Bindo versus Cosimo at the Gardner
The management of the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum has been unfailingly creative in working around the limitations of the small space available to it for new exhibitions — concert series, artist-in-residence programs, the current centennial installation by Joseph Kosuth that decorates the museum’s outside wall. Still, the title of the current exhibit seems a stretch: "Raphael, Cellini, and a Renaissance Banker: The Patronage of Bindo Altoviti." An art exhibit about . . . a banker?
But at a panel presentation a week ago last Wednesday moderated by curator Alan Chong, the Gardner made its case. The patronage of Florentine banker Bindo Altoviti (1491-1556) provides a way of looking at the cultural and historical context of art in Renaissance Italy, in works he collected or commissioned. It’s also a convenient rationale for bringing together works by Cellini, Raphael, Vasari, and others. Cellini’s bronze bust of Cosimo de’ Medici (borrowed from the Museo Nazionale del Bargello in Florence) has never before been exhibited in the US. It’s matched with the Gardner’s own Cellini, a bronze bust of Bindo Altoviti, the "only known work by Cellini located in the US." And Raphael’s oil portrait of Bindo as a young man (on loan from Washington’s National Gallery) is being seen together with the Cellini portrait bust, says the Gardner, for the first time in more than 200 years (both were originally part of Bindo’s own collection). There are only two dozen works in the Gardner’s special exhibition room, including sculptures, drawings, paintings, and manuscripts. But it packs a punch and tells a story. Call it a mini-blockbuster.
At the panel discussion, David Alan Brown, National Gallery curator of Italian Renaissance Painting, said that there have been few recent loans from an Italian museum to an American one as important as Cellini’s Cosimo bust. Dimitrios Zikos, a Florence-based sculpture scholar and the exhibit’s co-curator, praised the long history of international art scholarship that the Gardner represents — "that part of the American cultural tradition that we love very much," the bringing together of "different cultural and intellectual traditions."
To that end, the exhibition catalogue includes an essay on Italian Renaissance banking practices and an essay by another of Wednesday’s panelists, Jodi Cranston, an assistant professor of art history at BU, whose "Desire and Gravitas in Bindo’s Portraits" looks at the Raphael and Cellini pieces in historical context. Which brings us back to Bindo. He inherited his father’s bank at the age of 16 and became a politician as well as a patron, traveling between Florence and Rome. He had the ear of the pope, and he was a life-long rival of the powerful Cosimo de’ Medici. Cellini had to walk the line by creating portraits of both men; as Brown pointed out, "If you got on the wrong side of Cosimo de’ Medici, it was curtains."
In Raphael’s portrait, Bindo is seen between the ages of 19 and 21, in a pose more typical of female subjects than male, as Cranston observed: with long, flowing blond locks, full lips, and flushed cheeks, he turns to look at us over his shoulder rather than facing us head-on. Renaissance scholar Donatella Pegazzano read her statement from a prepared text as a hedge, she said, against her rough English, but she prefaced her written remarks by confessing in an unscholarly way that, aside from Bindo’s other achievements, he was "also a very handsome man, and probably I love him very much, because he is very beautiful of course."
Over the course of the evening, it became apparent that this exhibit is about the rivalry between Cosimo the duke and the temporarily exiled Bindo the republican. The Cellini busts face each other across the small expanse of the gallery room: Cosimo staring ahead, in full, ancient armor, Bindo wizened, philosophical, in banker’s clothes, wearing a knit cap. Never mind that both Cellini and Vasari haggled with him about money. Here was the enlightened citizen and patron of the arts — the distant ancestor of Mrs. Gardner herself.
"Raphael, Cellini, and a Renaissance Banker: The Patronage of Bindo Altoviti" continues at the Gardner Museum through January 11 before moving on to the Museo Nazionale del Bargello in Florence in March. Future special events related to the exhibit at the Gardner include a lecture, "Custom and Costume in the Portraits of Raphael and Cellini" by Kathleen Weil-Garris Brandt of NYU, today, October 16, at 6:30 p.m.; an all-day scholarly symposium on Italian sculpture of the 16th-century on November 8; a lecture by catalogue essayist Melissa Meriam Bullard, "The Secrets of a Renaissance Merchant Banker," on November 13; and a free museum talk, "The Power & Personality of Bindo Altoviti," by Gardner curatorial assistant Mario Pereira on November 19. The Gardner Museum is at 280 the Fenway; for more information, call (617) 566-1401.
— Jon Garelick
NEFVF entries sought
The New England Film & Video Festival, which will run March 22 through 27 next year, is seeking entries. The festival, which "celebrates excellence in film and video created by New England-based independent and college student film and video makers," is a competition in narrative, documentary, animation, and experimental genres and is open to independent media artists who are residents of Maine, Vermont, New Hampshire, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and upstate New York (north of and including Westchester Country), or "who resided in one of these states when work was completed." Students attending a New England college or university may enter as well as all students who are attending a college or university outside of New England but have permanent resident status in a New England state. Screening formats are varied, and no more than two works per artist may be submitted. All entrants must be at least 18 years old. The deadline is October 31.
Visit www.bfvf.org/festival for an entry form and contact information, or call (617) 783-9241.
