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These paintings of the Virgin Mary are on display at the Vatican for the first time


Alvesgaspar | CC BY-SA 4.0

John Burger - published on 11/19/19

Carlo Crivelli's canvases underwent restoration funded by U.S. patrons.

Carlo Crivelli may not be a household name in the realm of Renaissance art. But he’s about to be a little better known, thanks to the Vatican Museums.

An exhibit of Crivelli’s work opened this past week at the Vatican, displaying restored paintings of the Virgin Mary that he did in the 15th century.

According to Encyclopaedia Britannica, Crivelli was “probably the most individual of 15th-century Venetian painters, an artist whose highly personal and mannered style carried Renaissance forms into an unusual expressionism.”

“Crivelli is a relatively rare artist,” so not many museums can boast of having as many of his paintings, Vatican Museums’ Curator Guido Cornini told Catholic News Agency. The Vatican Museums have three of his large works: a five-panel polyptych, “Madonna and Child with Saints” (1481); “Madonna and Child” (1482), and a “Pieta” (1488-1489).

Those works are on display after a long restoration process, made possible by members of the Patrons of the Arts in the Vatican Museums, the fundraising branch of the Vatican Museums.

“It is more than presenting the painting with a superficial cleaning,” Cornini explained. “You have to get through a long … phase in which more historical information is being gathered both through the archives and compare this with a careful reading of the literature existing on that particular panel painting and then you prepare the proposal of a ‘therapy’ to follow, much like you would do with a medicine.”

The restoration of the Crivelli paintings involved removing the “over-painting” from previous restorations to recover the original vibrant colors under the surface, CNA said.

Crivelli lived from 1463 to 1494 and was known for his use of gold in the late Gothic style. A native of Venice, he used some of the innovations in painting that were current in his day, but also seemed to have a nostalgia for medieval art, Cornini explained.

The exhibit, “Crivelli’s Gold,” is on display in the Vatican’s Pinacoteca Museum until January 21.

The U.S. Embassy to the Holy See co-hosted the exhibition opening at the Vatican museums in celebration of the 35 years of formal diplomatic relations between the U.S. and the Holy See. The Patrons of the Arts in the Vatican Museums was started in the United States in 1983. “U.S. Patrons fund approximately 80% of all restoration projects at the Vatican Museums,” U.S. Ambassador to the Holy See Callista Gingrich said at the exhibit opening Nov. 13.

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