Thursday, November 13, 2014

NMWA Exhibition: 'Picturing Mary' in Art

Elisabetta Sirani, Virgin and Child, 1663
Oil on Canvas, 34" x 27-1/2"
Gift of Wallace and Wilhelmina Holladay
National Museum of Women in the Arts

On December 5, the National Museum of Women in the Arts opens "Picturing Mary: Woman, Mother, Idea". The exhibition, which will remain on view through April 12, 2015, will display more than 60 Renaissance- and Baroque-era masterworks from private collections, churches, and museums, including the Uffizi Gallery in Florence and Rome's Vatican Museums. Complementing the artworks are manuscripts, embroideries, and other objects that enhance appreciation of Marian representations.

An examination of womanhood as well as the social and sacred uses of Mary's image, this promises to be a fascinating look at the Blessed Virgin. It will be organized thematically: Mary as daughter, cousin, and wife; Mary as mother and grieving parent; Mary as protagonist in a life story; Mary as unifying link between heaven and earth; and Mary as "participant" in lives of women who hold her sacred.

The NMWA will feature Marian paintings, sculptures, and drawings by Botticelli, Michelangelo, and other male artists, in addition to artworks by women, including Sofonisba Anguissola, Artemisia Gentileschi, Orsola Maddalena Caccia, and Elisabetta Sirani. The inclusion of the latter will provide much needed perspective on how, during the time the exhibition covers, women who were artists conceived of and portrayed Mary. (The NMWA's Archives of Women Artists organized into Artist files, Manuscripts, and Digital Archives, contain a range of useful information. See the links on the artists' names above.)  

For those unable to visit Washington, D.C., the NMWA is partnering with MapHook to offer an interactive online exhibition that will complement the show by looking at international traditions in Marian imagery up to the 18th Century. An "animation" facility provides thumbnail details about some of the artworks in "Picturing Mary" and images of other related artworks in lenders' collections. A map is included to show where each work is from. (Be sure to check the site periodically as other resources, such as videos, are being added before the exhibition opens.)

A hardcover, 160-page color catalogue (Scala Arts Publishers, December 15, 2014) will accompany the exhibition. (The catalogue will be available through the NMWA Museum Shop as well Amazon and other book retailers. Some information about the catalogue is included in the publisher's catalogue on pdf.)

Cover Art for Catalogue

Exhibition-related programming will include a series of gallery talks, beginning December 10, and a teacher workshop, which is scheduled for January 12, 2015. The gallery talks are free; reservations are required for the teacher workshop. Check the NMWA's Calendar for details.

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