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The Museum of Biblical Art to exhibit Donatello Renaissance sculptures in 2015

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The Museum of Biblical Art will be showcasing Donatello treasures from the Duomo Museum in Florence from February 20 - June 14, 2015, it was reported in The New York Times today. For more about this one-of-a-kind exhibit visit http://www.nytimes.com.

"New York City, home to a stunning number of Renaissance treasures, has never had a work in a permanent collection by one of the era’s foremost sculptural masters, Donatello, and major pieces by him rarely leave Europe. But for a few months next year, the city will become a veritable Donatello feast, the one stop for a small show of works from the Duomo museum in Florence, Italy, including several sculptures instantly recognizable from art history textbooks but never before seen in America," added The New York Times.

"That the works are coming not to the Metropolitan Museum of Art or the Frick Collection but to a young noncollecting institution, the Museum of Biblical Art, on the Upper West Side, makes the occasion all the more unusual," adds the report.

“Sculpture in the Age of Donatello: Renaissance Masterpieces From Florence Cathedral,” will celebrate The Museum of Biblical Art's 10th anniversary, making this museum a major player in New York City virtually overnight.

"The exhibition, a kind of primer on the creative ferment and competition that sparked the Florentine Renaissance, will include Donatello’s life-size marble believed to depict the prophet Habakkuk but known as “Lo Zuccone” (meaning pumpkin head or bald head)," adds The Times in its report. "Donatello considered it one of his best works — so lifelike, wrote Vasari, the Renaissance art chronicler, that Donatello is said to have exclaimed while looking at it in his studio: “Speak then! Why wilt thou not speak?”

Other large sculptures will include “The Evangelist John,” carved for the facade of the cathedral between 1408 and 1413 and an inspiration for Michelangelo’s “Moses,” and the highly dramatic “Sacrifice of Isaac,” carved a few years earlier, showing Abraham, knife in hand, just at the moment when he learns he does not have to slay his son.

Msgr. Timothy Verdon, an American-born art historian and director of the Museo dell’Opera del Duomo, which is helping to organize the show, told The Times that a "combination of happenstance and symbiosis led to the “really providential” decision to send the show only to the Museum of Biblical Art." According to the report, The Duomo museum, part of the cathedral, recently closed for a yearlong expansion intended to allow it to exhibit many of its works properly for the first time.

"The museum initially planned to take longer for the expansion — and to send many of its treasures during that time on what Monsignor Verdon called a “grandiose world tour” that would end in New York. Later the museum decided to expedite the expansion so it could reopen in the fall of 2015, during a major church conference planned for Florence involving a visit by Pope Francis," according to The Times.

The show, whose cost was not disclosed by the museum to The Times, is being funded in part by Ms. Ahmanson and her husband, Howard, and by the Samuel H. Kress Foundation, among other private donors, according to the report.

"In addition to the Donatellos, the show’s 23 works will include ones by Donatello’s main rival, Nanni di Banco, another pioneer of the Florentine Renaissance, and marble reliefs by Luca della Robbia, believed to have been di Banco’s student. It will also feature the architect Brunelleschi’s ingenious four-foot-tall wooden model of the Florence cathedral dome, built so the dome could be opened to give church officials a sense of the soaring space the completed structure would create," states The Times.

"While “Lo Zuccone” has traveled in Europe, “The Evangelist John” and its companion piece for the cathedral facade, di Banco’s “The Evangelist Luke,” are believed never to have left Florence before, Monsignor Verdon said. Another Donatello, his depiction of the prophet Jeremiah, had also been a possibility for the show but could not travel because of structural weaknesses that would have made a journey too risky," added the report.

“This kind of exhibit has never really been seen in the United States,” Monsignor Verdon said to The Times, adding of the Duomo’s collection as a whole: “The danger is that it comes across merely as a series of masterpieces that define a very important period in art history. And it is that, but it’s by no means only that. This exhibition will give a much broader picture of the life of these works of art.”

Staten Island arts fans, I have been to The Museum of Biblical Art and found the experience exciting from an artistic, historical, and religious perspective. After visiting Florence and seeing these great masterpieces in the Duomo in Florence, I can only imagine how exciting and noteworthy the chance to view these masterpieces in New York City will be. Staten Island art historians, students, teachers, and lovers of art, mark your calendars for February 2015. This is one exhibit you will not want to miss!

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