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September 6th, 2001
Museum Celebrates the Splendor of Florence With Lorenzo Di Credi

In conjunction with Philadelphia's Splendor of Florence Festival (September 15-23, 2001), a major Renaissance painting, Venus, by Florentine artist Lorenzo di Credi (about 1456-1536) will be on view at the Philadelphia Museum of Art from September 15 through December 9, 2001. This important loan from the Uffizi Gallery in Florence, Italy has been secured to coincide with Power and Glory: Medici Portraits from the Uffizi Gallery, an exhibition of 16th and 17th century Italian paintings at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts (September 15-December 9, 2001), and to complement the collection of Florentine art on permanent view at the Philadelphia Museum of Art.

The goddess of love to the ancient Romans, Venus had much appeal in Renaissance Florence when Humanist writers and artists vied to create a canon of ideal female beauty. Measuring nearly five and a half feet tall, Lorenzo di Credi's Venus (about 1490) was lost for several centuries until the mid-1800s, when the painting was found in a back room of a villa once belonging to the wealthy Medici family, the one-time rulers of Florence. The painting was most likely commissioned by a family member or associate of Lorenzo de' Medici (about 1449-1492), who encouraged a flowering of the arts in Florence and was himself an accomplished writer of love poetry. The work was first seen by the public in the Uffizi Gallery, Italy's foremost museum of Italian Renaissance painting, and has not been on view in the United States.

Anne d'Harnoncourt, Director and CEO of the Philadelphia Museum of Art, said: "We are delighted to present this wonderful masterwork during Philadelphia's official celebration of Florentine culture, and we are honored to have it on loan from our friends at the Uffizi Gallery. Lorenzo di Credi's painting finds great company among the Museum's superb Florentine holdings. We are also very grateful to Felecia and Jeffrey Weiss, whose support has helped to make the presentation of this painting in Philadelphia possible."

Lorenzo di Credi was a prominent member of the artistic community in Florence around the turn of the 16th century. His workshop produced dozens of religious paintings for churches and wealthy Florentine patrons during the Italian Renaissance. He first trained as a goldsmith, and began his career as a painter in the studio of Andrea del Verrocchio, where his fellow pupils included the young Leonardo da Vinci. Lorenzo took over the workshop after Verrocchio's death in 1488. Renowned for his high level of craftsmanship, he specialized in portraits and religious paintings.

In this evocation of the goddess, her pose is inspired by a Greek sculpture in which Venus coyly covers her body with her hands. Lorenzo di Credi's contemporary Sandro Botticelli, who painted a similar picture some years earlier, also inspired the artist. Elements of Lorenzo's Venus resemble the portrayal of the goddess in Botticelli's famous Birth of Venus (about 1485). In Lorenzo's version, the flowing locks of the young woman's hair are replaced with a diaphanous scarf.

As part of the city's celebration of Florentine art, the Museum has lent to the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts (PAFA) exhibition Agnolo Bronzino's great Portrait of Cosimo I de' Medici as Orpheus (about 1538-40). The allegorical painting portrays the father of Lorenzo de' Medici as the mythological poet and musician Orpheus at the mouth of Hades, where he had gone to reclaim his dead wife Eurydice. The portrait joins PAFA's showcase of Florentine masterworks, which illustrate the superb level of craftsmanship in painting, printmaking, gold and silver-smithing, leatherworking and the manufacturing of textiles.

In conjunction with Splendor of Florence: Artists and Artisans of the Medici (September 15-23), the Museum will offer guided tours of its galleries containing works by Florentine Renaissance masters. Highlights of Florentine works in the Museum's collection include:

  • Sandro Botticelli's Predella showing scenes from the Legend of Mary Magdalene: Listening to Christ Preach; Feast in the House of Simon; Appearance of Christ to Mary Magdalene; Mary Magdalene Ascending to Heaven, and Her Last Communion, (about 1490), tempera on wood. These four separate panels were originally painted on one continuous plank of wood, which formed the predella, or base, of an altarpiece.

  • Fra Angelico's Predella panel showing the Funeral of the Virgin and the Virgin Being Received by Christ in Heaven (about 1427), tempera and tooled gold on wood. In this painting of Mary's funeral, John the Evangelist holds the golden palm that an angel brought to Mary to announce her coming death.

  • Luca della Robbia's The Virgin Adoring the Infant Jesus (about 1472-82), tin-glazed earthenware with traces of gilt decoration. The artist started as a marble sculptor, but soon chose to work with white glazes and was most instrumental in bringing Maiolica to the level of other major art forms, like painting and sculpture.

  • Adriano Fiorentino's Venus (about 1486-94), bronze, a rarity as both an early Renaissance statuette of a female nude and a work signed by the artist. The pose of the goddess shows the influence of Botticelli's The Birth of Venus.

  • Desiderio da Settignano Virgin and Child (about 1455-60), an intimate marble relief with faintly smiling expressions of the Virgin and Child, both turned as if already engaging a viewer.

The Splendor of Florentine Renaissance Art tours will depart from the West Entrance Hall at 11:00 a.m. on Sept. 15-16 and Sept. 18-23.

Splendor of Florence: Artists and Artisans of the Medici is a festival of cultural, culinary and musical events celebrating the artists and artisans of Florence. The Splendor of Florence Festival is presented by Florentine Festivals USA, a not-for-profit 501(c)(3) corporation, registered in the State of Pennsylvania. The official registration and financial information of Florentine Festivals USA may be obtained from the Pennsylvania department of State by calling toll free, within Pennsylvania, 800-732-0999. Registration does not imply endorsement.

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