Just opened last week at New York's prestigious Frick Collection is a singularly rare and exquisitely beautiful show of 15th century art - "Memlings Portraits" - from the hand of Flemish master Hans Memling (c.1435-1494).
Highly popular in his day and much prized in later centuries, though somewhat overlooked in the last one, these works are notable for their extraordinary clarity, purity of line and texture in the then relatively new medium of oil paint, and almost beatific serenity.
The subjects are both religious ("The Virgin and Child With St. Anthony Abbot and a Donor," 1472) and secular ("Portrait of a Man With a Coin of the Emperor Nero," 1473-74).
The "Portrait of a Young Man," from 1480, is a highlight of the exhibition. So absorbing are the faces that one fails to notice the excellence of the backgrounds and perspective.
Memling was born near Mainz, Germany, apparently schooled in Cologne, Germany, and moved to Brugge in what is now Belgium, where he ultimately became the city's leading painter.
He was beset by difficulties later in life. His wife, Tamme, died in 1487, when their three children were still small, and Brugge was caught up in bloody political turmoil and economic depression.
He painted resolutely on. There are 30 paintings in this exhibition, which is on view through Dec. 31 at the Frick, 1 E. 70th St.; telephone 212-288-0700; www.frick.org.
Baltimore's Walters Art Museum this week reopened its original Palazzo Building with a 100th anniversary reinstallation of some 1,500 objects in an exhibition called "Palace of Wonders: The New Galleries of Renaissance and Baroque Art."
The works include masterpieces by Raphael, El Greco and Veronese, Bernini's sculpture "The Risen Christ," lots of body armor and even a stuffed armadillo. The reinstallation is on view indefinitely.
The museum is located at 600 N. Charles St.; telephone 410-547-9000; www.thewalters.org.
(c) 2005, Chicago Tribune. Distributed by Knight Ridder/Tribune News Service.