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Most early Renaissance paintings found in the collections of American museums are the surviving fragments from large altarpieces that had once adorned European churches. Many of these altarpieces were separated into smaller components during the late 18th and early 19th centuries, which were subsequently sold. A panel depicting The Burial of the Virgin (early 1400s), by the Florentine master Gherardo Starnina (documented 1387-1413), is one such fragment, and is part of the John G. Johnson Collection in the Philadelphia Museum of Art. Originally created for a church in Lucca, Italy, Starnina's altarpiece survives only as a group of fragments (such as Burial of the Virgin) housed in museums and private collections in Italy and the United States.
Featuring a full reconstruction of Starnina's design, as well as a panel from the predella (or bottom section), the exhibition will offer North American audiences the rare opportunity to see a nearly complete Renaissance altarpiece. The installation will also include two additional paintings by Starnina on loan from the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, as well as panels by the Spanish artist Miquel Alcañiz (documented 1421-1434). Depicting The Nativity and The Burial of the Virgin (both early 1420s), the Alcañiz panels are akin to Starnina's in theme and imagery, evidence of a rich exchange between Italian and Spanish artists at the time of the Renaissance.
In Philadelphia, the exhibition is supported by generous gifts from John H. McFadden and from Felecia and Jeffrey Weiss.