Blog / Full of Grace



By Wendy


This month’s Durham magazine features a gorgeous story on the Nasher Museum’s Nancy Hanks Senior Curator Sarah Schroth, who fell in love with a 17th-Century painting of the Madonna.
Here is an excerpt of the story by Matt Dees:

The Virgin, frozen in grief, seems not to notice the three women huddled tightly around her, armed with a blacklight in the otherwise pitch black room.

Six eyes and a swath of electric blue light sweep from the nails to the crown to the shroud, up to her cuffs, her tunic and, finally, to the two tears running down her cheeks.

The Virgin, all agree, is worthy.

They’d gotten her all wrong. Sarah Schroth
was convinced.

The Nancy Hanks Senior Curator at the Nasher Museum of Art at Duke University is extremely well versed in Spanish paintings from the reign of Philip III. She, after all, curated the wildly popular El Greco to Velázquez exhibit at the Nasher in 2008, prompting the Spanish government to declare her “a Knight-Commander of the Royal Order of Isabella,” one of Spain’s highest civil orders. (You can just call her “Su Ilustrisima,” or “The Illustrious One.”) So when a Spanish art dealer sent her a picture last year of The Virgin Mary Contemplating Instruments of the Passion, Sarah immediately recognized in the oil-on-canvas painting telltale traits of the period. Specifically, she suspected it was the work of one Vincente Carducho, a court artist for Philip III and a rival of Velázquez.

But making that case, while important, was secondary to one basic tenet. “There’s a wonderful, wonderful quote, from Sherman Lee: ‘If it’s a good picture, it’s a good picture, no matter who painted it,” Su Ilustrisima Sarah says.

“And this is a good picture.”

Read more in the magazine!

IMAGE: Nancy Hanks Senior Curator Sarah Schroth inspects “The Virgin Mary Contemplating Instruments of the Passion,” a painting she has attributed to Vincente Carducho. Photo by J Caldwell.

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