Where: National Gallery of Art, West Building
When: through June 4, 2017
Usually, when you look at sculpture, it's white. Think of Winged Victory or the Venus de Milo or Michelangelo's David - all white. The Della Robia family, had other ideas, more colorful ones. Their sculpture is in blue, and green, and yellow and purple. They developed a glazing technique that allowed them to create art that was beautiful then and is just as beautiful now.
How often have you looked at a painting and been told, "It would have been much more vibrant when it was painted." I always feel frustrated when I hear this; I can appreciate the technique or the subject matter, but I'm not having the full experience. With the Della Robias, you get it all.
Ironically, the great masterpiece on display is in white - Elizabeth and Mary greeting one another. It really is a great work, worth a visit all on its own. It was what I saw first, as I entered in the middle of the show. This is my only complaint; the set-up is weird. The beginning of the show is outside the garden court, in the hallway, and the rest of the show is off the main court in a series of rooms. It makes for a disjointed presentation, and if you come up from the 7th street entrance, as I did, you start in the middle.
Another display I really liked was two versions of the same piece. One Madonna and Child is owned by the National Gallery and the other is owned by the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston. Putting the two side-by-side shows how you could customize your artwork to have just the piece you liked. Personally, I like the NGA's piece better; it's a simpler piece and feels less cluttered.
Verdict: Don't let the odd arrangement spoil the many pleasures of this show.