Skip to main content
Stanford University
Extraordinary Private Collection of 16th-Century Works on View for the First Time to the Public

Extraordinary Private Collection of 16th-Century Works on View for the First Time to the Public

The Cantor Arts Center
|

Myth, Allegory and Faith: The Kirk Edward Long Collection of Mannerist Prints

February 10–June 20, 2016

Stanford, Calif.— More than 180 works, selected from one of the most extensive private collections of Mannerist prints in the world, epitomize the 16th-century’s extravagant and sophisticated style. Opening at Stanford University’s Cantor Arts Center on February 10, Myth, Allegory and Faith: The Kirk Edward Long Collection of Mannerist Prints reveals the scope and depth of this exemplary collection for the first time. The exhibition of engravings, etchings, woodcuts and chiaroscuro woodcuts by renowned artists and famous printmakers of the era continues through June 20, 2016.

The exhibition familiarizes visitors with the development of the Mannerist style in Italy, traces its dissemination through Europe, shows its adaptation for both secular and religious purposes and follows its eventual transformation into the baroque style at the end of the century. In conjunction with the exhibition, the Cantor Arts Center is co-publishing an illustrated catalogue of Kirk Edward Long’s entire collection of 700 works with essays by 10 scholars and 146 entries discussing individual works and suites.

“We are delighted that the Cantor has had a long and fruitful collaboration with such an astute and dedicated collector, resulting in this beautiful exhibition and the enlightening publication cataloguing Mr. Long’s complete holdings of 16th-century prints,” said Connie Wolf, the John and Jill Freidenrich Director. “These works provide extraordinary opportunities for new and important scholarship, allow for unique interdisciplinary perspectives on this dynamic moment in history and support exciting collaborations with students and faculty. I am thrilled that we can bring these important works to Stanford University and share them with our colleagues and students on campus as well as the greater community. The exhibition and the accompanying publication are invaluable to scholars of the period as well as anyone interested in art and history. This exhibition shows what a dedicated scholar-collector can accomplish, and the catalogue shares new knowledge of an important period in art history.”
 
The Exhibition
The exhibition begins with Mannerism’s primary sources, a fascination with classical antiquity and the overwhelming influence of Michelangelo. Curated by Bernard Barryte, the Cantor’s Curator of European Art, the exhibition is organized by region, tracing the style’s path from Florence, Rome and Central Italy to Venice and the rest of Europe. One section illuminates the way in which Mannerism was transformed in the Low Countries, where the Italianate artist Maarten van Heemskerck was an important innovator and where Hendrick Goltzius and his circle were responsible for the extraordinary flowering of the style in Haarlem during the last decades of the 16th century. Another portion of works illustrate Mannerism’s French variant. Known as the School of Fontainebleau, it was developed by Rosso Fiorentino and Francesco Primaticcio, Italian artists imported by King François I to decorate his palace at Fontainebleau in the most opulent and fashionable style.

The exhibition concludes with works that demonstrate the shift away from the artifice of the Mannerist aesthetic. Included are prints by Annibale Carracci, pioneer of a new naturalism that was influenced in part by the impetus of the Counter-Reformation and the dictates of the Council of Trent, which encouraged artists to create clearer and more emotionally engaging images to counteract the impact of Protestantism and win new converts.
 
Throughout the exhibition, visitors can enjoy the accomplishments of the print designers Raphael, Giulio Romano and Maarten van Heemskerck—as well as the virtuosity of printmakers Marcantonio Raimondi, Ugo da Carpi, Giorgio Ghisi, Cornelis Cort and Hendrick Goltzius. Some images may be familiar, but many rare works by artists of less renown are also on view.
 
The Kirk Edward Long Collection
Long has spent his life collecting art. He first focused on the Symbolists and Surrealists, both of whom had found inspiration in Mannerism. Following the symbolist and surrealist artists’ gaze back to 16th-century Mannerism, Long acquired several exemplary prints and in 2003 began collaborating with Barryte. The goal was to create a comprehensive collection focused on Mannerist prints that would stimulate ongoing research. Representing 15 years of attentive effort, the collection now numbers more than 700 sheets and is among the most extensive repositories of this material in private hands. The sampling of the works featured in Myth, Allegory and Faith is representative of the collection, illustrating in graphic form the sources, evolution and diffusion of what art historian John Shearman called “the stylish style.”
 
