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Got pope fever? You’ll want to check out this Art Gallery of Ontario exhibit

Art Gallery of Ontario: Revealing the Early Renaissance, Giotto di Bondone, Italian, about 1266 – 1337. The Peruzzi Altarpiece Tempera and gold leaf on panel 105.7 x 250.2 cm. From the North Carolina Museum of Art

As the Caped Crusader's sidekick Robin might put it: "Holy cross-promotion, Batman!"

Seven thousand kilometres from Toronto, in the Sistine Chapel, we have 115 cardinals choosing a new pontiff, bringing unprecedented attention to the rituals and pageantry of Roman Catholicism. Meanwhile, as serendipity (or divine providence?) would have it, the Art Gallery of Ontario is set to open a major exhibition of more than 90 artifacts from 14th-century Florence that celebrate all things Roman Catholic.

Titled Revealing the Early Renaissance: Stories and Secrets in Florentine Art, the show – a veritable explosion of gold leaf – includes paintings, illuminated manuscripts, stained glass and sculpture lent from 40 institutions, including the Vatican.

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Toronto is its only Canadian stop (March 16-June 16), following a successful four-month showcase at Los Angeles's J. Paul Getty Museum.

Don't go expecting masterworks by Leonardo, Botticelli and Fra Angelico, however. Those Florentine artists came on the scene 100 to 150 years later than the artists featured here, the most famous being Giotto di Bondone, who is represented by four works, the most ever gathered in one Canadian venue.

Indeed, it's his Peruzzi Altarpiece, on loan for the first time to a Canadian institution from the North Carolina Museum of Art, that's the show's knockout.

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James More


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