A version of this story appears in Friday’s Weekend Look section of The Oklahoman.
Traveling exhibit of Italian masterworks closes Sunday at Oklahoma City Museum of Art
“Of Heaven and Earth: 500 Years of Italian Painting From Glasgow Museums” is moving on to Canada, the next stop on its prestigious five-city North American tour.
Art lovers who venture into the Oklahoma City Museum of Art’s first-floor gallery this weekend will witness an unusual reunion four centuries in the making.
The traveling exhibition “Of Heaven and Earth: 500 Years of Italian Painting From Glasgow Museums” closes Sunday at the museum, the first stop on its five-city North American tour.
It’s also the first time patrons can see one of the Scottish collection’s finest and most popular Italian paintings, Titian’s early 1500s masterwork “Christ and the Adulteress,” in a more complete way.
At some point, 12 to 20 inches and a full-length figure of a man were cut out of the composition. For the first time, the exhibit reunites the larger painting with a fragment of the missing piece titled “Head of a Man,” which the museum purchased in 1971.
“It’s something that you see that occurs with older works of art. Who knows (why),” said Oklahoma City Museum of Art Curator Alison Amick. “This will be the first time that the works have been shown together. So I think that will be really interesting and fun for everyone to see. It’s just a different story in the exhibition.”
The prestigious exhibition is full of colorful stories in the form of masterworks by the likes of Giovanni Bellini, Sandro Botticelli, Domenichino, Francesco Guardi and Salvator Rosa.
“The works in this exhibition are really important for people who love history and art, but also for people who are practicing artists as well because it’s an amazing opportunity to have this first-hand exposure to artists of this caliber, who have really written themselves into the history of art,” Amick said.
The sprawling show features about 40 Italian paintings from the late Middle Ages through the famed Renaissance and into the 19th century, she said, and the vast majority of the works have never been shown in the United States before.
“Being in a place like Oklahoma City, you cannot just go out of your door and go see an old master Italian painting. So it’s a rare opportunity,” she said. “To able to see a broad spectrum of Italian painting, that just makes it very unique. Thinking back to the beginning of the exhibit to the end, the paintings are completely different. You really get the chance to experience different styles and how the subject matter evolved over time.”
The works range from a golden-hued 1500 masterpiece depicting Christ and the Magi to Francesco del Cairo’s tragic 1645-1650 portrait “Death of Cleopatra” to Luigi Garzi’s dramatic rendering of the Roman legend of the “Sacrifice of Marcus Curtius.”
“If you’re interested in history, religion, mythology, I think there will be something in it that will draw you in,” Amick said. “You can have a wide range of interest in the humanities or culture or even if you just want to look at art that’s just beautiful, there’s really so many ways that you can come and enjoy this exhibition.”
Communications manager Ralph Cornelius said the Oklahoma City Museum of Art is the exhibit’s only stop in the Southwest.
After closing here Sunday, the traveling show moves to the Art Gallery of Alberta, Edmonton, Canada (Dec. 13 to March 9); Everson Museum of Art, Syracuse, N.Y. (April 17 to July 13); Milwaukee Art Museum, Wisc. (Oct. 1 to Jan. 4, 2015); and Santa Barbara Museum of Art, Calif. (Feb. 6, 2015 to May 3, 2015).
For the exhibit, the Oklahoma City museum is providing its first community-sourced cellphone audio guide featuring local luminaries like Oklahoma City Mayor Mick Cornett; the Most Rev. Paul S. Coakley, archbishop of the Catholic Archdiocese of Oklahoma City; and Oklahoma City Philharmonic music director Joel Levine, among others.
“It’s just fascinating to hear different people’s perspectives, just to hear them personally responding to the work. And often what people have to say is very insightful and very meaningful,” Amick said. “(It’s) just the idea that it doesn’t necessarily have to be something so academic to have value, especially in this type of exhibition, which is very serious in a way. It helps to add another layer to that experience that many people can use as an entry point into looking at the work in a new way.”
“Of Heaven and Earth: 500 Years of Italian Painting From Glasgow Museums”
When: Saturday through Nov. 17.
Where: Oklahoma City Museum of Art, 415 Couch Drive.
Information: 236-3100 or www.okcmoa.com.