Museum Visit | Strange Beauty in the Italian Renaissance

Jacopo da Pontormo (1494–1556), Visitation

"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.





Location: The Morgan Library & Museum

225 Madison Avenue at 36th Street, New York, NY 10016

The mission of The Morgan Library & Museum is to preserve, build, study, present, and interpret a collection of extraordinary quality, in order to stimulate enjoyment, excite the imagination, advance learning, and nurture creativity.




Interdisciplinary Learning with the Best Professors


Think Olio is not about learning a new skill or adding credentials to your resume. It is about getting together with other people and expanding our worldview. It exists as a conduit for fruitful discussions, a dissent from the regurgitation of facts, and an embrace of new perspectives.


Learn about joining the Scenius for $10 / month



Other upcoming Olios


Dec 28

New Year’s House Party | Remembering 1919 – A Hellish Year

Taught by Lawrence Cappello
7:30 p.m. at Living Room

Sign Up - $15

Dec 29

Scenius Summit 2019: No Professor New Year's Weekend

Taught by
noon at OlioHouse | Wassaic, NY

Sign Up - $100

Jan 11

Somebody to Love: A Feminist Reading of Freddie Mercury

Taught by Jamie Warren
7 p.m. at Strand Bookstore

Sign Up - $20

Jan 22

Living Room Salon | Our Struggle with Free Will

Taught by Jeanne Proust
7:30 p.m. at Living Room

Sign Up - $15

Jan 24

Living Room Salon | Tough Poetry in Dark Times

Taught by Geoff Klock
7:30 p.m. at Living Room

Sign Up - $15

Feb 2

OlioHouse | Our Stories, Our Bodies: Rape Culture in American History

Taught by Jamie Warren
noon at OlioHouse | Wassaic, NY

Sign Up - $150

Feb 9

OlioHouse | The Love Symposium

Taught by Skye Cleary
noon at OlioHouse | Wassaic, NY

Sign Up - $150

Feb 15

Philosophy and Friendship

Taught by Jeanne Proust
7 p.m. at Strand Bookstore

Sign Up - $20


Find out when we launch new classes!