Though Renaissance-era prints are typically kept out of sight in museum vaults today, these decorative objects were once a central part of everyday life—used, abused, adored, and adorned by their owners. Through over 100 objects, this exhibition showcases how early print owners handled these versatile artworks, from annotating them or cutting and pasting them onto books, boxes, and walls to transforming them into three-dimensional objects.
The experimental world of printmaking in the mid-15th and 16th centuries inspired an array of related objects, including illustrated books, wearable ornaments, printed sundials, anatomical charts with liftable flaps, and devotional images. The rich and long-overlooked history of this era’s prints comes to life in this exhibition, which focuses on their various uses and functions in the past as reflected in their condition today.
Filling the Jean and Steven Goldman Prints and Drawings Galleries, Altered and Adorned features many unseen treasures from the Art Institute, as well as select objects from other Chicago institutions. An interactive Turning the Pages™ kiosk allows viewers to experience several of the illustrated volumes and albums on view in their entirety and in even greater detail.
Accompanying the exhibition is a lavishly illustrated full-color catalogue, featuring an art historical essay by Suzanne Karr Schmidt, exhibition curator and Andrew W. Mellon Curatorial Fellow, and a technical essay by associate paper conservator Kimberly Nichols.
Generous support is provided by members of the Exhibitions Trust: Goldman Sachs, Kenneth and Anne Griffin, Thomas and Margot Pritzker, the Earl and Brenda Shapiro Foundation, Donna and Howard Stone, Mr. and Mrs. Paul Sullivan, and an anonymous donor.