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Art from Houston, Mexico City compliments Vatican exhibit


"St. Catherine," an oil on canvas from the 18th Century Mexican School, is attributed to Jose de Ibarra.
Upon learning that the Museum of Texas Tech would host an exhibit of art work from the Vatican Museums in Rome, the initial hope of Gary Edson, museum director, was to find a complimentary exhibit of works from the New World.

"I wanted to show a link between the material from the Vatican and art work it influenced in the same time frame in the New World," he said. "Then when we found out that the Vatican was loaning frescoes from the 12th and 13th centuries, I saw there was no direct link at that time."

Edson did not give up and soon became excited about "the influence of imagery and ideas and stories carried from the Old World to the New."

Thus when the exhibit "Medieval Frescoes from the Vatican Museums Collection" opens in Lubbock on June 2, also being featured in Gallery 3 at the Museum of Texas Tech will be art work donated by the Museo Franz Mayer in Mexico City, and the Museum of Fine Arts and Sarah Campbell Blaffer Foundation in Houston.

photo: news
  Peter Paul Rubens' "The Mystic Marriage of St. Catherine" (c. 1615)  
"One of the first things I noticed was the continuation of the story of St. Catherine," said Edson. "The Blaffer Foundation has this wonderful painting by Rubens, 'The Mystic Marriage of St. Catherine.' Then we also had a chance to get another painting of St. Catherine from Mexico.

"The more we visited, the more I saw this connection between the imagery of the frescoes in southern Europe and what was happening later in Mexico. In fact, I learned that many artists from Europe actually traveled to the New World and served as masters, teachers, for producing various art forms, including things of silver."

A number of silver pieces have been donated by the Franz Meyer museum in Mexico City.

"I had a real interest in these," Edson said. "The silver was mined in the mines of Mexico. But it was then shaped into fantastic objects by local craftsmen, who were working under the supervision of artists from Europe, and following styles that originated in Europe.

photo: news
  "The Trinity," a high relief of carved and polychromatic wood, is attributed to the 18th Century Mexican School.  
"... We're talking about two different times in different places serving different purposes, and yet there is an undeniable aesthetic and emotional link."

Edson said that he already was aware of paintings owned by the Blaffer Foundation. He put in a wish list, and all but one painting on that list was made available to him. That one already had been committed to a different exhibit.

Trips to Mexico City were even more enjoyable thanks to Edson's long friendship with Hector Borrell, the director of the Franz Mayer.

Edson said the Blaffer Foundation has a long history of loaning object. "In fact, they only loan in the state of Texas," he added.

photo: news
  Detail from "The Annunciation" by the Boucicaut Master (or Master of the Hours of Marechal de Boucicaut) was made about 1410.  
Requests from the museum in Mexico City became more complex.

Edson again created a wish list of objects he wanted to display. This time several were not available. Pieces ranging from "canvases to a couple of paintings to a fabric piece" were in much too fragile condition. Attempting to move them would be dangerous.

He and Borrell agreed on several art works that would compliment the visiting Vatican frescoes, but intricate procedures still would have to be followed.

"The Franz Mayer is a trust," began Edson, "actually a trust institution that was given to the country. The art actually belongs to the nation, to Mexico. So we had to deal with a representative of the government. In this case, it was the Bank of Mexico, which has set procedures. Because what we were requesting was an international loan of art, the procedure was more typical of the corporate world than the usual museum world."

From the Vatican

• Exhibit: "Medieval Frescoes from the Vatican Museums Collection."

• When: June 2-Sept. 15.

• Where: Museum of Texas Tech, Fourth Street and Indiana Avenue.

• Museum hours: 1 p.m.-7 p.m. Sundays, 9 a.m.-7 p.m. Tuesdays-Wednesdays and Fridays-Saturdays, and 9 a.m.-8:30 p.m. Thursdays. Closed Mondays.

• Tickets: Free. However, tickets must be reserved in advance by calling 742-6800 or toll free (866) 803-6873. Those reserving tickets must know the date and time of day that they want to attend. Approximately 200 ticket-holders will be admitted each hour.

• More information: vaticanexhibit.com.

Borrowed works from Houston and Mexico City are "just exquisite," Edson said, "especially the Rubens (painting)."

"The objects from the Vatican certainly are of prime importance," he said. "The works of art from museums in Houston and Mexico City play an important role, and I think they will prove equally interesting once people actually come out to the museum and see them in person.

"Until then, it's only natural to feel more awe for much older art from an institution as revered as the Vatican."

wkerns@lubbockonline.com 766-8712

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