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The Birth, Death and Resurrection of Christ: From Michelangelo to Tiepolo

This winter the New Mexico Museum of Art will host The birth, death and resurrection of Christ: from Michelangelo to Tiepolo on view January 25, 2020 – April 19, 2020. This traveling exhibition of more than fifty drawings and prints, organized by the British Museum from their extensive collection, tells the story of Italian art beginning with the Renaissance and ending in the 18th century through an examination of how artists have depicted the saga of Christ.

With works from artists including Michelangelo, Fra Bartolommeo, Parmigianino, and Fra Filippo Lippi this exhibition is a survey of over 400 years of Italian art history. “It is a special treat to experience the work of Renaissance masters like Michelangelo that rarely make it to the States right here in Santa Fe” commented Christian Waguespack, Curator of 20th Century Art at the New Mexico Museum of Art. “The opportunity to share these historic Italian treasures with our local audience helps us fulfill part of the museum’s mission to bring the art of the world to New Mexico.”

The exhibition focuses on the three major stages of Christ’s life: his incarnation, in the form of the Nativity; his Crucifixion; and finally the Resurrection, exploring the different ways that artists envisioned these moments. During the period covered by this exhibition, religious themes were the prevailing subject matter for a vast majority of artists. Patrons such as the Catholic Church or private devotees often prescribed the religious narratives they wanted, but for artists reinterpreting conventional biblical stories in innovative ways was an opportunity to prove their skill.

“You certainly don’t need to be Catholic, religious, or spiritual to enjoy the artworks in this exhibition,” explained Waguespack. “These prints and drawings stand alone as testaments to human skill, artistic refinement, and imaginative innovations that have come to define the Italian Renaissance in the popular imagination. This exhibition is as much a story about art in Italy as it is the life of Christ.”

This selection of artworks, beginning circa 1440 and ending in 1829, charts the evolving depictions of Christ’s story, while also providing a broad overview of the functional purposes, techniques, and major artistic trends of the era. This group of images also traces the role of prints and drawings during this period which served mainly as preparation for larger paintings or objects of personal devotion.

The birth, death and resurrection of Christ: from Michelangelo to Tiepolo was curated by Hugo Chapman, Simon Sainsbury Keeper of Prints and Drawings at the British Museum and one of the world’s leading authorities on Michelangelo’s drawings, and Sarah Vowles, Hamish Swanston Curator of Italian and French Prints and Drawings. This exhibition brings together 53 prints and drawings selected from the museum’s unparalleled graphic collection of more than 50,000 drawings and two million prints dating from the fifteenth century to today. New Mexico Museum of Art will be the second venue to experience this traveling exhibition, which opened in San Diego in September.

Press Release from the New Mexico Department of Cultural Affairs (November 1, 2019; Santa Fe, NM)

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