A selection of Northern Renaissance paintings from an often overlooked collection is on display at the Frist Center for the Visual Arts through Feb. 5. "A Divine Light: Northern Renaissance Paintings from the Bob Jones University Museum & Gallery" features 28 paintings from 15th- and 16th-century Belgium, Germany, France, the Netherlands and Spain.
The exhibition is conceived as an intimate encounter with the devotional art of the Renaissance and explores the way in which Northern European painters expressed the central mysteries of the Christian faith through setting, pose, gesture and the objects of everyday life.
These paintings, which are part of a collection better known for its grand Baroque pictures, have been little studied since their acquisition in the mid-20th century. Since that time, considerable advances have been made in analytical methods and connoisseurship and additional archival research has been undertaken.
Before the show, the Frist sponsored the conservation of four key works, including the Flemish picture known as the "Madonna of the Fireplace," which was attributed to the Master of Flemalle when it was part of the Cook Collection in England during the 19th century.
"Very few people seem to be aware that Bob Jones University Museum & Gallery in Greenville, S.C., has this treasure trove of rare and beautiful Northern Renaissance paintings," said Frist Center associate curator Trinita Kennedy, organizer of the exhibition. "Our goal is to make these works better known to a wider audience and invite appreciation and study in light of the recent research in the field."
Dr. Bob Jones Jr., founder of the museum, collected only religious art and had a strong preference for images of the Virgin and Child, the Holy Family, the Passion and the Holy Face of Christ. This exhibit provides an excellent opportunity to focus attention on developments in altar pieces and devotional paintings during the 15th and 16th centuries. The museum and gallery is recognized as having one of America's finest collections of Old Master paintings and is well known for its thorough presentation of the development of Western culture through these works.
Today, 50 years after its inauguration, the collection contains more than 400 paintings by the Old Masters, nearly 200 pieces of Gothic to 19th-century furniture, approximately 100 works of sculpture, 60 textiles, nearly 50 drawings and prints, more than 1,000 Biblical artifacts and 130 miscellaneous items ranging from stained-glass windows to a Byzantine baptistery font.
Also on display at the Frist is Tracey Snelling's multimedia installation "Woman on the Run." Through Feb. 5, visitors can witness a film-noir setting for a crime story in which a mysterious woman in Arizona is sought for questioning in the murder of her husband.
Opening on Oct. 7 is the exhibition "To Live Forever: Egyptian Treasures From the Brooklyn Museum." Approximately 120 objects from ancient Egyptian civilization can be seen through Jan. 8.
The Frist, 919 Broadway in downtown Nashville, is open 10 a.m.-5:30 p.m. Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Saturday; 10 a.m.-9 p.m. Thursday, Friday; and 1-5:30 p.m. Sunday (all times Central). Admission is $10 adults; $7 seniors, students, military; and free for visitors 18 and younger. Call 615-244-3340 for more information.