The Montreal Museum of Fine Arts (MMFA) is showcasing their interdisciplinary exhibit, Splendore a Venezia, exploring the interplay of visual art, music, and political culture in the Venetian Republic between the early 16th century and the fall of the Serenissima. The museum investigates these overlaps, exhibiting a diverse collection of work: prints, drawings, illuminated manuscripts, original period instruments, and early music texts.
Although music plays in the background of the exhibit, viewers are encouraged to use complimentary audio guides, available via portable music players and headphones. Many pieces are paired with a specific track number designed to accompany your interpretation. This intimate experience provides greater understanding with regard to theme and time period of the artwork.
“At the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, it is now equally impossible to see without listening, to listen without seeing,” remarks Museum Director and Chief Curator Nathalie Bondil. Matched with François Filiatrault, musicologist for the event, these combined talents have ensured the success of Splendore a Venezia.
Difficult to imitate, the culture of Venice is authentically depicted here. There are three major themes explored in the exhibit, each aesthetically organized. The first is titled “Art and Music in the Public Sphere,” focusing on the influence of art in religion and politics. Some major features include items such as the “Corno-Ducale,” a crown worn on official occasions by the Doges of Venice (translated as ‘Duke’). This section looks at ceremonies and processions, with the inclusion of many period instruments that have never before been exhibited in North America.
The second theme revolves around “Art and Music in the Private Realm.” During this time, music was the art of the courtier and educated class; nobles were often depicted with instruments or were in the process of composing. The pieces in this section celebrate Venetian musicians, concerts, and street performances of the 17th and 18th century and include “The Concert” by Titian, on loan from the Palatine Gallery in Florence. Also featured is an authentic Venetian gondola, crafted in the late 20th century by Pietro Amadi, comprised of various woods and metals, and inscribed with the phrase “In Barca Vien Con Mi” (Embark With Me).
The third and final theme focuses on “Art, Music and Mythology,” detailing the world’s first public opera house, Il Teatro Nouvo di San Cassiano, which opened in 1637 in Venice. This section focuses on mythology in Italian Renaissance paintings, showcasing a heritage marked by allegory, myths, and symbols. A beautiful pastel portrait of the great soprano Fuastina Bordini is part of this section, along with other drawings by Count Antino Marie Zenetti that have never been exhibited in North America.
There were 61 contributors to the exhibit worldwide, including the MMFA, the New York Public Library, and the Louvre, to name a few. The MMFA’s publishing department has issued a full color exhibition catalogue in English and French featuring essays by leading international experts in Venetian art, culture, and music. Bourgie Hall, the MMFA’s fine concert venue, will also be producing a series of 20 concerts which will explore five centuries of Venetian music.
Splendore a Venezia provides a fresh perspective on history; capturing the full scope of the two golden ages in Venetian art and entertainment, this exhibit is classic and informative. Don’t miss the opportunity to catch a glimpse of this key period in art history.
Splendore a Venezia exhibits at the MMFA from Oct. 12, 2013 to Jan. 19, 2014. Tickets are $10.44.