Renaissance Redux

by Natasha Wolff | March 6, 2013 12:00 am

Petrus Christus, Portrait of a Young Girl, 1470

When Flemish painter Petrus Christus completed his “Portrait of a Young Girl” in 1470, he’d created a new sort of tribute to beauty and wealth—one in which the subject’s hair is pulled back, highlighting her luminous skin and defined features. She wears jewelry and dress that seem restrained but, on closer look, are of rare and sumptuous quality; it was Christus and his contemporaries, Hans Memling, Robert Campin and Rogier van der Weyden, who first coupled bare elegance and contained sensuality. In Renaissance times, the privileged favored such luxurious delicacy and in portraits we see symmetrical features and pale skin illuminating this pared-down perfection. Today the art world is seeing a renewed interest in classical painting and sketching, from the recent Leonardo da Vinci show at Paris’ Louvre Museum to the Frieze Masters art fair. “We look for qualities that will stand the test of time,” Andrew Renton, director of Marlborough Contemporary, says. Beauty, too, is returning to a classic stance, with heightened appreciation for contouring techniques. “The Dutch Masters understood how to use light, giving their paintings a three-dimensional quality,” James Boehmer, director of global artisty for NARS Cosmetics, says. “These same principles are fundamentals to makeup. Contrast in shadow and light, as well as texture, like a matte versus luminous finish, will give a multi-dimensional quality to the skin.”

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