The traveling exhibit of 45 Renaissance and Baroque works from the famous Uffizi gallery in Florence, Italy, will open to the public on Saturday, but I get an early look at the works during a Friday morning press tour with one of the curators, Diane Cole Ahl, a professor of art history at Lafayette College.
"The Uffizi is the world's greatest museum for the study of Italian art," Ahl said.
The museum, built by the Medicis in the 16th century, has thousands of works and not nearly enough space to display all of them. None of the paintings and tapestries in this exhibit have been displayed in public in Florence, Ahl said.
Instead, these works are kept in "secret rooms" in the Uffizi and some of its depositories, and people must apply to see them, Ahl said.
"It's impossible to pull yourself away from these paintings," Ahl said as she strolled through the gallery's six rooms. "Every worker who was in here stopped to look at these works. They have historical significance, and they are beautiful works of art."
The exhibit, which is expected to draw visitors from around the Philadelphia area and throughout the northeastern United States, will run through Aug. 10. The tour is the first and possibly the last time the works will be seen outside Europe.
The pieces span nearly 400 years, depicting the history of the Bible and the life of Christ, from The Creation of Adam through the Resurrection.
The exhibit also features six works from the Philadelphia Museum of Art's John G. Johnson collection "to encourage viewers to visit Philadelphia," Ahl said.