November 20, 2020–February 14, 2021
Medieval Bologna: Art for a University City
This is the first museum exhibition in the United States to focus on medieval art made in the northern Italian city of Bologna. Home to the oldest university in Europe, Bologna fostered a unique artistic culture at the end of the Middle Ages. With its large population of sophisticated readers, the city became the preeminent center of manuscript production south of the Alps and it helped bring about a revolution in the medieval book trade. Manuscripts circulated in a thriving market of scribes, illuminators, booksellers, and customers operating mostly outside traditional monastic scriptoria. The university initially specialized in law, and many law books were illuminated in Bologna with brightly colored scenes. University professors enjoyed high social status and were buried in impressive stone tombs carved with classroom scenes.
The approximately 65 objects in the exhibition span from 1250 to 1400, from the first great flowering of manuscript illumination in Bologna to the beginnings of the construction and decoration of the ambitious Basilica of San Petronio in the city’s Piazza Maggiore. Lenders include the Cleveland Museum of Art, J. Paul Getty Museum, Lilly Library, New York Public Library, and University of Chicago Library.
The exhibition will be accompanied by a catalogue with seven essays, and, while it is on view, the Frist Art Museum will host the Andrew Ladis Trecento Conference, a biannual event that brings together historians of medieval and Renaissance art from around the world.
Organized by the Frist Art Museum