Two weeks ago, I visited The James A. Michener Art Museum for my partner’s birthday. It was my first time there, and I was excited to visit a new art museum around the Philadelphia region. Our main reason for visiting was the exhibit Offering of the Angels: Treasures From The Uffizi Gallery. My partner actually heard about the special exhibit through a billboard on I-95 (advertisement does work!), and since we both went to Italy earlier this year in February, viewing Italian paintings, especially by the hands of superstars Botticelli, Tintoretto and Titian, so close to home was a no brainer! We definitely had to see the exhibit because we didn’t get to visit Florence, the location of the Uffizi gallery (we were mostly in Rome, but also spent two days in Venice, and a day in amazing Pompeii). Plus the Michener will be the only venue for this exhibit in the Northeast region.
The Michener Museum is located in Doylestown, PA, and it took us just under an hour to drive there from downtown Philadelphia. I purchased tickets online beforehand, so we didn’t have to wait in line. The exhibit had around fifty Renaissance and Baroque works of art on display, mostly paintings, but a couple of spectacular tapestries at the end of the exhibit, as well. The Michener is not a large museum, so the exhibit felt more intimate than ones that appear at Philadelphia Museum of Art or Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City. I really enjoyed that aspect of the exhibit.
The exhibit started with a thirty-minute introductory video about the Uffizi Gallery and Florence. The video, sadly, was not of the highest quality. The video seemed to be ripped from an old VHS tape, and the picture was mostly blurry with muddy colors. Those of you are already very familiar with the Uffizi or Florence, or those of you who are pressed for time can skip the video. I stayed, however, and while the introductory video did feel outdated, I thought it was informative and provided some context about Florence and the cultural climate of the works of art to follow.
The artwork was presented in chronological order, beginning with the story of Adam and Eve from the Old Testament. It ends with the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus Christ, displayed through elaborate 16th century tapestries that were fascinating. I was impressed by the number of works that were accompanied with an audio guide. It helped to make the experience longer, and it was really nice to focus on many of the works while listening to some commentary by the curators.
The painting that struck me the most was Botticelli’s Madonna with Child (“Madonna della loggia”), circa 1466-1467. It was beautifully housed in an elaborate frame that helped me to remember that it was a devotional work. Another interesting about the exhibit was I learned that some of the paintings were done on copper plates. It hadn’t occurred to me that the practice was done by Renaissance and Baroque artists. The paintings on copper plates were noticeably more delicate and shiny. The use of the medium gave the small works a jewel-like quality that I found really pleasing. As a nice bonus and added surprise, the exhibit contained a small selection of artwork contemporary to those in the exhibit that belong to the Philadelphia Museum of Art. I have been to the Renaissance and Baroque art section of the PMA several times before, but didn’t recognize the works loaned at the Michener. It was nice to see!
I highly suggest that you check this exhibit out! It was beautiful and it made me so eager to go to the Uffizi and see all of the wonderful treasures they have there. While going to Florence might not be practical right now, driving down to the Michener Museum was a piece of cake. The small price of admission is well worth experience of being surrounded by the great Renaissance and Baroque artists of the Uffizi.
Offering of the Angels: Treasures From The Uffizi Gallery is on display until August 12, 2012.