October 31, 2014–January 25, 2015

Sanctity Pictured: The Art of the Dominican and Franciscan Orders in Renaissance Italy

  • Sanctity Pictured: The Art of the Dominican and Franciscan Orders in Renaissance Italy installation view. Photo by John Schweikert.

  • Sassetta. The Procession to Calvary, 1437–44. Tempera on poplar panel, 19 1/8 x 25 1/4 x 1 1/2 in. Detroit Institute of Arts, City of Detroit Purchase, 24.94

  • Francesco da Rimini (Master of the Blessed Clare of Rimini). The Adoration of the Magi, ca. 1340. Tempera on wood, 22 3/4 x 23 3/8 in. Collection of the Lowe Art Museum, University of Miami, Gift of the Samuel H. Kress Foundation, 61.018.000

  • Madonna and Child with Saint Francis, ca. 1285. Tempera on wood, 27 x 20 1/4 in. Allen Memorial Art Museum, Oberlin College, R.T. Miller Jr. Fund, 1945.9

  • Italian, probably active in Bologna. Abbey Bible. Initial C: The Nativity (fol. 224r), ca. 1250–62. Tempera and gold leaf on parchment, leaf 10 9/16 x 7 3/4 in. The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, 2011.23.224.

  • Giovanni di Paolo. Saint Clare Rescuing a Child Mauled by a Wolf, ca. 1455–60. Tempera and gold leaf on panel, 8 1/8 x 11 1/2 in. The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, The Edith and Percy S. Straus Collection, 44.571

  • Sanctity Pictured: The Art of the Dominican and Franciscan Orders in Renaissance Italy installation view. Photo by John Schweikert.

Beginning in the early thirteenth century, Italy was transformed by two innovative new religious orders known as the Dominicans, founded by Saint Dominic of Caleruega (1170–1221; canonized 1234), and the Franciscans, founded by Saint Francis of Assisi (1181/82–1226; canonized 1228). Whereas earlier religious orders, such as the Benedictines, had cloistered themselves in rural monasteries and lived off income from their property, the Dominicans and Franciscans settled in Italy’s growing cities and lived as mendicants, or beggars, who preached to laymen and women. When Francis and Dominic met in Rome in 1216, they recognized one another as brothers and embraced.

Both orders took a vow of poverty, but soon after the deaths of their founders they were building churches that rivaled cathedrals in size and splendor throughout Italy. With financial assistance from city governments, popes, and the laity, Dominican and Franciscan churches were constructed and filled with altarpieces, crucifixes, fresco cycles, illuminated manuscripts, and liturgical objects. Art became integral to the missions of these orders. Many works are narrative scenes focusing on the Dominican and Franciscan saints whose miracles sanctified contemporary Italian life.

This exhibition is the first to highlight the significant role played by the two major mendicant orders in the great flowering of art in Italy in the period 1200 to 1550. With works drawn from libraries and museums in the United States and the Vatican, it compares and contrasts ways the Dominicans and Franciscans employed art as propaganda and as didactic tools for themselves and their lay followers.

Mire este video en español para aprender más sobre la exhibición La Santidad en Pintura


Multisensory Tours
Have you ever wondered what it would feel like to touch gilded wood or Carrara marble? Do you wonder what scents would have surrounded the artists and original viewers of a work of art from the Renaissance? The Frist Art Museum is pleased to announce a pilot program of docent-guided multisensory tours of Sanctity Pictured. Through verbal description, scent experience, and tactile exploration, visitors will be able to experience art of the Italian Renaissance in an exciting new way. Multisensory tours are fun for visitors of all ages, and are especially suited to those with low vision or blindness. To request a multisensory tour and be a part of this pilot program, contact Emily Jenkins at ejenkins@FristArtMuseum.org.


Sanctity Pictured: The Art of the Dominican and Franciscan Orders in Renaissance Italy is organized by the Frist Art Museum.

A fully illustrated catalogue published by Philip Wilson Publishers in conjunction with the Frist Art Museum accompanies the exhibition. Read a review of the catalogue by The Art Newspaper.

This exhibition has been made possible in part by grants from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Samuel H. Kress Foundation, and the Robert Lehman Foundation, and support from the Friends of Italian Art. 

The exhibition catalogue is published with the assistance of the Samuel H. Kress Foundation and Furthermore: a program of the J.M. Kaplan Fund.

Belmont University and Ocean Way Recording Studios donated recording time and professional expertise in the production of the audio tour. Schola Pacis—Nelson Berry, Riley Bryant, Gregg Colson, Rick Seay, Chris Simonsen, and Matt Smyth—and the Dominican Sisters of St. Cecilia contributed their time and talents to perform the musical selections for the audio tour. Audio engineer Chris Hinson donated his services to record the Dominican Sisters in the Chapel of St. Cecilia.


Lynn and Ken Melkus

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