"Hidden Faces: Covered Portraits of the Renaissance" at The Met Fifth Avenue

The Met

Hidden Faces: Covered Portraits of the Renaissance

Exhibition Dates: April 2–July 7, 2024
Location: The Met Fifth Avenue, Robert Lehman Wing, Gallery 964

Opening April 2, 2024, at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Hidden Faces: Covered Portraits of the Renaissance is the first exhibition to examine an intriguing but largely unknown tradition of Renaissance painting: multisided portraits in which the sitter’s likeness was concealed by a hinged or sliding cover, within a box, or by a dual-faced format. The covers and reverses of these small, private portraits were adorned with puzzle-like emblems, epigrams, allegories, and mythologies that celebrated the sitter’s character, and they represent some of the most inventive and unique secular imagery of the Renaissance. The viewer decoded the meaning of the symbolic portrait before lifting, sliding, or turning the image over to unmask the face below.

The widespread development of these multifaceted objects in Italy and Northern Europe during the 15th and 16th centuries will be explored through approximately 60 double-sided and covered portraits from The Met collection and other American and European institutions, including major loans from the Ashmolean Museum, Gallerie degli Uffizi, Museo Nacional Thyssen-Bornemisza, National Gallery of Art in Washington, and more. The presentation will reunite several portraits and their covers that had been split and made part of separate collections. Painted by artists such as Hans Memling, Lucas Cranach, Lorenzo Lotto, and Titian, the works range from portraits intended as portable propaganda to those designed to conceal a lover's identity. These varied three-dimensional, hand-held ensembles shed significant light on the intimate and personal nature of portraits designed as interactive objects.

The exhibition is made possible by the William Randolph Hearst Foundation, the Robert Lehman Foundation, and the Mellon Foundation.

Hidden Faces: Covered Portraits of the Renaissance is curated by Alison Manges Nogueira, Curator, Robert Lehman Collection at The Met. 

The exhibition will be accompanied by a fully illustrated catalogue. Published by The Metropolitan Museum of Art and distributed by Yale University Press, the catalogue will be available for purchase from The Met Store. 

The catalogue is made possible by the Drue E. Heinz Fund.



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