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SAINTS AND HEROES: THE ART INSTITUTE OF CHICAGO CELEBRATES GRAND OPENING OF THE DEERING FAMILY GALLERIES

For Immediate Release
Friday, March 10, 2017

CHICAGO— On March 20, the Art Institute unveils the new Deering Family Galleries of Medieval and Renaissance Art, Arms, and Armor, the permanent home for nearly 700 objects from the museum’s rich holdings of art from 1200 to 1600, including monumental altarpieces, exquisite jewelry, and the beloved arms and armor collection.  While much in the collection may be familiar to long time visitors, the installation expands the display of art of this period sixfold and enfolds them in an historically inspired atmosphere and context. The construction of these galleries marks the most ambitious architectural undertaking at the museum since the Modern Wing opened in 2009. Each room was designed to reflect the art within and to clearly delineate between the themes of the exhibition.

The galleries also feature the museum’s most innovative use of technology and interactive experiences to date. Digital labels, multimedia companion pieces, and hands on learning opportunities give guests the ability to use modern tools to fully immerse themselves in these objects of the past.

The centerpiece of the first gallery is the meticulously conserved Ayala Altarpiece, dated 1396 commissioned by Pedro López de Ayala, later chancellor of Castile, for his family’s funerary chapel in northern Spain. Spanning nearly 24 feet across and eight feet high, the painted wood altarpiece has undergone extensive treatment over the last three years and makes its restored debut in brilliant form.  Surrounded by architectural sculpture, treasury objects, and medieval paintings, the altarpiece anchors a room designed to echo the original setting for these works. Visitors moving through the galleries then enter a grand vaulted space, providing a dramatic background for altarpieces and altarpiece fragments of the early Renaissance including Martorell’s Saint George and the Dragon.

The galleries that follow are more intimate, focusing on late Gothic and Renaissance domestic life. Luxury goods and accessories for feasting fill one room while another displays works of art for the bedchambers of Tuscany’s merchant elite. Everyday objects from northern Europe, along with jewelry and items of personal display, complete the domestic picture of the period.

From here, the space opens to the new home of the museum’s expanded arms and armor collection.  Filled with weaponry and armor, the display is dominated by two armored figures on horseback—one dressed for battle, the other for sport—and two armed and costumed figures engaged in foot combat.  This gallery will occasionally host armor and weaponry demonstrations. Finally, a gallery lined with cabinetry features the art of the sword, luxury firearms, and equipment for the hunt extending through the Baroque era.

At the heart of this display are the gifts of major collectors whose donations serve as the collection’s foundation: the Ayala Altarpiece and Saint George and the Dragon from Charles Deering, Sienese and Florentine gold-ground paintings and early Northern works given by Martin Ryerson, a terracotta altarpiece by Florentine Benedetto Buglioni and a South German carved and painted Saint Catherine from Kate Buckingham, and George F. Harding’s impressive collection of arms and armor.

Image:
Armor for Man and Horse, about 1520 with modern costume. South German, Nuremberg. George F. Harding Collection.

Sponsors

The Deering Family Galleries of Medieval and Renaissance Art, Arms, and Armor are made possible by the extraordinary lead support of The Chauncey and Marion D. McCormick Family Foundation, Laurie V. and James N. Bay, Linda and Vincent Buonanno, the Edwardson Family Foundation, and The Estate of Arthur Maling.

Major support is generously provided by the Deering Foundation and Mr. and Mrs. William C. Vance.

Additional funding has been contributed by Mr. and Mrs. William R. Jentes, Richard Gradkowski, Holly and John W. Madigan, Mae Svoboda Rhodes, Daniel T. Manoogian, and the historic commitments of Marilynn Alsdorf, Kate Sturges Buckingham, and Bea and Herman M. Silverstein.

Inaugural Sponsor

Digital Engagement supported by