When we heard about this new exhibit at the Art Gallery of Ontario we were looking forward to seeingit. Happily as a member of the gallery I was able to sign up for tickets early so we were amongst the first to see the exhibit. Co-organized by the Getty Museum and the Art Gallery of Ontario, this spectacular exhibition sheds light on the artists who gave birth to the Renaissance — changing art, and the world, forever.
In the early 1300s, creativity was flourishing in Florence at a time of unprecedented prosperity, urban expansion, and intellectual innovation. The Renaissance was awakening. In this dynamic climate, master painter Giotto di Bondone revolutionized painting with a new, more naturalistic approach to the human form. He—along with the iconic literary figure Dante Alighieri and accomplished panel painters and illuminators—formed a thriving artistic community that responded to the great demand for art and literature in the growing city, both for the decoration of sacred and secular buildings and for the illumination of luxurious manuscripts.
The exhibition comprises more than 90 key pieces from the first half of the 14th century, including Giotto's five-panel Peruzzi Altarpiece and his Madonna of San Giorgio alla Costa, two painted manuscripts of Dante's Divine Comedy, and Bernardo Daddi's Virgin Mary with Saints Thomas Aquinas and Paul.
Revealing the Early Renaissance includes manuscripts that have never left Florence before and that are very rarely on view in the city where they were created. These monumental works of art, evocative of painting in three dimensions, have spent most of their lives closed and thus survive in pristine condition. Their painted pages serve as a magnificent window on 14th-century Florence. The exhibition also features an interactive map with touch screen that allows visitors to explore the places where Renaissance Florence intersects with the Florence of today.
Among the highlights are the earliest illuminated copies of Dante's masterpiece the Divine Comedy, and nearly all the surviving leaves from the most important illuminated manuscript commission of the early 1300s, the Laudario of Sant'Agnese.
One feature of the exhibit which we really enjoyed was asection in the final room where we were shown how these works of art were created. Through display, video, and demonstration we gained an understanding of how commonly found objects (well, and gold, that wasn't so common) were transformed by master artists into pieces of beauty that still shine today.
This once-in-a-generation exhibition at the Art Gallery of Ontario runs until June 16th.