Sunday, July 23, 2017

The Most Powerful Kiss in Art: Do you know what MAGISTER GIOTTO in Venice is?

(Venice, Italy) The husband and wife kissing in the poster for MAGISTER GIOTTO you see all over Venice are Joachim and Anne, the grandparents of Jesus Christ.

Joachim was a wealthy, pious man, and Anne was his beloved, but childless wife -- a situation that gave the couple much grief. Both were descendants of the house of David. Joachim was generous with his wealth, giving to the poor and making offerings to the temple. Then one day the high priest said he would not accept Joachim's offerings because he was childless, and, therefore, God must be displeased with him.

Joachim went off to the desert to fast and pray for 40 days and nights, while Anne sobbed and prayed at home in their garden. An angel appeared separately to both of them, and promised the devout couple that they would have a child, even in their old age -- and not just any child, but the mother of God. They were instructed to meet each other at the Golden Gate in Jerusalem.

The Meeting at the Golden Gate by Giotto
In 1305, Giotto di Bondone, one of the greatest artists to grace the planet, captured the moment that Joachim and Anne kissed each other for the first time after receiving the angelic news, and immortalized it in a fresco inside the Scrovegni Chapel in Padua. Some people interpret the kiss as the Immaculate Conception itself.

And the woman in black? There is much disagreement about who she is, but the theory I like the best is that she is Mary, the mother of Jesus, after Christ was crucified, witnessing the moment of her own conception. Very quantum theory.

Back in 2007, Tom Lubbock wrote an excellent piece for The Independent called, Bondone, di Giotto: The Meeting at the Golden Gate (1305) where he examines famous kisses in art, this kiss in particular.

I did not know any of that before I saw MAGISTER GIOTTO at the Scuola Grande della Misercordia.

Magister Giotto
MAGISTER GIOTTO is billing itself as an exhibition in an unprecedented format, a visual journey that tells a story with high-definition images, narration and music. It is not an interactive bombardment of the senses, but rather a 55-minute spiritual and intellectual experience that hopes to blow the dust off Giotto and fling him into the spotlight of the present.

Giotto is considered the first great artist to contribute to the Renaissance, and after you visit the exhibition, you will understand why.

Giotto press conference - Scuola Grande della Misericordia - Photo: Cat Bauer
MAGISTER GIOTTO is the first in a series of three exhibitions backed by Cose Belle d'Italia, a company founded by Stefano Vegni, VP General Manager of Citibank, Milan. The great Italian sculptor Canova is up next in 2018, followed by Raphael in 2019. Originating in Venice, the exhibitions will then travel around the world. From the Cose Belle d'Italia website:

Cose Belle d’Italia is a group that aggregates Italian companies representing Made in Italy excellence, acquiring, preserving and valorising them within an integrated system based on the perennial values of Italian beauty, culture and ‘the good life’.

The group operates across all sectors, creating value and promoting the propagation of excellence among its subsidiaries.

Fully owned by Europa Investimenti S.p.A., Cose Belle d’Italia was founded in 2013 following the definition of its ‘Manifesto’, which sets the key points on which the vision and mission of the company are based. The first acquisitions began in the spring of 2014.

Magister Giotto
Luca Mazzieri, the Artistic Director, said they chose Giotto because it is the 750th anniversary of his birth, and that he is an artist who is "much talked about, but not yet well-known."

The main exhibition consists of seven spaces on the first floor of the immense Scuola Grande della Misericordia, each with a different theme. Visitors are organized into groups of about 15-20 people that depart every 15 minutes. The visitors put on headsets, and the narrative starts, sort of like a documentary film that you wander through, with background music by jazz musician, Paolo Fresu.

The Italian narrator is Luca Zingaretti, one of the most well-known actors in Italy, who plays Salvo Montalbano in the Commissario Montalbano TV mystery series. (The TV show is based on the addictive novels by Andrea Camilleri, which I highly recommend reading. They are translated into English, with a creative solution when the characters slip from Italian into Sicilian.)

The themes of the seven spaces are:

1.  The Birth of the Myth 
2.  The Story of Saint Francis
3.  The Places of Giotto
4.  Giotto and the Painted Cross
5.  Giotto and Florence
6.  The Scrovegni Chapel
7.  Giotto and Halley's Comet

Envy by Giotto
The images are high-definition, blown up to reveal details not possible to see in situ; you are surrounded by images so that you can immerse yourself in Giotto's work. For instance, during the last decade, I have become fascinated by the deadly sin, "Envy," which Wikipedia defines as:
Envy (from Latin invidia) is an emotion which "occurs when a person lacks another's superior quality, achievement, or possession and either desires it or wishes that the other lacked it".
I was speaking about envy just before I went to see the exhibition, and then there it was -- wicked tongue, big ears, bag of money and all -- up there on the wall, so close that I could walk over and almost touch it.

Magister Giotto - Photo: Cat Bauer
I thought the exhibition was terrific. An immense amount of research provided by a cast of luminaries in their fields takes us through many aspects of Giotto's life, revealing an impressive amount of fresh information. Giotto completely transformed the art of painting. The Italian painter Cennino Cennini nailed it when he said, "Giotto translated the art of painting from Greek to Latin."  

Adoration of the Magi by Giotto
The exhibition concludes with the Giotto spacecraft mission in 1986, run by the European Space Agency. The spacecraft was the first to get up close and personal with Halley's Comet. The ESA named the spacecraft "Giotto" because the painter had seen the comet in 1301, and included it as the Star of Bethlehem in his Adoration of the Magi manger scene that he painted in the Scrovegni Chapel in Padua around 1305.

MAGISTER GIOTTO is at the Scuola Grande della Misericordia through November 5, 2017, and is a MUST SEE. Tickets are €18, but there are many discounts; for instance, the exhibition is FREE for residents of Venice every Tuesday. Go to MAGISTER GIOTTO for more information.

Ciao from Venezia,
Cat Bauer
Venetian Cat - The Venice Blog

1 comment:

  1. The husband and wife kissing in the poster for MAGISTER GIOTTO you see all over Venice are Joachim and Anne, the grandparents of Jesus Christ.