Vatican Museums bring their masterpieces to the Tretyakov Gallery

Vatican Museums bring their masterpieces to the Tretyakov Gallery
This is only one part of a larger project. Next year, the Tretyakov Gallery will pay a return visit to the Vatican. Most of the exhibits will include Russian art inspired by the Gospels.

The Tretyakov Gallery is presenting a new exhibition: Roma Aeterna. Masterpieces of the Vatican Pinakothek. Bellini, Raphael, Caravaggio. It will remain open from 25 November 2016 through 19 February 2017 in the Inzhenerny Building at 12 Lavrushinsky Pereulok. This is the largest project in recent years, an unprecedented international undertaking which will be an important event for Russia, Europe and the entire world. In 2017, the Tretyakov Gallery will take its collection of Russian art inspired by the Gospels to the Vatican.

For the first time, the Vatican museums, which own one of the world’s top ten largest collections, have brought some of their best works – masterpieces of the 12th–18th centuries – to Russia. The 42 paintings on display include works by Giovanni Bellini, Melozzo da Forlì, Perugino, Raphael, Caravaggio, Guido Reni, Guercino and Nicolas Poussin.

The title of the exhibition includes a Latin expression, “Roma Aeterna,” which means “Eternal Rome.” The name reflects the perception of this city throughout human history, a city that is ancient and yet young, that brought together such different eras as Antiquity, the Middle Ages, and the Renaissance. The Eternal City became the centre of the empire, religion and art, and the notion of Roma Aeterna is one of the most important ideas in world culture. The collection itself is diverse, as is the culture of Rome.

Each piece is exceptional. The exhibition opens with a rare work dating back to the Roman school of the 12th century – Christ Blessing – which had never before left the Vatican. It is close to Byzantine art and reveals common roots of Italian and Russian art.

St Francis of Assisi, by the 13th century artist Margaritone d'Arezzo, features prominently in all art history textbooks and is one of the earliest depictions of this saint, who played an important role in the history of the Western Church. The current Pope, the first Francis in the history of the Vatican, chose this name for himself.

The collection also includes works by Gothic masters who are poorly represented in Russian collections. Among these is, Jesus before Pilate by Pietro Lorenzetti, which is reminiscent of the famous painting by Nikolai Ge.


Two predellas tell stories from the lives of St Nicholas, and of Archbishop of Myra in Lycia, who is revered by the Orthodox Church and the Catholic Church. One of the most interesting works of Ercole de Roberti, the greatest master of the school of Ferrara Miracles of Saint Vincenzo Ferrer, and Lamentation by Venetian Giovanni Bellini, date back to the height of the Renaissance. These artists are not represented in the Russian museums either.

The frescoes by one of the greatest painters, Quattrocento Melozzo da Forlì, depict angels, which are reproduced in great numbers on souvenirs and have become a hallmark of Rome. His paintings were removed from the dome of the apse of the Holy Apostles Church in Rome during the reconstruction of the church, and are now displayed in a special room in the Pinakothek.

The exposition ends with paintings of the 18th century. Pictures by Donato Creti from Bologna focus on astronomical observations and round off the history of Lo Stato Pontificio – Papal States, which soon ceased to exist and became the Vatican – Lo Stato della Città del Vaticano.