This past weekend I took pleasure in my inaugural visit to Harvard’s Fogg Art Museum in Cambridge, Mass. This museum, which opened to the public in 1895, is Harvard's oldest art museum. Around its enchanting Italian Renaissance courtyard are galleries illustrating the history of Western art from the Middle Ages to the present. The galleries particularly strong in Italian early Renaissance are a great reminder of how religious and liturgical symbols have been incorporated into visual art for centuries. I found the tempra and gold painting of Saint Catherine of Siena by Giovanni de Paola (as seen at left) particularly charming. History knows Catherine Benincasa as the persuasive mediator who negotiated peace between Florence and the papacy. In this portrait, St. Catherine of Siena appears with a sprig of lilies as a symbol of peace, and is wearing the black-and-white vestments of the Sisters of Penance of St. Dominic. Paolo’s graceful approach to Catherine of Siena is accentuated by her elongated figure.
The seasons ahead of Advent and Christmas can be so busy. I recommend you take time to pause and enjoy an art exhibit. There is something very theraputic about walking through the quiet of an art gallery, meditating on, contemplating about or simply enjoying what you see.
Need a gift idea? Enrich a life with the gift of an art museum membership!