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Saturday 06 April 2024

Image: Holy Grail tapestries designed by William Morris, Edward Burne-Jones and John Henry Dearle in 1890, woven by Morris & Co 1898-99.

A major exhibition of over 350 works is currently at San Domenico Museum in Forli, Italy. Italian masters from Cimabue to Veronese are presented in dialogue with the British Pre-Raphaelites who followed in their footsteps.

Conceived as a conversation across time, the exhibition covers three generations of Pre-Raphaelites, a movement formed in 1848, and their Italian precedents, ranging from Venetian Gothic architecture and the `Primitive’ paintings displayed in London’s National Gallery to the sophisticated sensuality of Veronese and Titian. Paintings, sculptures, drawings, prints and photographs are displayed, together with over 50 design objects: furniture, ceramics, glass, metalwork, tapestries, wallpaper and jewellery. Design highlights include the four enormous Holy Grail tapestries designed by William Morris, Edward Burne-Jones and John Henry Dearle in 1890 and woven by Morris & Co 1898-99 and a grand piano decorated by Burne-Jones.

The exhibition is especially rich in works by Burne-Jones (32), Frederic Leighton (24) and John Ruskin (16). Women’s important, yet often overlooked, participation in the movement, is highlighted with work by Evelyn De Morgan, Elizabeth Siddal, Julia Margaret Cameron, Marie Spartali Stillman and Phoebe Anna Traquair. Also included are a dozen bronzes by the leaders of the ‘New Sculpture’ movement, including Alfred Gilbert and Edward Onslow Ford.

The labels and massive catalogue are only in Italian but there is an excellent audio tour in English. The museum was built in the 13th century as a Dominican convent which makes for some dramatic gallery spaces as this installation view of the Holy Grail tapestries attests.

The exhibition continues until 30 June, 2024. More details are available on the website .