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       Updated:2017-10-17      Text:Large /  Medium  /  Small  

 Mona Lisa

Miracle: The Bellini Family and the Renaissance features relics and artworks from the private collection of the Bellini family and the Museo Ideale Leonardo da Vinci. 

An ongoing exhibition offers a view of art collections from the Renaissance years. Zhang Kun reports in Shanghai.

Francesca Bellini was seen strolling around a large hall in Shanghai in late September with a towel in hand to wipe 16th-century tables and cabinets kept there as part of an exhibition.

The show, Miracle: The Bellini Family and the Renaissance, opened at Shanghai Himalayas Museum on Sept 28, with five exhibition halls designed to replicate wealthy Italian households during the period.

The exhibits, nearly 460 daily objects and artworks, include original creations by Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo and Raphael. The displayed items are from the private collection of the Bellini family and the Museo Ideale Leonardo da Vinci.

The exhibition was popular in China during the National Day holiday week earlier this month when visitors formed long lines to get a glimpse of the displayed items.

Francesca and her husband, Luigi Bellini, are the 21st generation of the Bellini family from Florence, Italy. Through six centuries, the family has put together a huge collection of antiques and artwork. This is the first time these pieces are being shown in China, where the halls have been designed in the style of the family's sitting room, dining room, saloon, prayer room and bedrooms. The family even brought five original door frames from its gallery in Florence for the China show.

At the center of one of the exhibition halls, a large bed frame is placed that once belonged to the Medici family. A villa was bought by his grandfather from the Medicis and the bed was from that estate, Luigi Bellini tells China Daily.

The Medici family was an important patron of great artists during the Renaissance, such as Botticelli, Da Vinci and Michelangelo. But the family declined in the 18th century and many of the collected artworks had either scattered or were lost.

The Bellini family has managed to continue to develop its collection, and accumulate by now around 10,000 pieces through six centuries, Luigi Bellini says.

Shen Qibin, director of the Shanghai Himalayas Museum, worked together with the Bellini couple as co-curator of the exhibition. To best represent the glory of the Renaissance age, Shen has adopted virtual reality technology to re-create the domed roof of the Museo Ideale Leonardo da Vinci.

The Bellini family's heritage can be a source of inspiration for modern wealthy Chinese who are into collecting art.

And in this regard, the Himalayas Museum hopes to establish a long-term cooperation with the Bellinis, says Shen.

"The Bellini family's collection will go on tour to other cities of China, too" he says.

The tour will seek to introduce the family to wider sections of Chinese society.

"We want to promote the core idea of the Renaissance," Shen says. "Contemporary China shares a lot in common with the Renaissance period in Italy. Although this is an exhibition largely focused on antique artworks, it is highly relevant to today's China. That's why we decided to have the exhibition in the country."

The museum in Vinci, Leonardo's birthplace in the province of Florence, has been dedicated to research and study of Da Vinci for a long time. It has brought to the exhibition in Shanghai a 1.11-meter-tall sandstone sculpture by Michelangelo, Arrotino Lanfranchi, depicting a kneeling man sharpening his knife. Also among the artworks on display in Shanghai are original paintings by Raphael and Da Vinci, as well as other important artists during the Renaissance.

The exhibition also includes a series of later artworks inspired by Mona Lisa, from a copy of the masterpiece dating to the 16th century, to the creations of more modern artists such as Marcel Duchamp, Andy Warhol and Salvador Dali.

Alessandro Vezzosi, director of the Museo Ideale Leonardo da Vinci, explains that this section presents Da Vinci and his masterpiece in the perspective of artistic history.

Also Vezzosi has brought to the exhibition prints, publications and physical models made after Da Vinci's designs, to show the "great man of the Renaissance" not only as an artist, but also an engineer, inventor, scientist and architect.