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VMFA acquires portrait by iconic 16th-century woman artist Lavinia Fontana

The Virginia Museum of Fine Arts (VMFA) announced their recent acquisition of Portrait of a Lady (1585) by Lavinia Fontana (1552-1614), a celebrated woman artist from Bologna. 

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The Virginia Museum of Fine Arts (VMFA) announced their recent acquisition of Portrait of a Lady (1585) by Lavinia Fontana (1552-1614), a celebrated woman artist from Bologna.

“Lavinia Fontana was a pioneer during her lifetime. The discovery and acquisition of this piece elevates VMFA’s collection of late Renaissance art,” says Alex Nyerges, VMFA’s CEO and Director. “Her work demonstrates the significant yet often unrecognized artistic contributions women have made throughout history.”

Fontana was one of the first women artists in Italy to work alongside her male colleagues. Owing to her talent and business acumen, she later became a trailblazer in her role as head of a successful studio. As early as the 1580s, Fontana’s portraiture was highly favored among Bolognese noble families. In the early 1600s, she moved to Rome where she became a painter at the papal court.

Best known for her portraits, Fontana was a renowned painter of the Mannerism movement during the Late Renaissance period. Her paintings reflect a maturation of the conventions of the Mannerist style and she plays an important role in the chapter of art history following the High Renaissance and immediately preceding the Baroque period. Despite the superficial naturalism that this portrait presents at first glance, the artist has cleverly manipulated the dimensions within the composition by subtly exaggerating the proportions of her sitter’s costume to give it a monumental aspect. The effect is magnified by the way that Fontana flattens the obscure background with its curiously positioned table, making the figure stand out in stark relief while simultaneously creating an image that is both spiritually intense and enigmatic. These contrivances, all of which are typical of earlier Mannerist artists such as Veronese and Tintoretto, allowed Fontana to create elegant compositions that flaunted her technical virtuosity.

The young woman in the portrait is dressed in an extravagant amount of gold, jewels, precious stones and pearls. During this era, pearls symbolized the purity of both body and soul. To further emphasize this aspect of her sitter’s moral character, Fontana depicts her toying gracefully with a rosary that is attached to her belt, a gesture that reminds the viewer of her pious dedication to daily prayer. Portraits of this kind were often part of the traditions surrounding aristocratic marital engagements. Fontana’s indulgence in representing the luxurious ornamentation, combined with her use of compositional elements intended to convey the Catholic piety and chastity of the sitter, ensure that the future bride is portrayed as a paragon of both wealth and virtue.

Although no evidence remains that might attest to the sitter’s identity, recent research has proposed that it could be an early portrait of Isabella Gonzaga (1565–1637). A member of a prestigious princely family of Mantua, Isabella inherited the minor principality of Sabbionetta from her father, and she was an influential presence at the courts of the duke of Milan and the king of Naples.

“Here is a woman’s regard for another woman during an era when the very contours of womanhood were principally being delineated by men. A noble woman in this society had to struggle to affirm her place, her dignity and her authority,” says Dr. Sylvain Cordier, VMFA’s Paul Mellon Curator and Head of the Department of European Art. “This representation of a confident and charismatic young noble woman will play a vital role in the development of the spectacular Grand Portrait Gallery that we are preparing for 2025. This gallery will assist our visitors to interrogate the constantly changing conventions governing gendered representation in European art over the course of several centuries.”

Portrait of a Lady is currently on view in VMFA’s Atrium. For more information about the museum’s collection of Renaissance art, visit www.VMFA.museum.

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Trevor Dickerson is the co-founder and editor of RVAhub.com, lover of all things Richmond, and a master of karate and friendship for everyone.

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VMFA to rename gallery featuring many contemporary Black artists following major gift

The Virginia Museum of Fine Arts (VMFA) announced that it recently received an important contribution from Dr. Monroe Harris Jr. and Dr. Jill Bussey Harris. One of the museum’s 21st-Century Art galleries will be renamed to honor the Harrises’s support.

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The Virginia Museum of Fine Arts (VMFA) announced that it recently received an important contribution from Dr. Monroe Harris Jr. and Dr. Jill Bussey Harris. One of the museum’s 21st-Century Art galleries will be renamed to honor the Harrises’s support.

“Monroe and Jill are avid art collectors and tremendous supporters of VMFA,” said Alex Nyerges, VMFA’s Director and CEO. “Their generous gift offers significant support for the museum’s continued efforts to expand and exhibit its collection of contemporary work by Black artists.”

Supporting African and African American art has been the Harrises’s passion for many years. “From offering support to local artists and those who are well established, we are preserving our diverse culture,” said Monroe. Jill added, “It’s important for us to not simply be involved but to also give back to our community.”

