For its 140th anniversary, the Columbus Museum of Art has partnered with German museum Old Masters Picture Gallery to offer a new exhibition, featuring Titian’s painting “Portrait of a Lady in White.”
The Renaissance painting has been transported from the Old Masters Picture Gallery, located in Dresden, Germany. This will be the first time the portrait has been exhibited in the Midwest.
“[I came] to both be nourished and to reflect a bit about beauty,” said Thelma Wurzelbacher, a member of the Columbus Museum of Art.
“Lady in White” is equally famous for its refinement and the mystery surrounding the identity of the woman portrayed: Was she Titian’s mistress, a courtesan, his daughter or just an idealized character?
The portrait is believed to have been painted around 1561 in Venice, Italy. Due to financial hardship, the Italian owner was forced to sell it in the 1740s to the king of Poland living in Dresden.
During World War II, the painting was moved out of Dresden to be protected from bombings, then sent to Moscow after the war — supposedly for preservation — and then finally returned to Dresden in 1955.
In 2007, the “Portrait of a Lady in White” underwent a great conservation treatment which revitalized the original color of the white dress that had turned yellow by varnish and age. Having already seen the painting in Germany, Wurzelbacher said she immediately noticed the change.
“It makes a nice connection for me,” she said.
Betty Kozlowski, a former faculty member at Ohio State and Columbus Museum of Art member, said she appreciates museums who allow their artwork to travel.
“Both institutions benefit [from traveling exhibitions] because the painting can be appreciated and studied by so many more people,” Kozlowski said.
A guest lecture from Stephan Koja, director of the partner museum, was offered in Columbus to members and visitors to give more details about the masterpiece. He briefly explained Titian’s background, the Renaissance and analyzed the jewelry the lady in white is wearing.
The white pearls on the golden ornaments complement the white of the dress. They are all the same size, and numerous: on the bracelets, the necklace, the earrings and the accessory in her hair.
In reality, “Lady in White” could not have worn so many jewels at the time because sumptuary laws prohibited people from buying too many apparel luxury goods.
Her dress is so precisely painted that it actually is an informal historic model for costume designers. A life-size replica has been made by a local dressmaker, who worked more than 200 hours to obtain an identical result. It is now part of the museum’s exhibition.
The special exhibition “Titian’s Lady in White” will be displayed until Dec. 9. The museum’s general admission is free on Sundays, however an extra cost of $6 applies to the special exhibition.