This Wednesday, the Center for Latino Arts (formerly the Jorge Hernández Cultural Center) will present a collaborative multimedia "pocket opera" called ReOrientalism: The Near-East Lives Next Door and based on the work of the late Columbia professor and Middle East scholar and activist Edward Said, who died earlier this year. The work is a collaboration by the Armenian composer and oud virtuoso Alan Shavarsh Bardezbanian, Palestinian performance poet Suheir Hammad, and Egyptian designer and percussionist Karim Nagi Mohammed. The performers will include Said’s daughter, the actress Najla Said, dancer Seyyide Sultan, and Bardezbanian’s working quintet.
Created by Suheir Hammad, the libretto for the piece will mix original text with adaptations of Edward Said’s writings. His Orientalism (1978) explored themes of Western perceptions of Islam. In addition to video footage of Said speaking, ReOrientalism will include "classic Orientalist paintings of harem girls, Elvis and Rudolph Valentino film portrayals of Arabs," and a mix of music, from traditional forms to techno and hip-hop. "We’re trying to create a specifically Eastern-Western voice," said Hammad in a press release, "that is responding to the West’s view of the East."
ReOrientalism: The Near-East Lives Next Door will be presented this Wednesday, October 22, at 8 p.m. at the Center for Latino Arts, 85 West Newton Street in the South End; call (617) 927-1730.
The Boston Women’s Memorial
"I desire you would remember the Ladies and be more generous and favorable to them than your ancestors," wrote Abigail Adams to her husband, John, in March 1776. "If particular care and attention is not paid to the Ladies, we are determined to foment a Rebellion, and will not hold ourselves bound by any laws in which we have no voice or Representation." With her progressive ideas and commitment to social change, Abigail Adams became an early potent voice for the advancement of women. Likewise Lucy Stone, one of the first women to graduate from college and the founder of the suffragette Women’s Journal, and Phillis Wheatley, who was the first African-American to publish a book. All three of these women will be honored in the new Boston Women’s Memorial, a sculpture now under construction to be installed on Commonwealth Avenue between Fairfield and Gloucester Streets and dedicated on October 25.
Designed and sculpted by Meredith Bergmann, the memorial similarly defies convention. There’ll be no larger-than-life bellicose figures astride horses, raising triumphant fists and brandishing swords. These women lean against their pedestals slightly above at eye level in a way that invites interaction. Adams’s feet are on the ground as she stands casually with arms folded across her chest, her back against a granite base. Wheatley sits as though at a desk. And Stone leans over, looking as if she were about to make a point. The memorial not only honors these crucial figures in women’s history but also reminds us of the importance of representing women in public art.
In recognition of this new memorial, the Ford Hall Forum and the Boston Women’s Commission will present this Monday a panel discussion titled "Remembering the Ladies: Boston Celebrates a New Women’s Memorial," with Bergmann plus Andrea Moore Kerr, a historian and Lucy Stone biographer, Celeste Walker, the associate editor of the Adams Papers, Marilyn Richardson, the principal of African-Americana Consultants, and Ricardo Baretto, the director of the Urban Arts Institute.
"Remembering the Ladies: Boston Celebrates a New Women’s Memorial" takes place this Monday, October 20, at 6:30 p.m. at Old South Meeting House, 310 Washington Street. The Boston Women’s Memorial Dedication takes place next Saturday, October 25, at 1 p.m. at the Commonwealth Avenue Mall, between Fairfield and Gloucester Streets. Both events are free. For more information, call (617) 373-5800.
— Nina MacLaughlin
It may not be 1962 prices, but, thanks to a program just implemented by Broadway in Boston and this newspaper, students can see the hit musical Hairspray, which has a top ticket price of $97, for $25. The Phoenix/Broadway in Boston Student Rush is designed to lure audiences young enough not to remember 1962 to active membership in Boston’s Theater District Community. "The best way to ensure that there will be a mature, knowledgeable, and discerning audience for live drama in the future is to cultivate a young audience today," said Phoenix publisher Stephen M. Mindich by way of explaining the price break.
Here’s how the program works. For selected shows at the Colonial and Wilbur Theatres, full-time students of whatever age, with a valid ID, will be allowed to purchase one ticket per ID, day of performance, one hour prior to curtain, for $25, at the Colonial or Wilbur box office only. The program is not available for Saturday-evening performances, and tickets are subject to availability. So far, the selected shows are Hairspray, which continues at the Colonial through November 1; Say Goodnight Gracie, a one-man show about legendary comedian George Burns, at the Wilbur October 21 through November 2; Les Misérables, the Victor Hugo mega-musical, at the Colonial November 5 through December 7; the Theatre Royal Bath production of Shakespeare’s As You Like It, helmed by eminent British director Sir Peter Hall, at the Wilbur November 11 through December 21; Def Poetry Jam, the kinetic Broadway outing for young, multicultural rappers and verse spinners, coming to the Colonial in January; Cirque Éloise’s surreal Nomade, coming to the Wilbur in January; and that four-square American classic, Rodgers & Hammerstein’s Oklahoma!, which will play the Colonial in May. There’s a Web site, www.broadwayinboston.com/studentrush.html, that will run daily updates on availability. For more information, call (617) 451-2345.
Issue Date: October 17 - 23, 2003
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