Sunday, September 06, 2009

Several Martini's later...

To celebrate the 700th anniversary of the coming of the Popes in Avignon, the local Petit Palais Museum and the famous Pinacoteca Nazionale di Siena in Italy, together organize a fascinating exhibition focusing on the legacy of Simone Martini. This Sienese painter died in 1344 in Avignon, where he followed the Papal court.
It is a pleasure to wander among the gold covered panels, gleaming like huge icons in the dark hall of the Petit Palais, close to the Pope's Palace. A pleasure and a privilege, for the Pinacoteca has lended to the Petit Palais several major paintings of the master and his followers, including two pictures of the Virgin Mary carrying the Infant Jesus which had never previously left that museum.
Sienese-inspired paintings from Avignon's masters are also included in this exhibition. The legacy of Simone Martini goes a long way into Renaissance painting, say the experts... but the splendid ornamentation, the praying and maternity themes, the serene indifference of the faces with slanted eyes, do leave the visitor subdued and wondering. How come this religious painting still is so powerfull, so impressive ? How come we seem to have lost our capacity for meditation, for prayer? Where and why did western civilization derail from its quest for eternity ? A must-see among the twelve or so museums in Avignon, but don't lose time, for the exhibition lasts only until Oct. 31. (Note : Worth several years of papal indulgence.)