ABU DHABI // Paintings by two masters of the Italian Renaissance have been acquired by the Louvre Abu Dhabi museum and were revealed last night at Manarat Al Saadiyat.
Madonna and Child by Giovanni Bellini, painted circa 1480-50, and Jacob's Journey by Jacopo Bassano, circa 1565-70, are both part of the key canon in the evolution of Renaissance painting.
The works have entered the permanent collection of the museum, which is a development of the Tourism Development and Investment Company and scheduled to open on Saadiyat Island in 2015.
Images of the works were shown at the fifth instalment of the Louvre Abu Dhabi Talking Art lectures and talks, a monthly platform that showcases the museum's acquisitions and invites speakers to discuss their relevancy to the region.
Previous events have announced collections of Buddhist sculpture, funerary artifacts from Pharaonic Egypt and art produced in the royal courts of the Muslim world.
Zaki Anwar Nusseibeh, the adviser to Ministry of Presidential Affairs and vice chairman of Abu Dhabi Authority for Culture and Heritage, emphasised the connection between Arab scholarship and the developments in science and the arts in Italy at that time.
"The outstanding achievements of the Renaissance rested on the rediscovery of Greek and Roman texts that had been transmitted through the Dark Ages by the great thinkers of Islamic civilisation," said Mr Nusseibeh.
He also noted the discoveries in the field of optics by Ibn Al Haytham, a scientist and polymath born in Basra in 965, which were instrumental in the development of depth and perspective in Renaissance painting.
Sophie Mouquin, the director of studies for the Ecole du Louvre, agreed, saying: "Renaissance art would have been unimaginable without this development in its visual language."
Mother and Child, depicting the Virgin Mary and the baby Jesus against a stark black background, "demonstrates a finesse of draftsmanship', said Laurence des Cars, the curatorial director of Agence France-Museums.
She called the work "an early masterpiece", and described its artist as, "embodying the transition to the modern, rational way of depiction that we call the Renaissance".
The work by Bassano, painted 80 years later, shows the return of the biblical Jacob to the land of Canaan, yet depicts it in a typical Venetian countryside environment of ochres, greys and bluish tints.
Speakers made connections between the merchant families who were keen patrons powering the boom in Italian art during the Renaissance, and the patronage taking place in the Gulf's art centres today.
Ms des Cars also reiterated the Louvre Abu Dhabi's aspirations to be a "universal museum".
The next instalment of the Louvre Abu Dhabi Talking Art Series, on March 28, will showcase acquisitions of Orientalist painting by western artists of the 18th century.