Mannerism
Mannerism, the style dominant throughout Europe from about 1520 to 1590, followed the High Renaissance and then led into the Baroque. Mannerists broke with the naturalistic idealism of the High Renaissance, rejecting the imitation of nature in favor of subjective imagination and the aesthetic values of the artist. Mannerist art—painting and sculpture as well as prints—typically shares characteristics that include elongated figures in graceful, complex and stylized poses; complex compositions, often with multiple figures; a stress on contour; ornamental embellishments; and high finish. Pressure from the Catholic church at the end of the century lead to new styles of representation and the Baroque period. The Long collection represents the range of 16th-century styles, with an emphasis on Mannerism.
 
Print-Making in 16th-Century Europe
Prints played a crucial role in the dissemination of the Mannerist style through Europe. The 16th century, encompassed by the Kirk Edward Long Collection, is notable for the multitude of printmakers who published a remarkable variety of compelling images. In addition, the emergence of professional print publishers advanced the dissemination and development of the medium during this period. European printmaking was invented in the 15th century: first came the woodcut, then engraving and etching. In the early 16th century, the painter Raphael was key among those who recognized the artistic as well as the fiscal potential of prints and integrated them into their studio production. The success of the enterprise continued after Raphael’s death in 1520 with the next generation of artists, printmakers and publishers. Mannerism was further spread by the artistic diaspora that followed the Sack of Rome in 1527.
 
“Through prints we can trace lines of filiation that connected the centers of European art throughout the 16th century, contributing to the formation of a common Mannerist language that was inflected by local traditions as the style evolved outside Florence and Rome, or that retained the native accent of the artists who worked in Italy, where they assimilated classical traditions at their source and contributed to their modern expression,” Barryte explained in an essay for the collection catalogue. “In terms of style, in the 16th century all roads did lead to Rome, and they were paved with prints.”
 
Catalogue of the Kirk Edward Long Collection
A fully illustrated catalogue accompanies the exhibition. Supported by the Hohbach Family Fund and an anonymous donor and co-published by Silvana Editoriale, Milan, it features an illustrated checklist of the entire Long collection, 146 detailed entries, and 10 essays by an international array of scholars—Bernadine Barnes, Jonathan Bober, Suzanne Boorsch, Patricia Emison, Jan Johnson, Dorothy Limouze, Walter S. Melion, Larry Silver, Edward H. Wouk and Henri Zerner—on various aspects of 16th-century printmaking. An introduction by Barryte, curator of the Kirk Edward Long Collection, describes the formation of the collection. The entries, which discuss individual prints and suites, include contributions by international specialists on various artists.
 
The Cantor Arts Center gratefully acknowledges support for the exhibition from the Theodore and Frances Geballe’s Pre-19th-Century Art Exhibition Fund, the Elizabeth Swindells Hulsey Exhibitions Fund, and the Clumeck Fund. Publication of this catalogue is made possible by the Hohbach Family Fund and the generosity of an anonymous donor.
 
Related Programs
• Faculty panel discussion: “Queer Mannerism”
Wednesday, February 24, 5:30 pm, Cantor auditorium
Richard Meyer, the Robert and Ruth Halperin Professor in Art History; Terry Castle, the Walter A. Haas Professor in the Humanities; and Ivan Lupi?, assistant professor in the Department of English, discuss queer visuality in Mannerist prints. Open to the public and free of charge
• Tours of the exhibition: Thursdays at 12:15 pm, Saturdays and Sundays at 2 pm, beginning February 18. Open to the public and free of charge
 
Cantor Arts Center at Stanford University
Founded when the university opened in 1891, the museum was expanded and renamed in 1999 for lead donors Iris and B. Gerald Cantor. The Cantor’s collection spans 5,000 years and includes more than 38,000 works of art. Ranging from classical antiquities to contemporary works, the Cantor’s holdings include the largest collection of sculptures by renowned master Auguste Rodin in an American museum.  With 24 galleries and more than 15 special exhibitions each year, the Cantor is one of the most visited university art museums in the country and is an established resource for teaching and research on campus.  Free admission, tours, lectures, and family activities help the museum attract visitors from Stanford’s academic community, the San Francisco Bay Area, and from around the world.