Dr. Monroe Harris, who was elected president of the Board of Trustees for VMFA in July 2018, is the first African American to hold the position in the institution’s 82-year history and the first African American board chair of a major comprehensive art museum in the United States. During his tenure, he championed the expansion of the museum’s collection to include more works by African and African American artists, including Kehinde Wiley’s Rumors of War. Previously, he held the offices of executive vice president and vice president of the museum’s Board of Trustees and served as president of the Foundation Board of Directors.

Both Harrises have longtime careers in dentistry. Dr. Monroe Harris is an oral and maxillofacial surgeon in Richmond and a partner in the practice of Virginia Oral & Facial Surgery. Dr. Jill Bussey Harris is a cosmetic dentist who maintains her own private practice, Beautiful Smiles, in the museum district. In 1989, she became the first African American female full-time assistant professor at VCU/MCV School of Dentistry.

“As collectors of African American art, as donors, and as dedicated professionals, they demonstrate what it means to be visionary leaders, not only for VMFA but the entire Richmond community,” Nyerges said. “We are grateful for their support.”

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The VMFA’s 2021-22 Fellowship Program supports 21 student and professional artists

The Virginia Museum of Fine Arts (VMFA) has announced the 2021-22 recipients of VMFA fellowships. Twenty-one students and professional artists were selected from more than 350 applicants to receive a total of $146,000 towards professional advancements in the arts.

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The Virginia Museum of Fine Arts (VMFA) has announced the 2021-22 recipients of VMFA fellowships. Twenty-one students and professional artists were selected from more than 350 applicants to receive a total of $146,000 towards professional advancements in the arts. The VMFA Fellowship Program has awarded more than $5.8 million to more than 1,400 artists since 1940. Recipients must be Virginia residents and may use the award as desired, including for education and studio investments. Each year, professional curators and working artists serve as jurors to select fellowship recipients.

“The Virginia Museum of Fine Arts Fellowship Program is one of the largest programs of its kind in the United States,” said Alex Nyerges, VMFA’s Director and CEO. “We are committed to supporting students and professional artists. Last August, in addition to our regular fellowships, we also offered grants to help sustain forty Virginia artists during the pandemic as part of a special relief program..”

Fellowship Recipients

VMFA awarded ten professional fellowships of $8,000 each this year to Umico Niwa and Peat Szilagyi, Sculpture, Richmond; Megan Angolia, Sculpture, Chesterfield; Jaraz Jenkins, Painting, Richmond; Yoko Gushi, Painting, Henrico; Danya Smith, Mixed Media, Midlothian; Veronica Jackson, Mixed Media, Bedford; Franchell Mack Brown, Mixed Media, Henrico; Prederico Cuatlacuatl, Film/Video, Charlottesville; and Jason A. Hackett, Crafts, Henrico. Dean Daderko, Curator at the Contemporary Arts Museum Houston, was the juror for the professional fellowship entries.

Undergraduate fellowships of $4,000 went to eight students this year. The recipients are Fiona Marinaro, Mixed Media, SCAD, Yorktown; Keita Heinrich, New & Emerging Media, UVA, Charlottesville; Myles Manuel, Film/Video, VCU, Richmond; Grade Solomon, Photography, VCU, Fredericksburg; Hien Nguyen, Sculpture, VCU, Henrico; Hee Yoo, Painting, VCU, Glen Allen; Olivia Therese Offutt, Drawing, GMU, Vero Beach, FL; and Bridget Yvonne Hamel, Mixed Media, VCU, Williamsburg. Seth Feman, Deputy Director for Art and Interpretation and Curator of Photography at the Chrysler Museum of Art, was the juror for the undergraduate fellowship entries.

Three graduate students were awarded $6,000 each this year. The recipients are Meagan Walsh, Art History, UVA, Charlottesville; Keith Nixon Jr., Film/Video, Howard University, Richmond; and Tacie Nicole Jones, New & Emerging Media, Virginia Tech, Blacksburg. Seth Feman, Deputy Director for Art and Interpretation and Curator of Photography at the Chrysler Museum of Art, and Leslie Cozzi, PhD and Associate Curator of Prints, Drawings and Photographs at the Baltimore Museum of Art were the jurors for the graduate fellowship entries.

The Cy Twombly Graduate Fellowship, which honors the renowned Virginia artist and two-time VMFA Fellowship winner, was inaugurated into the VMFA Fellowship Program two years ago. The award is supported by the McClintock Endowment. This year’s awardee is Larissa M. Rogers, a graduate student from Ruckersville who is studying New and Emerging Media at UCLA.

The Fellowship Program was established in 1940 with a generous contribution made by the late John Lee Pratt of Fredericksburg. Offered through the VMFA Statewide Program, fellowships are still largely funded through the Pratt Endowment and supplemented with gifts from the Lettie Pate Whitehead Foundation and the J. Warwick McClintic Jr. Scholarship Fund. In addition to providing financial rewards to all recipients, VMFA exhibits works by past fellowship winners in VMFA’s Amuse Restaurant and Claiborne Robertson Room, VMFA’s Pauley Center Galleries and select spaces at Richmond International Airport. Several past and present fellowship recipients have also shown their work in the galleries of the Workhouse Arts Center in Lorton and the Capital One Commons in Richmond.

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Friday Cheers Announces 2021 Concert Series

Each event in May and June features socially-distanced outdoor concerts with physically-spaced two, four and eight-person pods. Tickets must be purchased in advance, with no on-site ticket purchase available.

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Friday Cheers, presented by Hardywood Park Craft Brewery, returns May 7 for its 36th season of live music. Richmond’s longest running outdoor concert series is held on Brown’s Island on downtown’s historic and picturesque riverfront.

Each event in May and June features socially-distanced outdoor concerts with physically-spaced two, four and eight-person pods. Tickets must be purchased in advance, with no on-site ticket purchase available.

This year Cheers is celebrating all things local! Local bands, local food and local beer! Produced by Venture Richmond Events, this season’s Friday Cheers boasts a stellar line-up in a format designed to be safe for attendees.

“We are thrilled to present these shows in a safe and responsible way. Invite your friends and family out to enjoy the warm weather in one of Richmond’s most beautiful outdoor event venues,” said Stephen Lecky, director of events for Venture Richmond.

“Venture Richmond has helped make downtown Richmond a true cultural gem, and the team at Hardywood is thrilled for the opportunity to partner with them to bring people together over great music and delicious beer,” said Eric McKay, president and co-founder, Hardywood Park Craft Brewery.

2021 Season Lineup

May 7 – Cris Jacobs Band (8:00) with Deau Eyes (6:30) 

Watch Cris Jacobs Band on YouTube: https://youtu.be/hEKpHKXO8ZM

Watch Deau Eyes on YouTube: https://youtu.be/kq_cE6RS1rc

 

May 21 – Agents of Good Roots (8:00) with Leon III (6:30) 

Watch Agents of Good Roots on YouTube: https://youtu.be/KMYLnohwSos

Watch Leon III on YouTube: https://youtu.be/q0EVYI-WWTE

 

May 28 – An evening with Art of Noise RVA (6:30)

Watch Art of Noise on YouTube: https://youtu.be/wyGKMd4L40w

 

June 4 – NO BS! Brass (8:00) with Piranha Rama (6:30) 

Watch NO BS! Brass on YouTube: https://youtu.be/-O7-djsBv5g

Watch Piranha Rama on YouTube: https://youtu.be/69ozz5M6yDY

 

June 11 – An evening with Suggesting Rhythm (6:30)

Watch Suggesting Rhythm on YouTube: https://youtu.be/Nd1rMllrwL8 

 

June 18 – Mighty Joshua (8:00) and Erin & the Wildfire (6:30) 

Watch Mighty Joshua on YouTube: https://youtu.be/sqQL756RT9E

Watch Erin and the Wildfire on YouTube: https://youtu.be/mGHVPXo7ftA

 

June 25 – Butcher Brown (8:00) with (6:30) Shormey

Watch Butcher Brown on YouTube: https://youtu.be/Oune3jVNHEs

Watch Shormey on YouTube: https://youtu.be/hcY9VHzLwG0 

Advance tickets for individual shows to Friday Cheers are now available to purchase online at Ticketstobuy.com. Tickets must be purchased in advance online only. There will be no box office on site. Pods will be limited to two, four and eight-persons including children. A two-person pod is 4′ x 8′. A four-person pod is 8′ x 8′. An eight-person general admission pod is a 20ft circle, located in the back section of the island with limited views of the stage. Reserve your pod now to get your choice of spots on the island!

All ticket holders must agree to comply with safety precautions put in place during the event, as outlined on our website. All public health protocols will be strictly enforced, and contactless practices have been implemented for the safety of our guests and staff. Face masks or coverings are required and no admittance will be allowed without one. Social distancing and a face mask are required any time a patron is outside their pod including while walking to the entry points and waiting in line for check-in, porta-johns and beverage and food pickup. All food and beverage purchases will be online and contactless.   

Friday Cheers is Presented by: Hardywood Park Craft Brewery

Friday Cheers is Sponsored by: CoStar Group, Dominion Green Power, 103.7 Your Variety,  NBC12, CW Richmond and Cucumbers on Fire.

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