This week: Michelangelo, Mariinsky, MOMA & more.


Michelangelo Buonarroti, Studies for the Libyan Sibyl, ca. 1510–11, Red chalk, with small accents of white chalk, soft black chalk, the Metropolitan Museum of Art.


The White King: King Charles I, Traitor, Murderer, Martyr, by Leanda de Lisle (PublicAffairs): The reign of King Charles I of England is perhaps best known for its bloody end, when the monarch was beheaded on January 30, 1649, after trial by kangaroo court in favor of Oliver Cromwell’s Parliamentarian forces. This treasonous act marked the end of the Second English Civil War and precipitated the establishment of the republican “Commonwealth,” which governed until the restoration of the monarchy in 1660. The polarized nature of the debate concerning Charles’s execution, however, has advanced a simplistic understanding of the Stuart king’s legacy, one concerned chiefly with his abuses of power and attachment to the doctrine of divine right of kings. Leanda de Lisle’s new biography of Charles, based on existing scholarship as well as newly discovered letters from the king’s own hand, promises to challenge this legacy, looking particularly into the previously under-considered role that his queen, the French Catholic Henrietta Maria, played in the years and months leading up to that fateful trial. —AS


Michelangelo Buonarroti, Design for the Tomb of Pope Julius II della Rovere, 1505–06, Pen and brown ink, brush and brown wash, over stylus and leadpoint, the Metropolitan Museum of Art

“Michelangelo: Divine Draftsman & Designer,” at The Metropolitan Museum of Art (November 13–February 12, 2018): Shortly before his death at the age of eighty-eight, Michelangelo Buonarroti ordered an assistant to burn a great majority of his drawings. In his biography of the Florentine sculptor and painter, Giorgio Vasari writes that Michelangelo did so to protect the veneer of transcendent perfection that his finished paintings communicated—“so that no one should see the labors he endured and the ways he tested his genius.” To our great benefit, over 500 of his drawings survived this episode and remain with us today. Indeed, these studies of the eye and hand do not diminish but rather heighten our appreciation for Michelangelo’s genius and creative process. The body of drawings has been an invaluable resource for artists and scholars alike for centuries. This week, a monumental, once-in-a-lifetime exhibition of 133 drawings by Michelangelo—as well as three marble sculptures, his earliest painting, and architectural models—opens at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Curated by Carmen Bambach, the show examines Il Divino’s legacy in light of these intimate objects and promises to be one of the unmissable exhibitions of the fall season. Be sure to look out for James Hankins’s review of the exhibition in our forthcoming December issue. —AS


The Mariinsky Orchestra at Carnegie Hall (November 15): The annual visit of the Mariinsky Orchestra is among a handful of can’t-miss events on Carnegie Hall’s calendar. Under the direction of Valery Gergiev, the Mariinsky Theater has built itself into one of Russia’s premier cultural institutions, its chief export being its powerful resident orchestra. The Mariinsky plays two concerts at Carnegie Hall this week, and I’ve got my eye on the second program: featured will be Prokofiev’s Symphony No. 6, one of the pieces specifically denounced by the Soviet culture minister Andrei Zhdanov in 1948, and Richard Strauss’s career-making tone poem Don Juan. Daniil Trifonov, the young pianist who’s already cemented his position among the top tier of concert performers, looks to bolster his reputation as a composer, as well, with the New York premiere of his Piano Concerto.—ECS


“Block by block: Christopher Gray’s New York” at the Museum of the City of New York (November 16): For anyone interested in New York’s architectural history, Christopher Gray’s “Streetscapes” column was required reading. Gray’s 1,450 articles, which ran weekly in The New York Times between 1987 through 2014, drew on the late writer’s own vast archive of architectural records. The column itself became a lasting record of the city’s rich architectural legacy, especially for the enduring but overlooked designs of New York’s Gilded Age. This Thursday at 6:30 P.M., the Museum of the City of New York will honor Gray’s contribution to our appreciation of the “streetscape” with a panel discussion featuring the critic Paul Goldberger, the Times editor Michael J. Leahy, the architectural historian Francis Morrone, and the Architectural Record editor Suzanne Stephens. —JP

From the archive: The ‘Primitivism’ conundrum” by Hilton Kramer (December 1984).On “‘Primitivism’ in 20th Century Art” at MOMA.

From the current issue:“Devouring its own,” Notes & Comments. On internal censure within the Left.

Broadcast: “Populism and its critics” presented by The New Criterion and The Social Affairs Unit.

Click here for a full archive of past Critic’s Notebooks.


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