Overview: Clarence Kennedy (1892–1972), an art historian at Smith College who specialized in Italian Renaissance and classical Greek art, took up photography out of frustration with the poor quality of available images of sculpture. He quickly surpassed his amateur status with his masterful implementation of light and shadow and impressive eye for detail.
From 1928 to 1932, Kennedy published a seven-part series of photographic volumes titled Studies in the History and Criticism of Sculpture, containing more than 300 photographs. The sculptures of Desiderio da Settignano were among his favorite subjects, occupying four of the seven portfolios. Kennedy mounted and assembled each edition himself and released them in extremely limited numbers. The National Gallery of Art Library’s department of image collections received the second numbered copy of the series as part of the generous Widener gift in 1943.
This exhibition included approximately 35 gelatin silver prints primarily from these volumes. Represented were sculptures featured in the Gallery’s exhibition Desiderio da Settignano: Sculptor of Renaissance Florence (July 1–October 8, 2007) as well as works that cannot travel, such as the Funerary Monument of Carlo Marsuppini and the Tabernacle of San Lorenzo. These complementary exhibitions in Washington provided unprecedented access to Desiderio’s work in Florence.
Organization: The exhibition was organized by the National Gallery of Art. Missy Lemke, image specialist for Italian art, curated this exhibition.