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The Ideal City
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The Ideal City


Description Conservation Exhibitions Provenance Credit
Description This extraordinary panel exemplifies Renaissance ideals of urban planning, respect for Greco-Roman antiquity, and the mastery of central perspective. The imaginary city square features a Roman arch typically erected as a commemoration of military victory at its center. As a whole, the painting offers a model of the architecture and sculpture that would ideally be commissioned by a virtuous ruler who cares for the welfare of the citizenry. The amphitheater is modeled on the Colosseum in Rome. The octagonal structure to the right, covered with colored stone, suggests the medieval Baptistery in Florence, which in the 15th century was thought to be a reused Roman temple. Together they reflect the importance of security, religion, and recreation in a well-regulated city and the value of Roman ideals in urban design. The private residences at either side are also dignified with classical architectural elements. Classicizing elements also appear in the foreground. Statues, set on columns in the Roman style, represent virtues of a good ruler, including Justice with her sword and scales and Liberality (generosity) with a cornucopia. This view and a related paintings now in Urbino were apparently commissioned for the palace of Duke Federico da Montefeltro of Urbino. Another related view is now in Berlin. Set into the woodwork at shoulder height or higher, "The Ideal City" would have seemed like a window onto another, better world. The illusion of a space that extends out from our own is achieved using a mathematical perspective system developed in Florence. The space is defined in terms of the viewer's own angle of vision: the receding lines establishing spatial relationships converge at a central point in the city gate visible beneath and beyond the Roman arch. For more information on this painting, please see the entry on the painting in Masterpieces of Italian Painting, The Walters Art Museum (Baltimore: the Walters Art museum, 2005), no. 15 (by Joaneath Spicer).
Conservation

After a complete conservation treatment by Eric Gordon, involving stabilization of the support and paint layers, discolored varnish removal and re-varnishing, and filling and retouching losses, our signature painting is now brighter, clearer, more powerful, and truer to its original colors. Advantage was taken of the painting being off view to x-ray the entire surface and record an overall infrared image with the most up-to-date technical equipment, on loan from the National Gallery. This kind of technical research is critically important to curators, and conservators, understanding of the complex process of conceiving and executing this perspectival view.

Date Description Narrative
1/01/1953Examinationexamined for condition
6/22/1983Examinationexamined for condition
Exhibitions
  • Circa 1492: Art in the Age of Exploration. National Gallery of Art, Washington. 1991-1992.
  • Highlights from the Collection. The Walters Art Gallery, Baltimore. 1998-2001.
  • Il mito della Città Ideale. Palazzo Ducale, Urbino, Galleria Nazionale delle Marche, Urbino. 2012.
Provenance Don Marcello Massarenti Collection, Rome, prior to 1881 [mode of acquisition unknown] [1881 catalogue: no. 177; 1897 catalogue: no. 121, as Pintoricchio]; Henry Walters, Baltimore, 1902, by purchase; Walters Art Museum, 1931, by bequest.
Credit Acquired by Henry Walters with the Massarenti Collection, 1902

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Period
ca. 1480-1484 (Renaissance)
Medium
oil and tempera on panel
(Painting & Drawing)
Accession Number
37.677
Measurements
Painted surface H: 30 1/2 x W: 86 5/8 in. (77.4 x 220 cm); Panel H: 31 5/8 x W: 86 5/8 x D: 1 1/4 in. (80.3 x 220 x 3.2 cm); Framed H: 41 x W: 96 x D: 6 1/4 in. (104.14 x 243.21 x 15.88 cm)
Geographies

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