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Wednesday March 18, 2009

Ottawa revisits the Roman Renaissance


Canada’s National Gallery presents “The Art of Papal Rome”
By Letizia Tesi

The National Gallery of Canada in Ottawa is set to present “From Raphael to Carracci: The Art of Papal Rome,” from May 20 to Sept. 7., where the Roman Renaissance period will be glorified and brought back to life, with its ample pieces that will reminisce the birth of the Sistine Chapel and Vatican frescoes, as well greats such as Raphael and Michelangelo.
Usually, it is the Florentine and Venetian Renaissance periods put in the limelight, at least in North America, making this exhibit the first in Canada to exclusively exhibit Roman Renaissance works of art.
There will be more than 150 paintings and drawings on display, which have been gathered from all over the world. The exhibit will also include art works loaned from the more important Italian museums, such as Uffizi and the Vatican.
Sixty-three museums and collectors have agreed to loan works of art to Canada's National Gallery, including one exceptional contributor: the Queen of England. Her Majesty has agreed to temporarily deprive herself of two drawings by Raphael, two sketches of Michelangelo’s Universal Judgment, and one painting by Federico Zucchero, all of which are held in the House of Windsor’s royal collection.
At the Toronto press conference announcing the exhibit, the gallery’s director Marc Mayer, and David Franklin, chief curator and deputy director, emphasized the generosity and helpfulness of the other museums and collectors that loaned their works, although they did not deny that the organizational initiative was overwhelming: a full four years of work.
“It’s the first time that I speak with the new title of National Gallery director,” Mayer said, “and I’m particularly proud [to be] doing so in announcing the exhibit ‘From Raphael to Carracci: The Art of Papal Rome,’ which is another first, seeing that the Roman Renaissance has never before been the subject of a unique exhibition. This will cover an artistic-historic period that is less known by the majority of the public and I’m convinced it will be a wonderful discovery.”

David Franklin pointed out the great generosity of the Uffizi in offering six drawings – two of which are by Raphael – and a frescoe by Florentine painter Perino del Vaga.
“We have a very good relationship with the Uffizi, which had also lent us several works for our Florence Renaissance exhibit held at the National Gallery in 2005,” said Franklin. “Their generosity is unique, and we are incredibly grateful. Even the Queen is always very kind. She is happy to lend us works from her collection: It’s a symbolic gesture towards a country that is part of the Commonwealth.”
Also on display are two works recently acquired by the museum: a Francesco Salviati painting entitled La Vergine e il Bambino con un Angelo from 1535-1539, and a work by Pomarancio.
Salviati’s oil painting – with a market value of $4.5 million – came from a private collection in France. An antique dealer discovered it about a year ago, however, he didn’t realize the art work was from Salviati. It was Franklin who correctly attributed it to the artist and purchased it for the museum.
An underlying theme of the exhibit is Raphael and the influence his work subsequently had on Annibale Carracci. “What we also want to show the public is the atypical Raphael, the more introverted, more difficult one – not the idealistic and harmonious painter (that icon of the Renaissance that we’re all familiar with),” explains Franklin. “Raphael lived his whole life searching for the ideal perfection– almost an obsession, and a search that Carracci continued.”
A hall will be dedicated entirely to the Popes, featuring portraits that have immortalized for all eternity, their ambition and power – an immoderate amount of power that however, resulted in the creation of timeless works of art.
“Their influence on art was immeasurable,” Franklin explained. It was a very creative period, but also dramatic and controversial.”
The exhibit is chronologically organized by Pope, starting from Julius II and ending at Clement VIII. And it is by following this sequential progression that makes most evident the great diversity, richness, and uniqueness of what was achieved in Rome under the artistic patronage of the Papacy of the Holy Roman Church.”

The National Gallery of Ottawa exhibit “From Raphael to Carracci: The Art of Papal Rome,” runs from May 29 to Sept. 7 (380 Sussex Dr., Ottawa.) For further information about the exhibit, visit www.gallery.ca.