CLEVELAND (December 27, 2012) — After a seven-year hiatus, the Cleveland Museum of Art’s late medieval, Renaissance and Islamic collections have returned to public view. The artwork is showcased in the recently renovated galleries of the first level of the museum’s original 1916 Beaux-Arts building, designed by Hubbell and Benes. Within each historical area, objects are organized thematically and incorporate a variety of media. The installations are presented in integrated displays that foster an understanding of the social and historical contexts within which these works of art were produced.
“These new galleries complete the renovation of our original 1916 building, a significant accomplishment for the project,” said David Franklin, Sarah S. and Alexander M. Cutler director of the Cleveland Museum of Art. “We are very excited to share these galleries with our visitors, and give them a chance to see newly acquired objects surrounded by old favorites from these magnificent collections.”
The galleries and installations were designed to feature the artistic achievements of the collections and, at the same time, integrate these objects as part of the greater museum experience. For example, as the visitor walks through the ancient Near East gallery, a direct sightline into the Islamic gallery is visible, connecting the spaces by cultural and historical arcs. Byzantine and early western medieval art, which was already on view, flow seamlessly into the new galleries displaying late medieval art from France and Italy.
Highlights of the re-installation include:
Late Medieval Art
The museum’s holdings of medieval art are among the finest in this country, and these galleries now connect with earlier galleries the bring the whole collection back to public view. The strength of the late medieval holdings lies in object groups and works of major historical and artistic significance such as the group of mourners from the tomb of Philip the Bold, Duke of Burgundy (1342-1404), which returns to view in the High Gothic gallery. Other highlights include the exquisite illuminated manuscript, Hours of Queen Isabella the Catholic, Queen of Spain (1495-1500), and the only known complete French Table Fountain (c.1300-1350). A number of important objects were recently accessioned into the collection and are on view for the first time, including an extremely rare wood sculpture from Auvergne, Virgin and Child in Majesty, (c. 1150-1200) and Gil de Siloé’s Enthroned Virgin and Child (c. 1480s), which is one of only four works by this Spanish artist in U.S. This sculpture carved from alabaster complements and is displayed next to the Hours of Queen Isabella.
The Renaissance galleries highlight major works from Italy and Germany along with small-scale Renaissance bronzes and sculpture. The Renaissance painting collection includes Florentine master Filippino Lippi’s, The Holy Family with John the Baptist and St. Margaret, ( c. 1495), a work which exhibits several hallmarks of Italian Renaissance canon, including linear perspective and expressive gesture. Lorenzo Lotto, a contemporary of Titian is represented with Portrait of a Man (1533-1534) and Agnolo Bronzino, the official painter for the court of Cosimo I de'Medici, the Duke of Florence has Portrait of a Woman (c. 1550) included in the re-installation.
Major acquisitions have been made for these collections in recent years. For example, a rock crystal intaglio from the early 1500s entitled Mars, Minerva, Venus, and Cupid by Valerio Belli, a celebrated designer of small-scale sculpture in precious materials in the early Renaissance was accessioned as well as a commanding marble relief by Mino da Fiesole, a great Italian sculptor titled Julius Caesar (c. 1455-1460). Most recently accessioned is a gem carving of Philip II, King of Spain by Alessandro Cesati. Gem carving was one of the most important and characteristic artistic forms of the Renaissance period and Cesati’s object exemplifies the highest level of mastery. Incorporated within the displays of Renaissance painting and sculpture are the finest examples of decorative arts from Renaissance Europe, adding rich context for visitors’ understanding of the broad range of artwork created during this time. A display of German Green Glass tumblers and goblets from the 15th -17th centuries and a grouping of lead-glazed earthenware by French ceramicist Bernard Palissy and workshop are a focal point in the 16th century German and French painting and decorative arts gallery.
This space leads into a gallery that features the museum’s three Chateau de Chaumont tapestries, outstanding works admired for their specific range of unusually well-preserved bright colors. The tapestries hung in the Chateau de Chaumont in the Loire Valley and the themes were thought to be derived from a series of poems by the popular 14th-century Italian poet Petrarch that contemplated the impermanence of everything except eternity.
The Islamic collection includes works from 10 countries and spans 1300 years, ranging from antiquity to modern day. Returning to view are visitor favorites like a complete Prayer Niche (Mihrab) and Inscription Frieze, an interior focal point of a mosque oriented toward Mecca, and The Wade Cup (c. 1200-1225), the best known object in the museum’s Islamic collection, named after Jeptha H. Wade II, who bequeathed funds for its purchase and donated property for the museum site. The Wade Cup is from Iran and is richly decorated with interlacing bands containing tiny figures of humans and animals representing the twelve signs of the zodiac.
The Islamic art gallery also includes newly acquired contemporary work such as the shadow installation, His Lantern (2006) by Afruz Amighi, which depicts the format of a traditional Iranian prayer rug with an allover foliate pattern and a photograph, Harem #14 (2008) that explores the role of women in the contemporary Islamic world by Moroccan artist Lalla Essaydi.
Beginning in January 2013, multimedia interpretive content for these galleries and others will be available via ArtLens, a new iPad application designed by the Cleveland Museum of Art, Local Projects, and Earprint Productions. The ArtLens iPad app will allow visitors to personalize their experience at the museum by delving into layers of interpretative content on a variety of works in the collection. The ArtLens app is an aspect of Gallery One, a unique, interactive gallery that blends art, interpretation and technology, opening to the public January 21, 2013.
The Cleveland Museum of Art is open Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday, Sunday from10:00 a.m.–5:00 p.m. and Wednesday, Friday from 10:00 a.m.–9:00 p.m. The museum is closed Mondays.
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