The opening of the Year of Italy in China a couple of days ago ushered in a first round of cultural activities, which included Italian orchestras, theatre, dance and art exhibitions. The Italian Renaissance Art Exhibition at the Museum of the Millennium Monument is one such major event, with an extraordinary selection of art work from the late 13th century to the mid-18th century, including Botticelli, Da Vinci, Raffaello and Caravaggio. And thanks to the Spring Festival holiday period, Chinese art fans can really take their time to enjoy this art pageant, along with our reporter.
The Italian Renaissance Art Exhibition would make "even Florentines jealous," as the highest level and grandest Italian art show ever held in China, or even in the world. Eighty-six priceless masterpieces, previously treasured in twelve different museums of Florence, are now standing side by side in Beijing's Museum of the Millennium Monument. Including Renaissance masters Leonardo Da Vinci, Raphael and Titian, the art exhibition also spans a huge time period, from the Proto-Renaissance of the late 13th century, right through to Baroque from the mid-18th century. In this way, Chinese people can get a full understanding of the circumstances which led to the European Renaissance, as well as the development of post-Renaissance. Giuseppe Proiett, director of the Cultural Heritage Protection and Activity Department of Italy reveals that these exhibits' total value stands at about 3 billion euros. He also hopes that this unprecedented tour of Italian art will enhance mutual understanding of Eastern and Western civilizations.
"In the last few decades, Italy has never taken such large quantities of its most representative art works outside its borders to a remote foreign land. However, in this case, that remote foreign land is no ordinary land - it's China. Like Italy, China is also blessed with a long history and an extraordinary culture. Indeed, it's fair to say that China and Italy represent the origins of the Oriental and Occidental cultures respectively. This exhibition offers a wonderful opportunity for the peoples of both nations to get to know each other and discover each other's culture. It will also help both peoples realize the two civilization's contribution to human society."Within its efforts to outline the contribution of Italy to modern Western thought, this exhibition places a heavy emphasis on portraiture, including the world, "David Holding the Head of Goliath" by 16th century painter Caravaggio. Valued at 5 billion yuan or some 620 million US dollars, this is one of the most expensive exhibits, while the face of the beheaded Goliath is actually a portrait of the painter himself. He wears a tortured, despairing and frightened expression, which has led this painting to be regarded as one of the most meaningful works of the 17th century.Another highlight of the exhibition is "Portrait of a Woman" by Piero Pollaiuolo. In fact, it was the first artwork to be unpacked from dozens of boxes, after they had traveled 10,000 kilometers under strict security from museums in Florence. Elsewhere, an early work of Leonardo da Vinci, showing the face of an ideal woman, also draws great attention, as marking the debut of Leonardo Da Vinci in China. Probably drawn as a model for an adoring Virgin Mary, the painting is now seen as one of the most perfect female portraits of the Renaissance period.