still only eighteen to Italy, where he entered the service of Cardinal Domenico, and later of Cardinal Grimani.  But life took him briefly to Hungary where he worked for King Ludovic II.  Then came a short period as a cleric, during which he changed his name from Juraj to Julije.  Finally he was to return under the protection of a new patron, and entered the service of Cardinal Alessandro Farnese in Rome.  At the cardinal’s court he came into contact with the leading artists of the time – with Michelangelo, Vasari and Brueghel, who also enjoyed the cardinal’s favour.  Klović himself recommended to Farnese’s attention the young El Greco, a sincere admirer of his, who did two portraits of the miniaturist.

Unluckily, many of Klović’s works have been lost.  His early works are not known, and the first works recorded are met with after 1526.  One of the most important of the period is the Evangelarium Grimani, the illuminations of which with the figures of the evangelists and scenes from the life of Christ as well as a series of initials and opulently decorated friezes reveal the influence of Venice and Rome, but in some details of Dürer also. Today it is kept in the famed Marciana Library in Venice, and will be shown at the exhibition in Klovićevi dvori just like the codex Libro d’Ore / Book of Hours, today held in the British Library in London.  Klović illuminated this codex for Stuart de Rothesay, starting with it a brilliant series of illuminations that reached their peak in the masterpiece Officium Virginis, created for Cardinal Farnese (today in the Pierpoint Morgan Library in New York.  This codex, known in this country as the Farnese Breviary, is kept in the Croatian Academy of Sciences and Arts in facsimile form, and will see gallery light in this exhibition.  It contains 28 large miniatures with scenes from the Old and the New Testament, two miniatures of liturgical subjects and opulent decoration of the margins and frames.   This is a codex the illuminations of which are an epitome of the painting of Klović’s period.  The third codex, the Rylands Latin, comes to the exhibition from the John Rylands Library of Manchester. Klović’s works on paper, original drawings, are borrowed from leading European institutions: the Louvre, the British Museum, the Royal Collection of Windsor Castle and the Galleria degli Uffizi.

Juraj Julije Klović – the Michelangelo of the Miniature, a native son of Croatia yet artist of the world, is coming with his works to Klovićevi dvori Gallery, which, during the exhibition, will offer some discoveries as well, Klović miniatures that are still occasionally to be found on the world art market. The Klović exhibition will be a unique, unrepeatable artistic experience and cultural event, with which Klovićevi dvori Gallery will triumphantly mark the thirtieth anniversary of its work.

(Source: galerijaklovic)

(D.H., 15.11.2012)