Images of Salvation: Masterpieces from the Vatican and Other Italian Collections at the Royal Ontario Museum (100 Queen's Park) to August 11. $16.50, stu/srs $12; after Aug 2 $18, stu/srs $14; pilgrims (with ID) $5 July 18-28. 416-586-5549. Rating: NNN Rating: NNN
In conjunction with the Pope's visit (I can only hope he meets up with Marg, Warrior Princess), the Vatican has sent European-painting-poor Toronto a selection of mainly Italian works dating from early Christian times to the 19th century. Organized by biblical themes, the show starts with Creation (eerily including Hebrew texts from the Church's "ethnographic" collection) and ends with the Crucifixion and Resurrection, represented by a resin copy of Michelangelo's Pietà.
The repro is a lot more tastefully displayed than the original was at the 1964 New York World's Fair, where people were ferried past on a conveyer belt in a tent hung with an arch of carny lights.
Florence's Casa Buonarroti lends four Michelangelo sketches, but you can't get close enough to actually see them. A self-portrait doodled on the side of a sonnet seems to be a sway-backed man painting a face with bunny ears on a ceiling.
The Saints section kindly spares us the grislier depictions of martyrdom: a folksy polychrome St. Sebastian and a painting of St. Lucy displaying her eyeballs on what looks like a cake stand are pretty mild representations of this genre.
The high drama of Italian baroque painting, the highlight of the show, may be an acquired taste, but the A-one masterpieces (Guercino's The Incredulity Of St. Thomas, Guido Reni's St. Matthew And The Angel) provide an accessible point of entry to the period.
Christian, painting, michelangelo, vatican