Published: 13:01, April 12, 2024
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Flora illuminates a masterful exhibition
By Zhang Kun

In latest collaborative effort, Bund One Art Museum and Florence's Uffizi showcase works by Titian and other Italian Renaissance artists, Zhang Kun reports.

Titian's signature work Flora, currently on exhibition at Titian's Flora: Venetian Painting from the Uffizi Galleries at Bund One Art Museum in Shanghai. (PROVIDED TO CHINA DAILY)

Titian's Flora, one of the most iconic paintings by the Italian Renaissance master, is among 49 on display at the new exhibition at the Bund One Art Museum in Shanghai.

Opening on March 29, Titian's Flora: Venetian Painting from the Uffizi Galleries includes eight paintings by the master, alongside pieces by other masters of the Venetian school such as Giorgione, Tintoretto, and Veronese.

Some of the exhibits are being displayed outside the Uffizi for the first time, according to Xie Dingwei, founding director of Bund One. The exhibition runs until July 28.

Flora depicts a young woman against a dark background. Gazing with soft eyes toward her right, she wears a white robe, which has slipped partially off her shoulders, revealing her fair skin and part of her left breast. Flora is the goddess of spring and wife of Zephyr, god of the west wind in ancient Greek mythology and in her right hand, she holds a small bouquet of spring flowers in reference to her name.

Venice was a historic entrepot between Europe, the Middle East and Asia. It grew wealthy on maritime commerce and has long been an important center of religious, civic and commercial life. According to Xie, painting is one of the city's many cultural jewels.

Titian's signature work Portrait of Tommaso Mosti, currently on exhibition at Titian's Flora: Venetian Painting from the Uffizi Galleries at Bund One Art Museum in Shanghai. (PROVIDED TO CHINA DAILY)

Since the 1400s, Venetian paintings have been recognized for their love of light and color. Tiziano Vecellio, known in English as Titian, (1488/90-1576), exact date of birth uncertain, was the most important member of the 16th century Venetian school, and was recognized as "the Sun Amid Small Stars" by his contemporaries. His paintings were widely sought after, and in 1533 he was knighted and appointed court painter to Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor and King of Spain.

Titian's methods, especially his use of color, had a profound influence not only on painters of the Venetian school, but also on future generations of Western artists, according to the Uffizi's Anna Bisceglia, the exhibition's curator.

Bisceglia has split it into six sections, each dedicated to different periods in Titian's long career, as well as of the artists that gathered around him, reflecting his impact on the Venice region and other parts of Italy.

The exhibition starts with an introduction to Venice, which focuses on the public representation of the city, its architecture and prominent residents. This first section, Venice as a Theater, depicts the city as a stage teeming with emotions, drama and passion in the eyes of the artists, says Bisceglia.

Minerva and Arachne by Tintoretto and members of his workshop. (PROVIDED TO CHINA DAILY)

The second section, Venetian Beauties, gathers paintings of different genres featuring women as the main figure. "The mythological and Biblical scenes illustrate the virtues and strong spirit of heroines, goddesses and saints, but also the sensual beauty of their unclothed bodies," she says.

The third section is devoted to portraits of knights, artists and children. In the fourth section, Myth and Antiquity, visitors can see one of the largest paintings in the exhibition, Minerva and Arachne, by Tintoretto and members of his workshop. At 2.72 meters wide and 1.45 meters high, it portrays the rivalry between Arachne, a weaver of great skill, and Minerva, the Roman name of Athena from the mythologies. The scene is painted from the perspective of someone looking up at the two figures, and shows them seated at Arachne's loom.

According to the myth, the two use the loom to weave different scenes, Athena weaving one showing the gods punishing the mortals, and Arachne, a depiction of Zeus seducing women. Offended by the satirical depiction of her father, Athena punishes Arachne, turning her into a spider, condemned to weave for eternity.

Visitors admire the artwork. (PROVIDED TO CHINA DAILY)

The fifth section features men-at-arms and stories of battles, while the final chapter is titled Painting Nature and Everyday Life.

"Titian used the countryside as a vehicle for expressing human emotion, putting it front and center of his work in a way few had done before," Bisceglia says. Drawing inspiration from Titian, Jacopo Bassano (1510-1592) later refined the concept of the landscape, which dominated European painting until the late 19th century and the dawn of Impressionism.

This is the third exhibition born out of the agreement between the Bund one Art Museum and the Uffizi. Xie says that the agreement is to organize 10 exhibitions in Shanghai over a period of five years.

The fourth exhibition under the agreement, 18th Century Masterpieces: From the Uffizi Galleries, opens on Friday and runs until Aug 25, and presents 80 paintings by 50 artists, including Goya, Tiepolo, Canaletto and Boucher.

If you go

Titian's Flora: Venetian Painting from the Uffizi Galleries

10 am-6 pm, March 29-July 28

Bund One Art Museum, 1 Zhongshan Road East One, Huangpu district, Shanghai


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