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Manger scene panel painting
Manger scene panel painting

A nativity scene, painted on a panel by the Master of the Saint Lambrecht Votive Panel, c. 1430. Austria, Vienna. 

Photo courtesy of Luhring Augustine.

On a recent afternoon in the Chelsea gallery district in New York, at the exact midpoint of winter, I was feeling distinctly depressed after seeing six or so thoroughly mediocre displays of the latest art. How pleasant and how odd, then, to come upon a show of medieval artifacts in, of all places, the Luhring Augustine gallery, that citadel of contemporaneity.

Nor were the objects in Gothic Spirit: Medieval Art from Europe simply old. (A cynic might have assumed the work had been chosen by curators who, in their blinkered devotion to the present, had no real idea what they were working with.) Instead, the thirty works on view are, without exception, excellent—and in some cases far more than that. In fact, this improbable show represents the second time that the Chelsea gallery has collaborated with the renowned London firm of Sam Fogg. It includes ironworks and ivories, panel paintings and stained-glass windows, sculptures, and manuscripts.

These works ranged from the 12th century to the 16th and had been created in Italy, France, and Germany. Among them were two marble lions from around 1220 that bore on their backs a pair of Solomonic columns; a fine Bust of a Young Man in unglazed terracotta by Luca della Robbia from around 1460, and a nativity scene, painted on a panel by the Master of the Saint Lambrecht Votive Panel (c. 1430), that was strongly influenced by the Bohemian strain of international Gothic.

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