On the occasion of the celebrations for the five-hundredth anniversary of the death of Leonardo da Vinci, the Governorate of Vatican City State, along with the Vatican Museums, is celebrating the great Renaissance genius with an exhibition that, from22 March to 22 June 2019, will enable the public to admire, free of charge, Leonardo’s celebrated painting of Saint Jerome.
For the solemn anniversary, the work – the only one of the artist in the papal collections – will be specially transferred from the Vatican Pinacoteca to the Braccio di Carlo MagnoinSaint Peter’s Square, where it will be positioned in an exclusively arranged exhibition space.
A document from the Historical Archive of the Fabric of Saint Peter will also be displayed, attesting to Leonardo’s stay in an apartment specially arranged for him in the Vatican Belvedere. In addition, to support and supplement the visit experience, a rich educational accompaniment will illustrate the history of the painting and the diagnostic and restoration works it has undergone, and will also explore the life and the figure of the artist, in relation to the historical and cultural context in which he worked in the second decade of the sixteenth century.
Exhibition: Leonardo. Il San Girolamo dei Musei Vaticani Location: Braccio di Carlo Magno, St. Peter’s Square, Vatican City Duration: 22 March – 22 June 2019 Opening hours:Monday-Tuesday-Thursday-Friday-Sunday 10.00 a.m. – 06.00 p.m. (last entry at 05.30 p.m.); Wednesday 01.30 p.m. – 06.00 p.m. (last entry at 05.30 p.m.). Closed: Sunday and religious holidays Ticket: free
Representing the Mistery of the Trinity The restoration of the Interlandi “Throne of Grace”
22 March – 8 June 2019 Room XVII, Pinacoteca
On 22 March, on the occasion of the Easter period, the Vatican Museums open to the public an exhibition dedicated to the iconography and to the recent restoration of the Interlandi “Throne of Grace” (1485-1495), the work of the Flemish painter Vrancke van der Stockt (c. 1420-1495), conserved in the diocesan museum of Caltagirone, in Sicily.
The painting, which will be specially exhibited until 8 June in the Vatican Pinacoteca – before returning to its display site at the Monumental Complex of the Friars Minor Conventual of Caltagirone – may be admired by all visitors to the Museums following the scientific analyses and the conservation intervention performed in the Vatican laboratories.
The exhibition, curated by Adele Breda, is intended to introduce and explain the complex iconographic theme of the Throne of Grace through a brief educational pathway which illustrates some representations of the Trinitarian Mystery from late antiquity up to the fourteenth century.
Exhibition: Representing the Mystery of the Trinity. The restoration of the Interlandi “Throne of Grace” by Vrancke van der Stockt, of the diocesan museum of Caltagirone Location: Room XVII, Pinacoteca, Vatican Museums Duration: 22 March – 8 June 2019 Ticket: free and included in the Museums entry ticket Opening hours: those of the Museums (entry from 09.00 a.m. – 04.00 p.m., closing at 06.00 p.m.)
N.B.:Free entry to the Vatican Museums and the exhibition every last Sunday of the month. Opening hours: 09.00 a.m. – 02.00 p.m., last entry at 12.30 p.m.
From 31 March, the by-now historic extraordinary free-of-charge opening on the last Sunday of the month will enable citizens and tourists from all over the world not only to have free access to the “Pope’s Museums”, but will also offer, – at an advantageous rate with reduced entry – a guided collective tour to those who wish to deepen their knowledge of the art collections in the company of an educational guide authorized by Vatican City State.
Thanks to this initiative – which may be booked online subject to availability of places and language – the special free-entry Sunday will become even more special, to meet the requests of an increasingly attentive, aware and curious visiting public.
As is by now customary, in the time of Lent, on Tuesday 9 April the Vatican Museums, joining with all the Church who follows the Lord towards Calvary and the Resurrection, will delay opening time until 11.00 a.m. (for visitors with booking) and until 01.00 p.m. (for those without booking) to enable all employees to take part in the Via Crucis that Cardinal Giuseppe Bertello, president of the Governorate of Vatican City State, will lead in the Vatican Gardens.
As a good Catholic teenager, I immediately fell for Sister Wendy Beckett, the nun and popular BBC art expert who died on December 26, 2018, at age 88. My high school humanities teacher, Mr. Kisch—who was already blowing my mind with introductions to the likes of Caravaggio, Louise Bourgeois, and Keith Haring—turned over a few classes to old tapes of the 1996 classic Sister Wendy’s Story of Painting.
