An exhibition of 42 paintings from the Vatican Museums’ Pinacoteca including the 12th century The Blessing Christ and Caravaggio’s The Deposition (1603-04), are going on show at the State Tretyakov Gallery in Moscow thanks to high-level diplomacy between Russian President Vladimir Putin and Pope Francis.
The official opening of the Vatican exhibition at the Tretyakov, called Roma Aeterna, was held yesterday (23 November) and will open to the public on 25 November (until 19 February). The Tretyakov will make a reciprocal loan to the Vatican in the autumn of 2017.
“This all happened due to the meeting between your leader Vladimir Putin and Pope Francis” Antonio Paolucci, the director of the Vatican Museums, told journalists in a video link with the Rossiya Segodnya state news agency when the project details were announced last month. He was referring to their first meeting in 2013, which launched talks on the exchange.
Among other masterpieces on show are Raphael’s depiction of Faith and Charity (1507) and Nicolas Poussin’s The Martyrdom of St. Erasmus (1628-29), which inspired a number of Russian artists who visited Rome.
The works on show “represent the best of the best from the Vatican collections,” Paolucci said. “This required quite a big sacrifice from the Vatican Museums because six million people visit the Vatican Museums annually. We took upon ourselves this responsibility, this voluntary sacrifice because that is a form of cultural cooperation, a form of mutual understanding and research that will of course be continued.” He added that Pope Francis “who knows of this exhibition, will be very happy; it is a sign of friendship between the Catholic and Orthodox churches.”
Pope Francis met earlier this year with Patriarch Kirill I at the airport in Havana, Cuba, the first-ever meeting between a pontiff and Russian Orthodox Church primate. At a meeting in Moscow on 22 November with Cardinal Kurt Koch, the president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, the Russian patriarch called the exhibition "a significant cultural event and, at the same time, an important factor for the development of our bilateral relations.”
Arkady Ippolitov of the State Hermitage Museum, the curator of Roma Aeterna, said that it is especially important for Russians to see Giovanni Bellini’s Lamentation Over the Dead Christ (1471-74) and The Miracle of St. Vincent Ferrer (1473) by Ercole de’Roberti. He told journalists that he was especially surprised that the Vatican agreed to loan the latter work.
The exhibition is funded by the Art, Science and Sport Charity Foundation of Alisher Usmanov, ranked by Forbes as Russia’s third-richest man with an estimated net worth of $12.5bn. Tregulova refused to disclose the cost of staging the exhibition. Online tickets are already sold out through the end of the year. In an effort to preclude the scalping that marred a record-breaking recent exhibition of seascapes by 19th-century painter Ivan Aivazovsky, the Tretyakov will be introducing non-transferable tickets.