Nicholas Penny

Nicholas Penny is a former director of the National Gallery. He is cataloguing the earlier Italian paintings at the Norton Simon Museum in Pasadena, with Imogen Tedbury.

On the Wall

Nicholas Penny, 7 March 2024

When​ the London Tube emerges into daylight, the walls beside the tracks are laced with dark, dirty and dangerous-looking cables, but at intervals we may glimpse clusters of bold letters sprayed in brilliant colours on the side of a derelict building or a metal shed. And where the high banks of brambles give way to old brick beside the Overground there are long sequences of competitive...

Divinity Incognito: Elsheimer by Night

Nicholas Penny, 7 September 2023

For most students​ of art history today, the most exciting development in Italy – indeed in all of Europe – around 1600 was the revolutionary realism of Caravaggio. He established his reputation in Rome as a painter of still life and made a point of painting directly from nature: from fruit held by a studio lad, from his own facial expressions in a mirror, from a bird’s...

At the V&A: Donatello

Nicholas Penny, 18 May 2023

Halfway​ around the Donatello exhibition at the Victoria and Albert Museum (until 11 June) we encounter two bronze roundels of much the same size, both representing the Virgin and Child with angels: the Chellini roundel from the museum’s own collection and one lent by the Kunsthistorisches Museum in Vienna. In the first, the drapery has countless small, wriggling folds resembling a...

From The Blog
3 May 2023

The upper part of Room 16 in the British Museum, entered by a short staircase from the main circuit of Greek and Roman galleries, was devised half a century ago (before the needs of the disabled were properly considered) to exhibit the frieze of the cella (inner chamber) of the ancient temple of Apollo Epicurius (‘the Healer’) at Bassae in Phigaleia.

Concept art for ‘Beauty and the Beast’ (c.1990)

The exhibition Inspiring Walt Disney, now in the dark belly of the Wallace Collection (until 16 October), may seem like a clever way to lure enthusiasts for the popular entertainment of their childhood – together with their own children – into a museum, much of which is dedicated to the decorative art created for...

School of Hard Knocks

Peter Campbell, 2 December 1993

There are two forces at work in sculpture. One pushes it towards the waxwork, where materials suggest something quite contrary to their native qualities – marble flesh, wooden flowers,...

Read more reviews

The Raphael Question

Lawrence Gowing, 15 March 1984

When I used to give a survey course for first-year students, I dreaded December. That was when I reached the High Renaissance and my audience fell away. It was not only the alternative seasonable...

Read more reviews

Priapus Knight

Marilyn Butler, 18 March 1982

Richard Payne Knight was an important English intellectual of the era of the French Revolution. He flourished from the 1770s until his death, perhaps by suicide, in 1824. Most of that time he...

Read more reviews

Perfection’s Progress

E.H. Gombrich, 5 November 1981

Here, at last, is a book of which we can sincerely say in the old phrase that it meets a long-felt want. It offers, in the modest words of the Preface, ‘a series of illustrations (which are...

Read more reviews

Read anywhere with the London Review of Books app, available now from the App Store for Apple devices, Google Play for Android devices and Amazon for your Kindle Fire.

Sign up to our newsletter

For highlights from the latest issue, our archive and the blog, as well as news, events and exclusive promotions.

Newsletter Preferences