Museum Visit | Strange Beauty in the Italian Renaissance * Sold Out*

Ted Barrow at The Morgan Library & Museum

Fri, Jan 4 at 7 p.m.   |   90 minutes

What can we learn from this enigmatic work? How does art change over time? And what might the siege of Florence teach us about the perseverance of beauty and ideas in the midst of political turmoil today?

"Like the fella says, in Italy for 30 years under the Borgias they had warfare, terror, murder, and bloodshed, but they produced Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci, and the Renaissance. In Switzerland they had brotherly love - they had 500 years of democracy and peace, and what did that produce? The cuckoo clock." --Harry Lime, The Third Man, 1949



Many art historians consider the second quarter of the 16th century as a period of bizarre anxiety brought about by the sack of Rome and the siege of Florence. The recent loan of Pontormo's "Visitation" from the church of San Michele e San Francesco, outside of Florence, Italy, to the Morgan Library in New York, offers the unique chance to re-examine this period of doubt, anxiety, and strange beauty that produced this work. The artist, Pontormo, was described as deeply neurotic, and left behind very little explanation of this work. Yet, in this Olio, we'll piece together this strangely superficial and beautifully enigmatic style of painting that came about in a period of great political crisis, where core values like democracy and republicanism were challenged and ultimately replaced by tyrannical oligarchy.

Pontormo's Visitation also has an interesting hauntology: some of you may recognize this image as the painting that hangs behind the bed of Tony and Carmela Soprano in HBO's The Sopranos. It was a painting created under the turmoil of siege and in the high-pressure cooker of the Renaissance.


Join art historian, Ted Barrow for an Olio that explores the painting's afterlife, today. What can we learn from this enigmatic work? How does art change over time? And what might the siege of Florence teach us about the perseverance of beauty and ideas in the midst of political turmoil today? We'll explore all of these questions directly in front of the painting in question.


Teacher: Ted Barrow

Ted Barrow teaches in Barnard College's Pre-College Program over the summer, focusing on the relationship between art and film in New York City, and has taught art history courses at Baruch, City College, the College of Staten Island, and Brooklyn College. Barrow currently teaches at Cooper Union, and runs a popular satirical Instagram account about skateboarding (@feedback_ts).


Venue: The Morgan Library & Museum

What is Think Olio?


Think Olio is here to put the liberation back into the liberal arts.

Classically, the liberal arts, were the education considered essential for a free person to take an active part in civic life. To counter a humanities that has been institutionalized and dehumanized we infuse critical thinking, openness, playfulness, and compassion into our learning experience.

Read more about our mission, our story, and how we are doing this.

Scenius Membership

If Friday night lectures, museum field trips, and living room salons sound like your kind of thing, then you've found your people. We can't wait to welcome you to the Think Olio Scenius. More info


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Olio: A miscellaneous collection of art and literature.