Bernardo Daddi
Italian (Florentine), about 1280 - 1348
A crowned Virgin Martyr
Tempera and gold leaf on panel
121.6 x 113 cm
The Fine Arts Museum of San Francisco

Author
"While scientists invent history, Sasha finds it, or inserts the missing pieces we didn’t know about."

Revealing the Early Renaissance opens at AGO! So we time travel to 14th century Florence.

These days, life is so immediate that we rarely think about history, unless Tudors or Downton Abbey is on. Truthfully, we’re too busy living in the moment. As a result, we haven’t really thought about the early renaissance period since we took that art history class back in uni. But since the AGO opens Revealing the Early Renaissance: Stories and Secrets in Florentine Art this weekend, we decided to check out the media preview and shake up our routine with a trip back to 1360 Florence. For an hour, we put away our phones and instead stared into the eyes of Madonna (the original, yo) while listening to the deep and haunting vocals of chanting monks.

Boasting more than 90 paintings, manuscripts, sculptures and stained glass from the 14th century, this is the largest collection of Italian art to ever come to Canada. EVER. You can smell the old. “I think that coming to this show will knock the socks off of everyone who’s taken the history of art,” says Sasha Suda, the AGO’s assistant curator of European art. That’s her official title, but we like to think of her as a kind of Indiana Jones. Her job isn’t just about the insane logistics of moving art from one side of the world to the other, she’s a tracker, a historian, or better yet, an art detective. “The history of art is so rich and layered and the best part of my job is being able to convey that by introducing people to a new history.” While scientists invent history, Sasha finds it, or inserts the missing pieces we didn’t know about. (The creative writer in us views her as the protagonist in a 700-year-old mystery where truths about interfamily bloodshed are revealed through stained glass.)

Although this exhibit is ten years in the making (this shit doesn’t just happen, you know) Sasha was still finding things on a trip to Florence last year. (A journey that included visits to tiny medieval towns and meetings with an Archbishop in a cathedral, the usual.) We looked at the paintings illuminated on every wall of the gallery and examined the enormous manuscripts, housed in glass, that depicted scenes from every day early renaissance life in Florence and Sienna. Then we looked at Sasha. She had a glow and was smiling ear-to-ear. “This is a dream come true for you, isn’t it?” We asked. “Yes, this is definitely a dream come true.”

Revealing the Early Renaissance: Stories and Secrets in Florentine Art opens at the Art Gallery of Ontario (AGO) this weekend, on March 16, 2013. Tickets are now on sale at ago.net for this once-in-a-lifetime experience.

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