Exhibition is hailed as “the most ambitious show in the museum’s history” bringing to Fairfield treasures from the Church of the Gesù that have never before left Rome
Bernini did something amazing but, fascinatingly and most unexpectedly, it’s only at Fairfield that the Saint has come truly alive for me.
— Luke Syson, Iris and B. Gerald Cantor Curator in Charge of the Department of European Sculpture and Decorative Arts, The Metropolitan Museum of Art
Students, alumni, faculty, staff, friends, benefactors, art historians, critics, enthusiasts and journalists from near and far descended upon campus last week for the highly anticipated opening of Fairfield University Art Museum’s (FUAM) international loan exhibition, The Holy Name—Art of the Gesù: Bernini and his Age.
A press preview on Wednesday morning, January 31 was the first of official events followed by a cocktail reception and exhibition preview hosted by President Mark R. Nemec, PhD, later that evening.
On Thursday, February 1, a lender’s luncheon launched the exhibition’s opening and preceded an evening lecture by Gauvin Alexander Bailey, PhD, Professor and Bader Chair in Southern Baroque Art, Queen’s University, Ontario. Distinguished scholars serving on the exhibition planning committee were among a full house of at least 300 people who packed the Dolan School of Business dining room, standing room only, for Dr. Bailey’s lecture, Art of the Gesù: Bernini and his Age, followed by an opening reception in Bellarmine Hall to celebrate The Holy Name—Art of the Gesù: Bernini and his Age, on view in FUAM’s Bellarmine Hall Galleries until May 19.
There has been no shortage of press coverage for the long awaited exhibition, which is generating headlines in national and international publications including Art Daily, The Art Newspaper, Real Clear Arts and Jesuit publications America and Jesuits. Catholic News Agency, Commonweal, National Catholic Reporter, Aleteia and Catholic New York have also featured the exhibition.
Of Fairfield’s ambitious undertaking to borrow treasures that have never left Rome from the Gesù, the Jesuits’ mother church, renowned art critic Judith Dobrzynski wrote, “As great projects often do, the amazing exhibition at the Fairfield University Art Museum began with an impossible dream.” Dobrzynski’s article entitled, “Magnificent Gesù Exhibit: Ask and You Shall Receive,” recounts how the chief curator and director of the Fairfield University Art Museum, Linda Wolk-Simon, PhD, asked to borrow, among other items, Bernini’s marble masterpiece of Cardinal Roberto Bellarmino, the patron saint of Fairfield University, on the occasion of Fairfield’s 75th anniversary. Bernini’s Bellarmine bust, which typically sits high above the Gesù’s altar, can be seen at eye-level in the Bellarmine Hall Galleries for the next three months.
Chairman of the Met’s European Sculpture and Decorative Arts department, Luke Syson, also wrote about the extraordinary exhibition and viewing the Bernini masterpiece:
“Today I witnessed an object I’d previously categorized as a work of baroque art...spiritually recharged to become the animate patron saint of this Jesuit university…At Fairfield, it’s not just that one can see him properly for the first time, though that’s absolutely marvelous. It’s also, and more importantly, that he could only have traveled there—the Jesuit authorities would never have supported a loan to somewhere else and requests to borrow the piece by larger, grander, older museums have always been turned down. They were right. Here he’s turned into the living Saint Robert Bellarmine rather than the long-dead seventeenth-century cleric known for having put a spoke in Galileo’s scientific wheel…
Bernini makes him embody a combination of deep thought and profound belief. His fingers scintillate in prayer. The fierce muscles above his eyebrows express his brain power. It’s an extraordinary piece of characterization. Bernini did something amazing but, fascinatingly and most unexpectedly, it’s only at Fairfield that the Saint has come truly alive for me.”
For more information, visit fairfield.edu/museum/gesu.