Arts in New York City: Baruch College, Fall 2008, Professor Roslyn Bernstein
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Art and Love in the Italian Renaissance


The Metropolitan Museum of Art is one of the most beautiful structures in New York City. Every time I go there I am amazed at the amount of ancient works of art and objects this museum holds. Besides the permanent exhibits, the museum often houses special exhibits for a brief period of time. On Friday I went to see the traveling exhibit called, “Art and Love in Renaissance Italy”.

            This exhibit displays works that were created in celebration of marriage. The objects and paintings in the exhibit provide insight into courtship, marriage, and the family during the Renaissance. This gives us a glimpse into the private lives of the people of that time. It is interesting to see Renaissance art that focuses on common life, rather than the usual religious icons or famous people.

            There were many unusual pieces of jewelry displayed as well. The Jewish Betrothal Ring from Venice in the 17th century is quite unique. It was used in synagogues during wedding ceremonies. The groom would place it on the bride’s finger, but she would not wear it after the wedding. This was a prized possession that was kept in one’s home, not worn in the street. It is clear that this is something that would become a family heirloom, based upon its unusually large size and apparent weight. The gable roof is supposed to be symbolic of the Temple in Jerusalem and it opens up to reveal the words, “good luck”. This ring really gives insight into the importance of marriage in those times. A groom’s family invested the money to purchase such an expensive ring for the bride, so they surely thought this relationship would be a lasting one.

             The section of the exhibit focusing on children explained that during the Renaissance, the main reason people got married was to continue their lineage. Babies would often die during childbirth, so a successful birth caused much joy. There were many interesting portraits of children on display. One painting that stood out is called “Portrait of a Father With Two Children”, by Giovanni Battista Morani. This work is from the mid 16th century, a time when family portraits were becoming more common. In the picture, a father is sitting on a chair and putting his arms around his two young children. Both the children are wearing long dresses, one yellow, and one red. In the caption, it says that the younger may be a boy, because at the time all small children, boys or girls, wore dresses. This portrait is gripping because it is clear that this father is extremely attentive to his children. It also left me wondering as to the absence of the mother. The image depicted the love and care a father has for his children. This is a universal concept, and it is still quite relevant today.

            The exhibit portrays the fact that despite all the technological, scientific, and cultural advances that have taken place, human emotions remain the same. Marriage, love, children, and family are still important in our lives today, and have not changed too much. 

1 comment

1 Kamellia Saroop { 12.16.08 at 8:52 pm }

I seem to have the same opinion as you when it comes to Met; it never ceases to amaze me! The connection you made between the past and present view on love and marriage in this review is quite honest and accurate. And I love the beautiful ring you included as your picture! It’s no wonder you chose to write on that work.