“Sculpture in the Age of Donatello”

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Donatello Saint John the Evangelist (detail), c. 1409-1411 Image Courtesy Opera di Santa Maria del Fiore / Antonio Quattrone
Donatello Saint John the Evangelist (detail), c. 1409-1411 Image Courtesy Opera di Santa Maria del Fiore / Antonio Quattrone

By Ellen Miller

The great exhibition at the Museum of Biblical Arts in New York City From February 20 to June 14

Donatello, testa in bronzo della Cantoria del Duomo  (prima del restauro), courtesy Opificio delle Pietre Dure
Donatello, testa in bronzo della Cantoria del Duomo
(prima del restauro), courtesy Opificio delle Pietre Dure

Florence is home to a bevy of beautiful and renowned artwork, and it is rare to see any of it ever leave the city. One could hardly imagine the Uffizi without Botticelli adorning its walls, but thanks to a unique partnership between the Museum of the Duomo in Florence and the Museum of Biblical Arts in New York City, some lucky Americans are going to have the rare chance to view Donatello’s work on tour. The works come to New York City courtesy of the Opera del Duomo, which has been closed for the past year as part of a major restoration project. Originally the museum was slated to be closed for a longer period of time and the works sent on a longer tour, but the Pope’s upcoming visit to Florence in 2015 pushed the timetable up and now the works, rarely seen outside Florence, will visit this sole location. The exhibit is notable not only for the rarity of the loan, but also for the selection of the venue in the US: not one of New York City’s most famous museums but rather the Museum of Biblical Art, a lesser known museum but perhaps a better fit for the priceless collection. The exhibition consists of 23 masterpieces, most of which have previously never set foot outside of Italy, much less made the trek to the United States. The Museum of Biblical Arts’ director advocated strongly for the works to come to a museum that would emphasize their religious significance; the timing of the show also impacted its location, as other museums were not prepared to accept such a significant loan so quickly. In addition to works by Donatello, the show will feature other art created for the Duomo by artists such as Brunelleschi (best known for his work designing the dome itself), Nanni di Banco, Luca della Robbia and others. The works include pieces from both the interior and exterior of the church created between 1400 and 1450. Notable pieces from the exhibition include two life-sized statues created by Donatello that were designed for the bell tower, three hexagonal reliefs by della Robbia and two wooden models of the dome, one of the structure and one of the lantern.

Donatello Saint John the Evangelist  (detail), c. 1409-1411 Image Courtesy Opera di Santa  Maria del Fiore / Antonio Quattrone
Donatello
Saint John the Evangelist
(detail), c. 1409-1411
Image Courtesy Opera di Santa
Maria del Fiore / Antonio Quattrone

The dome was an engineering marvel at the time it was created and is sure to draw attention from architecture and engineering professionals and students alike. Perhaps one of the most unique aspects of the exhibition is its widespread appeal, drawing those interested in art, religion, architecture and engineering all to one space and creating a new dialogue. “Sculpture in the Age of Donatello” runs from February 20 to June 14, 2015 and will return afterwards to Florence where the pieces will rejoin their contemporaries in the museum of the Duomo in advance of the pope’s visit to the city next September. It provides a unique opportunity for Americans to get a glimpse of important Italian pieces. Here in Florence, expats and locals alike can look forward to the works’ return and re-exhibition in Florence while simultaneously enjoying the publicity that the great works of Italian art are receiving worldwide as a result of the city’s generosity.

 

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