Posted on Jan 30, 2004

Francesco Maffei's Annunciation,
oil on canvas, 17th century Italian

selection of Old Master paintings from the private collection of Seena and
Arnold Davis is on exhibit through March 14 in the Mandeville
Gallery at the Nott Memorial.

exhibit is a rich, visually dazzling example of high medieval art that resounds
with passion and color.

45 years ago, the Davises began collecting paintings for their home. In time,
they narrowed their focus to 16th-century European Old Masters and
earlier. Currently, their collection numbers approximately 250 paintings and

Davis collection also represents a rich repository of art
history, academic research, and good old-fashioned detective work. The Davises spent countless hours tracing the “provenance,
origins and attributions” of each new acquisition. They plumbed the knowledge
of art historians and museum curators here and abroad and in that process,
built an impressive library of their own.

particular selection of works provides a unique view of the role and attitude
toward women in Renaissance and Baroque Europe (c. 1400 to 1700). A number of
small-scale works, intended for domestic display, portray the duality of woman
as virgin/seductress. This theme fairly dominates the religious art of the
time, especially with innumerable images of the Virgin Mary.

works also portrayed cautionary tales or morality guides of what vices to avoid
and what virtues to emulate. The symbolism is conveyed in images (white lilies,
red roses, etc.) and colors so even the illiterate could comprehend the
message. Such artwork was also designed to encourage prayer and meditation in
the home.

the female nude was associated with eroticism and created almost exclusively
for an elite audience of educated men, many in the upper ranks of the church
hierarchy. However, depiction of Christ's nudity symbolized his human

more on the show, visit: