Detroit Institute of Arts presents rare Art from Florence Cathedral

Jan 21, 2015 960

Make a Joyful Noise: Renaissance Art and Music at Florence Cathedral, on view at the Detroit Institute of Arts (DIA) Feb. 6–May 17, 2015, offers a rare opportunity to see three exquisite marble carvings and other Italian Renaissance masterpieces by sculptor Luca della Robbia.

The reliefs are from the Cantoria (singing gallery) of Florence Cathedral and will be shown with objects that originally were in use with them, including lavishly illuminated choir books and a specially designed lectern. None of the artworks has ever left Florence before. The exhibition is free with museum admission.

During the Renaissance religious art was a multisensory experience, combining architecture, sculpture, painting, and music in a sacred place. Della Robbia began his Cantoria—a balcony for the organ—in Florence Cathedral in 1431 and completed it seven years later, eventually producing 10 exquisitely carved marbles that illustrate the text of Psalm 150, which encourages worshippers to praise God through vocal and instrumental music.

The three reliefs in the exhibition contain all of the major features of the entire set. Young people sing, dance and play instruments with joyous and highly naturalistic abandon, providing a window into how music was performed and enjoyed at the time. The images are highly idealized and symbolic, representative of heavenly musical choirs and orchestras that appear in paintings celebrating the Virgin Mary to whom Florence Cathedral is dedicated.

"This exhibition will bring to life the importance of music to religious practice during the Renaissance and the reverence artists such as Luca della Robbia gave the subject," said Alan P. Darr, DIA senior curator of the European art department and Walter B. Ford II Family Curator of European Sculpture and Decorative Arts. "Visitors will not have the chance to see these artworks together again without travelling to Italy. We're fortunate to have these rare masterpieces in Detroit."

Selected sculptures, manuscripts and paintings made in Florence and elsewhere in central Italy from the DIA's collection of early Renaissance art will further illustrate how music was interwoven into religious practice during this innovative time period.

"The DIA has the finest collection of Italian sculptures in the Americas," said Graham W. J. Beal, DIA director. "Very few U.S. museums have work by della Robbia and we are delighted to include our Madonna and Child in the exhibition, one of his most important works." 

A 96-page catalog accompanies the exhibition. A variety of related programs are scheduled, all free with museum admission. 

February exhibition-related programs

Friday, Feb. 6, 6 p.m. and Sunday, Feb. 8, 2 p.m.
Competition and Collaboration: How Renaissance Artists and Patrons Got the Best from One Another
Gary Radke, consulting curator and exhibition organizer, High Museum of Art, Atlanta, talks about key moments of conflict and cooperation that led to some of the Renaissance era's most famous artworks and how Luca della Robbia's marble panels for the Cantoria of Florence Cathedral exemplify this spirit.

Sponsored by the Visiting Committee for European Sculpture and Decorative Arts

Friday Night Live, February 6, 7 & 8:30 p.m.
Motown Legends Gospel Choir
The Motown Legends Gospel Choir features legends from Motown groups, including the Contours, Martha and the Vandellas and Enchantment, as well as Mark Scott, the current singer for the Miracles, and jazz/blues singer Joan Belgrave. They will be performing a mix of both gospel and Motown music.

Sunday, February 8, 3:30 p.m.
Detroit Children's Choir
The Detroit Children's Choir, a community-wide music program for grades three to eight, performs an eclectic mix of chorale pieces from the period.

Sunday, Feb. 22, 2 p.m.

From Donatello and Luca Della Robbia to Michelangelo: The New Florence Cathedral Museum. The most important collection of monumental sculpture from early Renaissance Italy is in the Museo dell'Opera del Duomo—the Florence Cathedral Museum—founded in 1891 and now undergoing a dramatic expansion. The museum's director, Timothy Verdon, will discuss several of the collection's best known masterpieces, including Ghiberti's bronze doors, Luca della Robbia's Cantoria, and Michelangelo's Pietà, and illustrate the new installation planned to open in late 2015. Tickets: $10. Sponsored by the Visiting Committee for European Sculpture and Decorative Arts

The exhibition is organized by the High Museum of Art, Atlanta, in collaboration with the Opera di Santa Maria del Fiore, Florence, Italy. The exhibition is made possible by the National Endowment for the Arts. Funding for the conservation of the Cantoria has been provided by Friends of Florence.

In Detroit, generous support has been provided by Anthony L. Soave. Additional support has been provided by Carol and Peter Walters and Kathleen and Robert Rosowski.

Hours and Admission

9 a.m.–4 p.m. Tuesdays–Thursdays, 9 a.m.–10 p.m. Fridays, and 10 a.m.–5 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays. General admission (excludes ticketed exhibitions) is free for Wayne, Oakland and Macomb county residents and DIA members. For all others, $8 for adults, $6 for seniors ages 62+, $4 for ages 6–17. For membership information, call 313-833-7971.

The Detroit Institute of Arts (DIA), one of the premier art museums in the United States, is home to more than 60,000 works that comprise a multicultural survey of human creativity from ancient times through the 21st century. From the first Van Gogh painting to enter a U.S. museum (Self-Portrait, 1887), to Diego Rivera's world-renowned Detroit Industry murals (1932–33), the DIA's collection is known for its quality, range and depth. The DIA's mission is to create opportunities for all visitors to find personal meaning in art.

Programs are made possible with support from residents of Wayne, Oakland and Macomb counties.

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