There is no way to overstate it: Between now and the end of April, everyone in the Twin Cities needs to make a pilgrimage to the Minneapolis Institute of Arts, where not one, two, or three, but four world-class, must-see, once-in-a-lifetime exhibits are on display.
The headliner is Titian and the Golden Age of Venetian Painting: Masterpieces from the National Galleries of Scotland , which includes two of the greatest paintings from the Italian Renaissance, Diana and Actaeon and Diana and Callisto , collectively known as Titian's "Diana" paintings. Neither of these masterpieces has ever left Europe before, and chances are they never will again—so see them you must.
In addition to the Titian exhibit, the MIA has mounted a stunning companion show of bronze sculptures called Beauty and Power: Renaissance and Baroque Bronzes from the Peter Marino Collection . An equally rare opportunity in its own right, Beauty and Power has only been shown at one other museum in the country, in San Marino, CA. The show features 30 exquisite sculptures from the 16th to 18th centuries, including a life-size bronze called The Borghese Gladiator , based on the famous marble sculpture housed in The Louvre.
Then, upstairs from the bronzes is The Mourners: Medieval Tomb Sculpture from the Court of Burgundy , an exhibit of thirty-eight intricately carved alabaster figurines that is currently touring the U.S. only because their home, the Musée des Beaux-Arts in Dijon, France, is undergoing a renovation. They'll never return, so again, this is your only chance to see them.
As a special treat, on Feb.
18 and 19,
at the Basilica of St. Mary,
the Rose Ensemble
group, which specializes in medieval choral music, will perform while images of the mourners—who are depicted in various stages of grief—are projected on the Basilica's walls.
Finally, at the tail end of the Titian show is a comparatively humble but notable exhibit called Venice on Paper , featuring many fine sketches of Venice and some of the earliest books of detailed, anatomically accurate drawings of the human skeleton and muscle structure. There's a day at the MIA right there.
But back the Titian exhibit. Please, please, do not miss the opportunity to see these amazing paintings, which curator Patrick Noon calls "some of finest examples of Western art in existence." Photos of these paintings do them no justice whatsoever; in fact, photos might lead you to believe that these are just a few more Venetian paintings, and might prompt you to ask, what's the big deal? Well, the big deal is that many of these paintings aren’t just big, they're HUGE. Each of the Dianas measures almost ten feet diagonally, and many others would put your 50-inch flat-panel to shame. Then there's the luminosity of the colors, which are much brighter than you might expect, and glow with a warmth and beauty that is impossible to describe; you just have to stand in front of them and soak it in.
There are 12 paintings in all, four others by Titian, and six by contemporaries whom he influenced—a couple of which are as astonishing in their own way as the Titians. Plus, as you enter the exhibit, there is an enormous, mind-bogglingly detailed aerial map of Venice, sketched in the 16th century, which the MIA recently added to its permanent collection.
There are of course other reasons to visit the MIA, but they can wait. By May, these exhibits will be gone. Do not squander the opportunity to see them. This is why we have museums, after all—so you don't have to book a flight to Scotland.
Titian and the Golden Age of Venetian Painting: Masterpieces from the National Galleries of Scotland and Venice on Paper run from Feb. 6-May 1.
Power: Renaissance and Baroque Bronzes from the Peter Marino Collection runs from Feb. 16-May 15.
The Mourners: Medieval Tomb Sculpture from the Court of Burgundy runs from Jan. 23-April 17.
1) Titian (Tiziano Vecellio) The Virgin and Child with St John the Baptist and an Unidentified Saint, about 1515 - 1520 Oil on canvas, transferred from panel: 62.70 x 93.00 cm Edinburgh, National Gallery of Scotland (Bridgewater Loan, 1945)
2) Corneille van Cleve, Bacchus and Ariadne, Bronze, Early 18th century.
3) Jean de La Huerta (Juan de la Huerta), Mourner no. 55, mourner with head uncovered, wiping his tears on his cloak with his right hand, 1443-1456/1457, Alabaster
4) Titian (Tiziano Vecellio) Diana and Actaeon, 1556 - 1559 Oil on canvas: 72 5/8 x 79 1/2 in (184.5 x 202.2 cm) Edinburgh, National Gallery of Scotland and the National Gallery, London