An expressive, effusive champion for artworks and art history, Sister Wendy enraptured me with the unabashed love that emerged from the way she spoke about art—where so many things were “wonderful” and, while admitting Classical art could frequently be dull, she smiled through her description of the “virtuous Ingres” who basically “licked his paint adoringly over every part of” his anatomically impossible subjects.
Media outlets reporting on Sister Wendy’s passing all agree she was a star—her hugely popular television shows reached millions of viewers and she published more than 30 books on art and religion. But posthumous tributes show little consensus as to her relationship to the art world, and some avoid identifying her as an art critic or art historian entirely. For me, she was not only both, but also a consummate educator with the unapologetic judgment of a curator. To trouble over labels for her brilliance is to miss the point of what she taught us—to understand both art and ourselves, we should look, see, and learn.
A Winding Path
Born in Johannesburg in 1930, Beckett knew she would dedicate her life to God even as a child. At 16, she joined the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur, upholding their code of silence as she studied English literature at Oxford University. Sister Wendy taught in convent schools in South Africa for 15 years, until she requested an allowance for quiet and solitude, partially as a way to better live with epilepsy.
From 1971 to her death, she lived as a hermit in an unheated trailer, supported by a Carmelite order of nuns in rural Norfolk, England, praying most of every day and enjoying the company of museum postcards and exhibition catalogues. When the convent badly needed money in the 1980s, Sister Wendy began to review exhibitions for British art journals, before proposing her first book, Contemporary Women Artists (1988), and catapulting to an uneasy fame with 1992’s Sister Wendy’s Odyssey BBC television show.
My access to her TV specials was limited in those pre-DVR days, and I primarily learned to love her through her massive and lavishly illustrated compendia, a sure bet as a birthday gift for me as I settled into my art history major. Sit with one in your lap, pore over its smartly devised medley of close details, historical perspectives, and illuminating storytelling, and you’ll close it with the sated exhaustion of someone who spent a marathon day at the museum.
Sister Wendy’s vast knowledge of art and its contexts was delivered in direct but lively language, her rigorous visual analysis peppered with saucier biographical information or personal reactions. (A comparison that rings in my ears while viewing Egyptian art is her witty reduction of age on women mourners’ bodies, a “pear of a breast” showing seniority over the other “firm little apples.”)
She always used the uniting we and us to bring the TV viewer or the book reader into an engagement with the artwork at hand. For Sister Wendy—who apparently wrote all of her books within daily two-hour prayer breaks—contemplation and time are paramount, lessons well remembered in today’s hyperactive art world.
Learning From Sister Wendy
Sister Wendy’s great success, in fact, contains further inspiration for those seeking to adapt and expand the art world for new audiences. She never shied away from empathy and emotion as appropriate responses to art. Her apparent horror and sorrow for some of the most violent yet tired tropes of art history, from patricide to rape to castration, can guide us to unflinchingly face the uglier truths of art history. As a young adult transitioning away from Catholicism, her nonchalant acceptance of nudity, sex, and queer themes encouraged me to move beyond my learned hang-ups and biases—Sister Wendy rejected what she called “pandering to narrow-mindedness.”
Her utterly unique characterizations of artworks argue for an openness divested from singular or authoritative readings. For instance, her first reflections on Michelangelo’s Pietà introduce the work as a landscape, a vast mountain with a river of flesh running through it. As an interlocutor—perhaps a natural extension of her work in spiritual intercession—her absolute joy and unfettered excitement was always palpable.
Sister Wendy’s self-guided study was first limited to reproductions, experienced in her cold and cramped trailer. This, for me, explains the enthusiasm and love that is the hallmark of her cultural work. Whenever she describes a work of art—and between the BBC and a few US projects, she traveled to more than 12 countries to do just that—it is always as though she is finally beholding an old friend, checking in on its details and symbolism while fondly remembering its life and history.
Often, her discussions would end with her turning away from the viewer and back to the art, the monolith of her self-designed habit cutting a black triangle into the scene. But this ritual was not merely for the joy of looking, of a sensual appreciation of a work; those were simply the first steps of a deeper understanding. “Great art offers more than pleasure,” Sister Wendy wrote. “It offers the pain of spiritual growth, drawing us into areas of ourselves that we may not wish to encounter. It will not leave us in our mental or moral laziness.”
I often think of Sister Wendy when I give a tour or speak to the public. I hope that her legacy of joy and of pushing past expectations to share one’s knowledge will not leave us. It certainly won’t leave me.
