Check It Out: “Piero della Francesca in America”

Just across the park from MOBIA, located right on Fifth Avenue, is the famous Frick Collection. Now on view is an exhibition dedicated to seven works done by Italian Renaissance master Piero della Francesca (1411/13-1492).  Piero della Francesca in America brings together six panels from the altarpiece of Sant’Agostino, a church in Sansepolcro, Italy, the most extensive reassembling of the polyptych ever exhibited since its dismantling.  The exhibition also features Virgin and Child Enthroned with Four Angels, the artist’s only intact altarpiece in the United States.

Piero della Francesca (c. 1411/13–1492),
“Virgin and Child Enthroned with Four Angels”, c. 1460-70
Oil (and tempera?) on poplar panel, transferred to fabric on panel
The Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute

See Piero’s rendition of saints like Apollonia, patron saint of dentists, and Augustine, whom the artist portrayed as wearing a cloak depicting scenes from the life of Christ.  You may also recognize Augustine’s mother, St. Monica, the focus of a spotlight post on this blog few months ago (did you know that it became a rule of the Augustinian Order that there had to be a likeness of Monica in every Augustinian church?).

Piero della Francesca in America is on view until May 19.  The Frick Collection is located at 10 East 71st Street.

Now on view at MOBIA

MOBIA’s newest exhibition, Ashe to Amen: African Americans and Biblical Imagery, is now on view!


Renée Stout (1958- )
“Church of the Crossroads”, 1999-2000
Neon and wood, 52 x 37 x 3 in.
Courtesy of the Artist and Hemphill Arts

Ashe to Amen investigates the intersections and crossroads of aesthetics and belief in African American art. For more than two centuries, the Bible has been a catalyst for this multicultural and initially disenfranchised artistic community and has been inspiring the creation of sacred, spiritual, and religious spaces and identity. The exhibition’s title takes its name from praise terms commonly used in African and African American communities. Ashe, a Yoruba word, refers to the creative power of an artist to make something happen. Amen is an affirmation meaning essentially “so be it”.  The visual continuum on display in Ashe to Amen presents the inventive, deeply personal, and ongoing interpretations of the Bible created by artists from the African American community.

Featuring the work of pioneers in the field – Henry Ossawa Tanner, Jacob Lawrence, and William Edmondson, among others – alongside contemporary artists and designers, the exhibition showcases works of various media and highlights the integral ways in which art impacts the religious experience.


Bessie Harvey (1929-1994)
“Black Horse of Revelations”, 1991
Painted wood with fabric, beads, and miscellany, 54 x 45 x 15 in.
Collection American Folk Art Museum, New York, NY
Gift of Avalie Saperstein in memory of Elyse Saperstein
Photo by Gavin Ashworth, New York

Dr. Leslie King-Hammond, Guest Curator of Ashe to Amen: African-Americans and Biblical Imagery, was interviewed by Interfaith Radio.  Listen to hear some of the details regarding the amazing works of art now on view.

Ashe to Amen will be on view at MOBIA until May 26, 2013; at the Reginald F. Lewis Museum of Maryland African American History & Culture June 22 – September 29, 2013; and at the Dixon Gallery and Gardens October 20, 2013 – January 5, 2014.

Visit our website,, to check our calendar of upcoming events and public programs.

Last chance to see it! Crossing Borders: Manuscripts from the Bodlein Library

The MOBIA staff took a trip across town to The Jewish Museum to see their exhibition Crossing Borders: Manuscripts from the Bodleian Library.  On view until February 3 – two short days away – the exhibition showcases over fifty Latin, Hebrew, and Arabic manuscripts from the Bodleian Library at Oxford in a way that highlights the exchange of culture and information between Jews, Christians, and Muslims during the medieval age.  Here’s what our staff had to say:

A beautiful, splendid, exhibition, I was thrilled to see the famous Kennicott Bible (and its unusual binding). What caught my eye initially and which was also a thrill to see up close was an example of 13th century paper in an Islamic manuscript. Also amazing was the fragment of a 4th century Greek manuscript of the Book of Ezra. 4th century! That is so incredibly old, a thousand years older than the calendar that dates it.

As with any exhibition that is centered on paper, the first thing I was struck by was the fragility of everything; and, in relation to that, how lucky we are to have educational institutions such as libraries that have over time preserved these stunning works and histories. The exhibition was fantastically put together and showed one of the few downsides to the invention of the printing press! What with the odd little creatures dancing around the manuscript borders and illuminating pages radiating more than the accompanying educational iPads.

Amidst an outstanding exhibition, the late 15th century Hebrew Psalter from Spain stood out to me because of its micrography. It’s amazing that the human hand can create text that minute and detailed, and even more, that it can be manipulated into symmetrical designs that are so highly decorative. 

Since a child, I’ve always been enamored with old objects, from heirlooms to prints, to manuscripts.  The exhibition “Crossing Borders” was a real treat, bringing together centuries-old manuscripts from all parts of the world.  Rather than looking at them as mere books, they truly are works of art.  The Portalan Map of the Mediterranean and Black Seas, Barolomeo Olives of Majora, 1575 was also a sight to behold.  It is quite similar to the portalan map MOBIA had on display during Uneasy Communion: Jews, Christians and the Altarpieces of Medieval Spain.  If you look closely, you can see animals that flock from Africa, and you can also find a rendering of the Virgin and Child on the left side next to a compass rose. 

The “Crossing Borders” exhibition at the Jewish Museum was so interesting.  I loved seeing how three different faiths were all intertwined in the production of the Old Testament, New Testament, and the Qur’an. My favorite was the Holkham Hebrew Bible, 1491 or 1492, which has borrowed woodcut borders from a Christian printer.

It was great to see such beautiful manuscripts and an old friend: the Giustiniani Polyglot Psalter that includes a biography of Columbus as part of its comment to Psalm 19, verse 4. I am proud to announce that our collection has two copies of this book.

Hats off to The Jewish Museum on an exhibition that seamlessly integrated centuries-old manuscripts and recent technology.  I’ve never seen (very well utilized) iPads so outshone as they were by the brilliantly colored and wonderfully preserved manuscripts (my personal favorite was an edition of the Gospels written in Syriac).

Catch this show this weekend before it closes!  The Jewish Museum is located on 5th Avenue at 92nd Street.