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

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

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
2004.23.1
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, www.mobia.org, to check our calendar of upcoming events and public programs.

Spotlight: Fathers of the Church

"Tiffany

Tiffany Glass and Decorating Company, New York
Joseph Lauber, designer
“Fathers of the Church”, c. 1892
The Neustadt Collection of Tiffany Glass, Long Island City, New York

In 1892, Tiffany Studios created the monumental mosaic, Fathers of the Church, as part of the Tiffany Chapel display, designed for the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition, as a way to market the Studio’s Ecclesiastical Department to an international audience.   The chapel’s dramatic marble and glass mosaic interior was inspired by Byzantine and Romanesque models, fully furnished with an altar, reredos, lectern, baptismal font, a cruciform-shaped electrolier, and several stained glass windows.  This display was so evocative that many men reportedly removed their hats when entering this seemingly hallowed space.

The Church Fathers were writers of early Christian doctrine who lived before the eight century.  This mosaic depicts, from left to right, Saints John Chrysostom, Augustine, and Ambrose.  Though all three were bishops, only St. Augustine (who became bishop of Hippo, in northern Africa, in 396) and St. Ambrose (who became bishop of Milan in 374) are portrayed with the traditional miter (bishop’s hat) and crosier (bishop’s staff). St. John Chrysostom, though he became the bishop of Constantinople in 398, is shown holding a Bible, a reference to his renown as a preacher.  Each saint is identified by the name inscribed in the halo.  These three figures are often portrayed together in liturgical art in acknowledgment of the foundation they laid for Christianity.

Tiffany had a deep appreciation for traditional ecclesiastical vestments, which were also produced at Tiffany Studios.  As depicted in this mosaic, the resplendent robes of the Church Fathers are rich in detail.

The Tiffany Chapel earned 54 awards, more than any other exhibitor, at the 1893 World’s Fair.  It also won Tiffany Studios international fame for its religious work.  After the fair, Tiffany displayed Fathers of the Church in his showroom and featured it in the marketing booklet printed by the Studios in 1896, Glass Mosaic, to illustrate the Studios’ work as continuing in the grand tradition of European mosaic-making.  Fathers of the Church is part of The Neustadt Collection of Tiffany Glass, in Long Island City, New York, and on-view at MOBIA until January 20, 2013.  The Tiffany Chapel is on permanent display at the Charles Hosmer Museum of American Art in Winter Park, Florida.

–B.B. for MOBIA

“Louis C. Tiffany and the Art of Devotion” will be closing in two days!  Come see this great work and all the other beautiful works of art behind the exhibition’s end on January 20.

Spotlights on Broadway: The Righteous Shall Receive a Crown of Glory

Louis C. Tiffany and the Art of Devotion, currently on view at MOBIA, features the monumental stained-glass window The Righteous Shall Receive a Crown of Glory, Brainard Memorial Window.  Created for a Methodist church in Waterville, New York, around 1901, it was designed by Frederick Wilson, the lead designer in Tiffany’s Ecclesiastical Department.  The window is a stunning example of artistic innovation, theological understanding, and beauty.

The Righteous window is an allegory derived from 1 Peter 5:4: “And when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the glorious crown which will never lose its brightness.”  A female allegorical figure, whose back is turned to the viewer, ascends steps with the help of two angels, one clothed in purple, the other in blue.  Three other angels hover at the top of the steps; the center angel holds a crown above a resplendent jeweled cross, which dominates the window.  For Christians, the cross embodies the redemptive sacrifice willingly made by Jesus so that all believers might have eternal life in heaven.  The message of triumph over death and the serenity and hope this Christian belief instills in believers are clearly communicated through glass, figural composition, and the window’s placement inside a church.  It was created during a time, post-Civil War, when religious images that highlighted suffering were falling out of favor and images of redemption, hope, and joy were more desired in worship spaces.

"Tiffany

Tiffany Studios, New York
Frederick Wilson, designer
“The Righteous Shall Receive a Crown of Glory, Brainard Memorial Window for Methodist Church, Waterville, New York” (detail), ca. 1901
Corning Museum of Glass, Corning, New York
Photo by Richard Goodbody, Inc.

This window is an exemplar of the work Tiffany Studios created because it features several types of glass.  Glass is produced by crushing sand and various minerals together and melting them at 2,000 degrees Fahrenheit.  This creates molten liquid, which is spread out on a table to make a sheet of glass.  What happens to the molten liquid once on the table affects its texture, opacity, color, and overall natural quality.  The central figure’s robes, for example, are created using drapery glass.  Drapery glass is a type of opalescent glass that is made by holding one end of a roller still and pushing the other end in short, regular intervals across the molten surface of the glass to create fan-shaped folds that emanate from a single point.  Other types of glass used in the creation and design of the window include feathered glass (used for the wings of the angels) and ripple glass (used to emphasize the majesty of the halo encircling the cross).

"Tiffany

Tiffany Studios, New York
Frederick Wilson, designer
“The Righteous Shall Receive a Crown of Glory, Brainard Memorial Window for Methodist Church, Waterville, New York” (detail), ca. 1901
Corning Museum of Glass, Corning, New York
Photo by Richard Goodbody, Inc.

Trained as an artist, Louis C. Tiffany used his knowledge of color and light to emphasize certain aspects of the window.  In this window, the color scheme was deliberately chosen and rendered to highlight the visual and theological center of the composition: the cross.  By using darker colors like purple around the outside and lightening them to pastel hues as they move inward, the pale yellow cross becomes more illuminated through contrast without the work of any additional lighting.  The effect is also helped by the studded glass jewels that embellish the cross.

The Righteous Shall Receive a Crown of Glory was removed from the Methodist church and acquired by Mr. and Mrs. Bruce Randall, who in 1996 donated it to the Corning Museum of Glass in Corning, New York. At that point, it was in disrepair and in need of conservation treatment.

In July 2012, the window was secured in 11 custom-built crates at the Corning Museum of Glass and taken to the Neustadt Collection of Tiffany Glass in Long Island City. Over the summer, it was restored by Drew Anderson, a conservator at The Metropolitan Museum of Art.  Fully restored, it can be seen at MOBIA until January 20.

- T.C. for MOBIA

"Tiffany

Tiffany Studios, New York
Frederick Wilson, designer
“The Righteous Shall Receive a Crown of Glory, Brainard Memorial Window for Methodist Church, Waterville, New York”, ca. 1901
Corning Museum of Glass, Corning, New York
Photo by Richard Goodbody, Inc.