The phrase “once-in-a-lifetime opportunity” gets thrown around quite a bit, but it's not every day that Sooner State denizens have the chance to see Italian Renaissance masterpieces right in downtown Oklahoma City.
“The chance to see works by Bellini and Botticelli and Titian on view at the museum is a really rare opportunity. To see works of this caliber and by artists of this renown on view in Oklahoma City, we've not shown them before and we're excited to be doing that,” said Oklahoma City Museum of Art Curator Alison Amick.
“Of Heaven and Earth: 500 Years of Italian Painting From Glasgow Museums” opens Saturday at the Oklahoma City Museum of Art, the first stop on a five-city North American tour. A preview and Roof Terrace party celebrating the prestigious exhibit's opening is set for 6 to 10:30 p.m. Friday.
The sprawling show features about 40 Italian paintings from the late Middle Ages through the famed Renaissance and into the 19th century, Amick said, and the vast majority of the works have never been shown in the United States before.
While Scotland might not seem the most obvious place to find Italian masterworks, the Glasgow collection is considered one of the finest in Northern Europe.
“There were a lot of people, particularly in the 19th century, collecting Italian art, so it was really part of the taste of the time, particularly among the elite and wealthy in Glasgow,” Amick said. “It's a really amazing, world-renowned grouping of Italian paintings. And they're sending really key works from the collection.”
For instance, Titian's “Christ and the Adulteress,” which dates to around 1508, is considered one of the Scottish collection's finest and most popular Italian paintings. The exhibit also features paintings by the likes of Giovanni Bellini, Sandro Botticelli, Domenichino, Francesco Guardi and Salvator Rosa.
“If you're interested in history, religion, mythology, I think there will be something about it that will draw you in,” Amick said.
Five centuries of art
Organized into five chronological sections, “Of Heaven and Earth” will include paintings originating from the principal artistic centers of Italy: Rome, Milan, Bologna, Florence, Siena, Naples and Venice. Each of the five galleries will cover a 100-year period of Italy's rich art history.
“Five hundred years is pretty daunting, but the exhibition really breaks it down in a nice way, a very manageable way, where you sort of explore each century and different themes that emerged in Italian art during that respective period,” she said.