Revealing the Early Renaissance at the AGO

When I first heard that The Art Gallery of Ontario would be showcasing a unique Early Italian Renaissance retrospective I knew exactly who I had to bring: a long lost Professor and dearest Aunty. I studied Italian Renaissance Art History at the University of Guelph under the tutelage of the always bubbly Professor Sally Hickson. We have kept in touch via Facebook and Twitter so was delighted to have her join. I figured she’d be the perfect person to fill in the blanks during our tour of the collection. My Aunt Susan was an art teacher for years at Oakville’s Appleby College and now teaches Renaissance courses to adults in Niagara-on-the-Lake.

I met both ladies at the AGO on a Tuesday morning at 10am sharp. After grabbing my media kit I loitered about the lobby while flaccid faces eagerly clutched their morning coffee’s. Servers spun around the room offering wee platters featuring syrup covered pancakes, warm cinnamon buns, eggs benedict and frittata. Was great to see a ton of media out for the Press Conference which featured remarks from CEO of The AGO Matthew Teitelbaum, Assistant Curator for European Art at AGO Sasha Suda and The Minister of Tourism for Ontario.

Shortly before 11am the podium offered a final bow and crowds were encouraged to proceed through the exhibition. Over the course of the next hour Sally and Sue sauntered through the space while I got trigger happy with my SLR.

Revealing the Early Renaissance: Stories and Secrets in Florentine Art is an introduction to the city and artists who changed Western art forever. The exhibition immerses visitors in 14th-century Florence – a city whose burgeoning economy and spiritual faith fostered a truly inspiring civic commitment to art, as artists responded to an unprecedented demand for painting and sculpture through collaboration and technical innovation. The exhibition encourages guests to take a closer look at the workshops of Florence’s artists, the scientific research that lets us look beyond the painted surface and the fascinating stories from this period told by the works that survive today. The exhibition comprises more than 90 extraordinarily rare pieces from the first half of the 14th century, including Giotto’s five-panel Peruzzi Altarpiece and his Pentecost, two painted manuscripts of Dante’s Divine Comedy and Bernardo Daddi’s Virgin Mary with Saints Thomas Aquinas and Paul.

The exhibition features works that are not traditionally associated with our notion of The Renaissance. The collection showcased here features a transitionary period after the Medieval Age and a hundred years before masters like Michelangelo, Donatello or Raphael took the stage.

This Spring the AGO wil surely fill with students, historians, tourists and appreciators of the brush. The show offers unexpected delights which highlight a unique look into the mostly unknown artists who directly influenced the great Renaissance Masters. As we circled through the exhibitions final room I gawked at several massive 150 lb manuscripts. Before exiting the gift shop I couldn’t help but close my eyes and transport myself back to the summer of 2006 when I felt free as a bird marching through the cobblestone streets of Florence. Hop on over to Dundas and McCaul and take yourself on a wee trip back in time.

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