Italian history and culture in the 14th Century, featured forms of expression which for the first time, represented an intersection of the ‘here and now,’ even in the midst of the sacred. This was as true for music and literature, as it was for art and architecture.– think of Dante’s epic poem, “The Divine Comedy;” and the ‘father of all humanists,’ Francesco Petrarch’s very lyrical 14-line sonnets, borrowing rhythms from Provençal literature; and Giovanni Boccaccio’s daring “Tales From the Decameron.”
People – of all ranks – had come face-to-face with sudden illness and quick death; and there was a great need for solace, and fortification of a steadfast faith. There was a universal need too, perhaps, for love – and for s reminder of the presence among men still, of all that is good: and among these are the the images of Jesus, the Holy Spirit, giver of life; and of Mary, the Virgin Mother of God.
For the first time, there is a depiction of an angel or a saint much closer to the image of an ordinary man or women. God has become man, incarnate, and now in these representations – formerly iconic – have as their background, not timelessness in the abstract, but what we begin to see are the features of ordinary men who seem elevated, through a kind of blessing, acquiring the characteristics, themselves, of saintliness.
Through the use of vernacular language. rather than the more formal use of Latin or Greek, for the first time, we will hear the songs of the troubadours and trouvères, who traveled widely and whose songs now concern themselves with romance, and with ordinary activities of daily living, rather than the centering songs of humility, reverence, confession and redemption. They now reflect somewhat less on exclusively sacred themes in every aspect of expression; in the arts. We are now seeing the close of the Middle Ages, and the dawn of re-birth, in: The Renaissance.
An extraordinary exhibition is in its last weeks, now, at the Museum of Biblical Art, in New York. The Adoration of the Magi by Bartolo di Fredi: A Masterpiece Reconstructed, was first exhibited at the University of Virginia Art Museum last year. (The panels are on loan from the Pinacoteca of Siena, and the Lindenau-Museum in Altenburg Germany, and will have been brought together for the first time):
At the Museum of Biblical Art, Bartolo’s altarpiece will be displayed alongside a magnificent version of the Adoration of the Magi which he completed as a standalone work in c. 1390, on loan from The Robert Lehman Collection at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, as well as Bartolo’s depiction of the Adoration of the Shepherds dating to c. 1374, on loan from The Cloisters. Both paintings will enhance the detailed examination of this master’s grand altarpiece. …
The acute, responsible scholarship of the labels and the bilingual catalogue are, as focused as they are on a single work, are encyclopedic in their treatment of painting in trecento Siena as well as the history of taste. You will leave the exhibition with a fresh understanding of this splendid chapter in the history of art.
The genius of this unique collaboration can be traced to Bruce Boucher, architectural historian, curator, and director of The Fralin Art Museum at the University of Virginia. Boucher earned his B.A., magna cum laude in Classics and English from Harvard University and a B.A., M.A., in English Language and Literature at Magdalen College, Oxford University as a Rhodes Scholar. He is an expert on Andrea Palladio, and also lectures on Donatello, Tintoretto and other Italian artists — with a focus on the Renaissance and Baroque; and is the author of a number of books, including “Andrea Palladio: The Architect in His Time.”
“The Adoration of the Magi by Bartolo di Fredi: A Masterpiece Reconstructed,” runs through Sept. 9 at the Museum of Biblical Art, 1865 Broadway, at 61st Street; (212) 408-1500. The Museum is open six days a week (closed Monday; and the exhibition will run contemporaneously with the exhibition, “Printers, Monks and Craftsmen: Printmaking in the Age of Gutenberg.”