Revealing the Early Renaissance

The Renaissance is often considered to be synonymous with rebirth, rejuvenation, revival and enlightenment so to speak. Fascination with this epoch has and will always continue to flourish in the art world. I visited the ‘Revealing the Early Renaissance, stories and secrets in Florentine art’ show at the AGO over the weekend and I must say while I was pleasantly fascinated with the work being shown I was mildly disappointed at the scope of the show. It perhaps did not live up to its full potential by limiting its focus on themes of religiosity while several other areas such as literature, philosophy, science and politics were somewhat brushed over or forgotten entirely. What can further observed is the lack of attention to the fact that this period of time saw vastly new and unique materials come into experimentation and use together with new methods and concepts. That being said, the show was quite effective in delivering themes of mysticism and opulence and displaying the narrative of their marriage through the eyes of the Church. 

Bernardo Daddi. Italian (Florentine), about 1280-1348. The virgin Mary with Saints Thomas Aquinas and Paul. Tempera and gold leaf on panel, 121.6 x 113 cm. The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles

The large ceiling-to-floor mural at the entrance of the show was quite fascinating to look at and took me by awe as I scanned the map of Florence. It was very powerful in setting the mood for the general exhibition. The background music went along with this concept. Blues and golds typified the theme of renaissance luxury and opulence and the richness of the compositions displayed only accentuated this theme. The mixture of small and large pieces gave an interesting diversity that captivated the audience.

Giotto Di Bondone, Italian, about 1266-1337, The Peruzzi Altarpiece, Tempera and gold leaf on panel, 105.7 x 250.2 cm. The North Carolina Museum of Art

Giotto di Bondone, Italian, The Apparition of God the Father (Pinnacle from the Baroncelli Altarpiece, Florence, Santa Croce). Tempera and gold leaf on panel, 30 x 28 inches. San Diego Museum of Art

My favorite work of art from the show would probably have to be Giotto Di Bondone’s ‘The Apparition of God the Father’ with its gold leaf and triangular form, it truly captivated me and provided a blast of mysticism that is so relevant in thinking about Renaissance artwork. The ‘Halley’s Comet’ seen by Giotto, toward the end of the show added a nice touch and reminded me why I love this time particular era.

Halley’s Comet as seen by Giotto

While this show was thought evoking and aesthetically coordinated it did not delve deeper into the Renaissance as an era of innovation but rather into the story of religion and wealth which is perfectly legitimate, however the addition of other aspects of the time period may have given it the kick of energy that it deserves.

Haafiz Karim

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