Carmen Hermo is associate curator at the Elizabeth A. Sackler Center for Feminist Art at the Brooklyn Museum.
The Directorate of the Museums, following the fruitful collaboration undertaken in recent years with a significant number of accredited tour operators, has developed further scientific and cultural projects for the year 2019 with some operators in the tourism sector.
Tour operators will participate in and support the projects via two levels of collaboration: Silver Leveland Bronze Level.
The tour operators who participated in collaborative projects at Silver Level, for 2019, are: Allyn Travel LLC, Context Travel LLC, Destination 2 Italia s.r.l., Gate 1 Travel Ltd, Green Line Tour s.p.a., Imago Artis Travel s.r.l., Livitaly Tours LLC, Tuscanyall.com s.r.l., Walks of Italy LLC.
Instead, the tour operators who participated in collaborative projects, again for the current year, at Bronze Level are: Gids in Rome, Magic Group s.r.l., ITC Italian Travel Consultant s.r.l., Massari Travel s.r.l., Miki Travel Agency, Missing Italia S.r.l., Nafasp s.r.l., Overome s.r.l., Rome Tours s.r.l., Vivicos International Travel s.r.l.
On Tuesday 18, Wednesday 19 and Friday 21 December the Pontifical Villas of Castel Gandolfo will be exceptionally closed to the public to enable the employees to be able to accept the invitation addressed by the Holy Father to all the workers of the Holy See to participate in the Christmas celebrations.
The Directorate apologizes to visitors for any inconvenience caused, and wishes them a Holy Christmas.
As the Christmas festivities approach, an Arnolfian bas-relief of the Nativity, as yet unknown to critics, and the story of its recent restoration, will be at the centre of this year’s last Thursdays in the Museums, scheduled for 13 December in the Conference Hall of the Vatican Museums. Introduced by Guido Cornini, the meeting will retrace some of the events in the history of the rare Gothic age marble fragment, from its rediscovery in the early 1900s, in an orchard near San Giorgio in Velabo, up to its situation in the cloister of the convent of the Santi Apostolic in Rome, where it continues to be conserved by the Franciscan Friars Minor Conventual.
The speakers will discuss the identity of the Roman sculptor – most likely a follower of Arnolfo di Cambio – who depicted the Nativity, the Annunciation to the shepherds and the washing of the child Jesus, vertically on a single rectangular panel. Attention will be focused on the important restoration work carried out by the CBC cooperative, with the scientific consultation of the Vatican Museums and the generous support of the US charity Ligamina.
There will be several speakers at the presentation: Rev. Br. Agnello Stoia, OFM, Marina Righetti, Anna Maria D’Achille, Barbara Forti, Guy Devreux, Giovanna Martellotti and Graziano Curri.
A masterpiece from the Museo Egizio in Turin recounted by the Vatican Museums
4 December 2018 – 30 June 2019
Room I, Gregorian Egyptian Museum
A new exhibition project is underway with the inaugural event of 3 December:“Collections in dialogue”, organized by the Vatican Museums in tandem with the most important national and international museum institutions, with the intention of creating valuable reciprocal opportunities for dialogue, exchange, research and scientific growth. It could be none other than the Museo Egizio in Turin – which has already been in “dialogue” with the Pope’s Museums for more than four years – in the role of first authoritative partner in this new initiative, focusing on the exceptional loan of one of the key masterpieces of the Piedmontese museum: the statue of Amenhotep II.
For six months, until 30 June next year, the renowned pink granite sculpture – which has never before left the magnificent Gallery of the Kings – will welcome visitors at the entry of the Gregorian Egyptian Museum in the Vatican Museums. The handsome sovereign, portrayed kneeling in the ritual act of offering two globular vases to the deity, will be the centre of a site-specific museum arrangement, presenting to the public the founding principle of Egyptian culture: the compensation for the transience of man through legitimized royalty.
“Collections in dialogue” thus celebrates the museum space itself as the ideal place for dialogue. With this presupposition, the Vatican Museums andthe Museo Egizio intend to respond to the mission that every cultural institution, by its very nature, is called to perform: to tell its own story and to recount the past it represents.
On Friday 21 December the doors of the Vatican Museums will be opened at 1.30 p.m., to enable all staff to accept the Holy Father’s invitation to all employees of the Holy See to attend a special audience dedicated to them.
The Directorate would like to apologise to visitors for any resulting inconvenience, and wishes a Holy Christmas to all.