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In 1900, Isabella Stewart Gardner purchased a magnificent Annunciation through famed connoisseur Bernard Berenson. Little did she know of its history. Join Nathaniel Silver, Associate Curator, Gardner Museum and Cammy Brothers, Associate Professor for a conversation about this unknown masterpiece, the surprising career of its painter – once slated to paint the Sistine Chapel before Michelangelo stepped in – and his engagement with the latest Renaissance architecture.

Spotlighting single important works from the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, the new program, “Close Up,” offers a fresh perspective on hidden masterpieces. Piermatteo d’Amelia’s Annunciation (c. 1487) debuts this initiative in February in Hostetter Gallery.

Forging a dialogue between art of the past and present, Piermatteo’s Annunciation accompanies a video installation by contemporary artist Bill Viola titled Study for Emergence, on special loan from the Yale University Art Gallery. Each artist engaged profoundly with the Christian tradition as it was envisioned in the Italian Renaissance. In keeping with Isabella Stewart Gardner’s determination to create meaningful dialogues between art of all eras, the relationships in subject matter between the artworks encourage visitors to seek connections between Renaissance and contemporary art otherwise difficult in the historic palace.
The Gardner’s Associate Curator Dr. Nathaniel Silver says, “Gardner’s Annunciation is beloved by many of our visitors for its harmonious perspective, and this exhibition offers an opportunity to get a closer look at its finest details. Some might also be surprised to find out that this altarpiece was made by the pope’s favorite painter. Piermatteo d’Amelia skyrocketed to fame in Rome and was even invited to fresco the Sistine Chapel ceiling before Michelangelo. Despite his achievements, this Renaissance master was quickly forgotten.”

In 1900, Isabella Stewart Gardner fell in love with this magnificent altarpiece of the Annunciation and purchased it from the celebrated connoisseur and art dealer, Bernard Berenson, despite knowing little about the artist or its history. The altarpiece traveled from the tiny mountaintop church in rural Italy to Boston, making one leg of the journey in the false compartment of a smuggler’s trunk.

With each annual installment of “Close Up” a single work of art from the collection will be moved from the historic palace and displayed in the museum’s temporary exhibition gallery enabling visitors to see it in a new light. A short book written by Dr. Silver accompanies this presentation, including an account of Gardner’s hunt for the painting, rare photographs from the museum’s archives and the first ever biography in English of the painter. It will be available for purchase in Gift at the Gardner. Several public programs will also accompany the gallery presentation, offering behind-the-scenes stories of Gardner’s dramatic acquisitions and the artists.