Press Release: “Splendors of the Renaissance” New Exhibition Recreates Noble Attire Depicted in Famous Paintings

Attire donned by Renaissance nobility comes to life in “Splendors of the Renaissance: Princely Attire in Italy,” an exhibition opening at the Art Gallery of The Graduate Center on March 11. Featuring 15 spectacular reconstructions of courtly clothing from the late 15th to the early 17th century, each costume is displayed adjacent to a reproduction of the portrait in which it appears. The original costumes were worn by Duchess Eleonora di Toledo, Isabella d’Este, Vincenzo I Gonzaga (4th Duke of Mantua), and other members of the Medici and Gonzaga families, as depicted in paintings by such celebrated artists as Bronzino, Giulio Romano, and Titian. The reconstructions were created by the King Studio in Italy under the direction of Fausto Fornasari.

The Art Gallery is open Tuesdays through Saturdays, 12 to 6pm, and the exhibition --- presented for the first time in the United States --- runs through April 24. (An opening reception will be held from 5 to 7 pm on March 10.) The CUNY Graduate Center is located at 365 Fifth Avenue at 34th Street. The exhibition is curated by Distinguished Professor of Art History Janet Cox-Rearick, and the curator of The Art Gallery of The Graduate Center is Professor Emerita Diane Kelder. In conjunction with the exhibition, talks will be presented by Professors Cox-Rearick and Kelder on Wednesdays, March 17 and 31 respectively, 5 to 7 pm in the Martin E. Segal Theatre.

The idea to recreate the garments of Renaissance nobility was the brainchild of Fornasari, Director of the King Studio in Mantua. Although few actual Italian court costumes have survived, visual and written evidence abound in paintings, fragments of original luxury textiles of the period, and literary description of court attire. Commissioned portraits of Italian rulers and their consorts painted by Renaissance artists became the basis of the recreations. Taken together, these sources made the reproduction of every garment, including the many intricate layers and pieces, possible.

Rulers used the art of costume, together with the figural arts of painting and sculpture, to enhance their status and to proclaim their magnificence. Attire was central to the definition of the social role of the individual—opulent and expensive dress not only identified the wearer’s exalted social level and announced his rank within the power structure of the court, but literally created, or “fashioned,” the ruler’s public persona.

The exhibition has previously toured major cities in Italy, Spain, Latin America, and Canada. Two costumes are being shown for the first time at The Graduate Center: The Costume of a Princess, and Margherita Gonzaga, both from paintings by Pisanello. The Art Gallery of the Graduate Center is a relatively new museum-quality space bringing to Midtown Manhattan an ongoing schedule of exhibitions displaying artworks in all media.

The exhibition has been organized with the collaboration of the Italian Cultural Institute in New York City.

The Graduate Center is the doctorate-granting institution of The City University of New York. The only consortium of its kind in the nation, The Graduate Center draws its faculty of more than 1,600 members mainly from the CUNY senior colleges and cultural and scientific institutions throughout New York City.

Established in 1961, The Graduate Center has grown to an enrollment of about 3,700 students in 30 doctoral programs and six master's degree programs in the humanities, social sciences, and sciences. The Graduate Center also houses 28 research centers and institutes, administers the CUNY Baccalaureate Program, and offers a wide range of continuing education and cultural programs of interest to the general public.

According to the most recent National Research Council report, more than a third of The Graduate Center's rated Ph.D. programs rank among the nation's top 20 at public and private institutions (including the Ph.D. Program in Art History), nearly a quarter are among the top ten when compared to publicly supported institutions alone, and more than half are among the top five programs at publicly supported institutions in the northeast.

Submitted on: FEB 1, 2004

Category: Events, James Gallery, Press Room