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From Raphael to Carracci: The Art of Papal Rome Opens at the National Gallery of Canada
Carlo Saraceni (c. 1580–1620), Venus and Mars, c. 1600, Oil on copper, Carmen Thyssen-Bornemisza Collection, on loan at the Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum, Madrid.

OTTAWA.- The power, politics and drama that surrounded papal patronage in 16th-century Rome will be revealed in a magnificent new exhibition opening at the National Gallery of Canada (NGC) on May 29. From Raphael to Carracci: The Art of Papal Rome represents an unprecedented survey of art in this period. Presented by Sun Life Financial, it will be on view until September 7, 2009.

This large international loan exhibition brings together over 150 exceptional paintings and drawings for the first time by celebrated artists such as Michelangelo, Titian, El Greco, Vasari, Barocci and Annibale Carracci. In addition, pieces by lesser known, but nonetheless superb artists are also included. They too played a significant role in the evolution of Renaissance Rome but have only recently been acknowledged and appreciated for their skill and relevance to art history during this period. Together they illustrate how papal patronage, which was driven by unrivalled ambition and the need to propagate their own belief system, gave rise to one of the richest periods in art history and the lasting legacy of some of the greatest artists in the world.

“An exhibition of this exceptional nature could not have been realized without the generosity and vision of institutional and individual lenders,” said NGC Director, Marc Mayer. “The vast majority of these works have been generously loaned to us by prestigious arts institutions and individual collectors throughout Europe and North America. Given their rarity, the Gallery is privileged to be the sole venue for this exhibition.”

Papal patronage raises Rome to an unrivalled cultural capital - Organized chronologically pope by pope, the exhibition commences with Julius II in 1503 and concludes with Clement VIII in 1606. Through their enlightened patronage they transformed Rome from a banal backwater to the most important and influential centre of the Renaissance and the unrivalled cultural capital of the western world for over three centuries. By the same token, it shows Rome as an unpredictable European centre, deeply affected by the dramatically shifting tides of this patronage and the tensions created between the temporal and spiritual worlds.

“Even more than Michelangelo, Raphael exemplifies a new type of artist that developed Rome in this period,” said NGC Deputy Director and exhibition curator, David Franklin. “However, another purpose of this exhibition is to present Raphael’s ideal and elegant style as a source of inspiration to his many talented followers, as well as to portray him as a liberated master who gave birth to a seemingly endless variety of artistic forms. By concluding with the works of Annibale Carracci, we intend to examine more broadly the transitions of style known as High Renaissance, Mannerism and the Early Baroque, and indeed to question the relevance of these terminologies.”

The NGC acknowledges with gratitude the generosity of the presenting sponsor, Sun Life Financial, for their support of From Raphael to Carracci: The Art of Papal Rome. Sun Life, a long-standing partner of the National Gallery, has sponsored three major exhibitions since 2006.

“Thanks to the National Gallery of Canada, we now have a rare opportunity to see an extraordinary collection of timeless masterpieces by some of the greatest artists of the 16th-century,” said Sun Life Financial Chief Executive Officer, Donald A. Stewart. “As presenting sponsor of this exhibit and a long-standing supporter of the arts in Canada, Sun Life Financial is pleased to help the National Gallery provide Canadians of all ages a glimpse into the fascinating world and art of Papal Rome.”

Strengthening the Gallery’s European Collections - From Raphael to Carracci: The Art of Papal Rome is also a testament to the increasing strength of the National Gallery’s own collection of European art as this exhibition will feature 25 of its own pieces. These include a number of recent acquisitions, such as the remarkable work by Francesco Salviati Virgin and Child with Angel that was purchased in 2005 through the support of the NGC Volunteers Circle and the patrons of the NGC Foundation. Also displayed will be an oil sketch by Cristoforo Roncalli for his Saint Peter’s altarpiece entitled Death of Sapphira – a subject famously treated by Raphael.

From Raphael to Carracci: The Art of Papal Rome is designed as a sequel to the NGC’s exhibition entitled Renaissance Florence shown in Ottawa in 2005. The organizing committee, led by David Franklin, also includes distinguished art historians, including Rhoda Eitel-Porter of the Morgan Library & Museum, Sebastian Schütze of Queen’s University and Louis A. Waldman from the University of Texas.

The National Gallery of Canada extends special thanks to its partners - The National Gallery of Canada praises its partners for their support: Alenia North America, for the restoration of the St-Julian Hospitaller painting, featured in this exhibition; the Italian Embassy and the Italian Chamber of Commerce in Canada for the presentation of a private baroque concert from the Accademia Barocca di Santa Cecilia di Roma; the Canada Travelling Exhibition Indemnification Program through the Department of Canadian Heritage, as well as its media partners, la Télévision de Radio-Canada, CBC Television, The Ottawa Citizen and Le Droit.

Catalogue - A fully-illustrated 480-page catalogue, produced by the National Gallery of Canada, accompanies this exhibition. Featuring 378 illustrations and published in English and French, it is co-authored by David Franklin, NGC Deputy Director and Chief Curator, Ingrid D. Rowland, author of The Culture of the High Renaissance (Cambridge), Sebastian Schütze, Professor of Art History and Bader Chair in Southern Baroque Art, Department of Art at Queen’s University, and Carlo Gasparri, Professor of Archeology at the University of Naples. Contributions have also been made by more than 40 international scholars. Appearing in hardcover only at a cost of $75.00 (CDN) it is on sale at the National Gallery of Canada Bookstore or online.

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