The Paintings: Hermitage at AGO, Pt 5/5
One of the first things you notice about war is that all of the
protagonists have their clothes on, as Blackadder once quipped.
But that doesn’t necessarily hold true in artwork like Perseus and
Andromeda by Anton Raphael Mengs, a neoclassical German
painter who, though less-known now, was one of the most celebrated
painters of the mid-18th century.
It’s one of the pieces on display at the Catherine the Great: Arts for
the Empire show at the AGO, which features a few dozen of the
thousands of paintings collected in the State Hermitage Museum in
St. Petersburg, Russia.
My favourite painting in the show was another Mengs, however:
Saint John the Baptist Preaching. Alas, the AGO did not release that
image in their press kit, so you’ll have to go see it yourself. Imagine
one of those old army recruitment posters, only instead of John Bull
or Uncle Sam, there’s a scruffy and crazed-looking John the Baptist
gesturing at the viewer, as if to say, “Jesus wants YOU!” It’s as in-
your-face as neoclassicism gets.
Unless you’re a hard-core buff of 18th-century painting, though, you
won’t recognize any of the painters on display. Perhaps the biggest
name out of all the selections is Sir Joshua Reynolds, whose beautiful
Cupid Untying the Girdle of Venus can be found near the end of the
Catherine the Great: Arts for the Empire is on now until January 1,
Image: Perseus and Andromeda (detail), 1774-1777
Anton Raphael Mengs (1728-1779)
oil on canvas
© The State Hermitage Museum, St. Petersburg, 2005
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