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Circa 1492: Art in the Age of Exploration

October 12, 1991 – January 12, 1992
East Building, Upper Level, West Bridge, Northwest, North Bridge, Northeast and Mezzanine, Northwest, North Terrace, Northeast

Hartmann Schedel, Michel Wolgemut, Wilhelm Pleydenwurff, and Albrecht Durer, Liber Chronicarum (Nuremberg Chronicle), published 1493, 1 vol: ill: 1,809 hand-colored woodcuts, printed from 645 different blocks, with Latin text on laid paper, Paul Mellon Collection, in Honor of the 50th Anniversary of the National Gallery of Art, 1991.7.1

This exhibition is no longer on view at the National Gallery.

Overview: More than 600 paintings, sculptures, prints, drawings, maps, scientific instruments, and decorative arts objects were brought together from 5 continents. The exhibition was a survey of the world's visual culture around 1492. Some works were exhibited in rotation and were not shown for the duration of the entire exhibition. Works were arranged in 3 sections: Europe and the Mediterranean World (Portugal, Spain, Italy, other parts of Europe, West Africa, and the Islamic world); Toward Cathay (Japan, Korea, China, and India); and The Americas (Aztec, Inca, and other cultures from what are now the West Indies, southeast United States, Costa Rica, and Colombia). Free exhibition passes were distributed at the Gallery on a first-come, first-served basis. Exhibition hours were extended on Friday and Saturday evenings until 8 p.m.

Organization: Jay Levenson served as the curator for exhibition. Gaillard Ravenel and Mark Leithauser designed the exhibition, and Gordon Anson designed the lighting.

Sponsor: The exhibition was made possible by a global consortium of corporations who were equal partners: Ameritech; Nomura Securities Co., Ltd./Mitsui Taiyo Kobe Bank, Ltd.; and Republic National Bank of New York. The Rockefeller Foundation, Banco Exterior de España (Grupo CBE), and an indemnity from the Federal Council on the Arts and the Humanities provided additional support for the exhibition.

Film: Masters of Illusion, produced and directed by Harper Films, Inc. The film was made possible by Canon, U.S.A./Canon Inc. A version in high definition video format also was shown daily. The National Gallery's high definition system was made possible by the Sony Corporation of America.

Attendance: 568,192

Catalog: Circa 1492: Art in the Age of Exploration, edited by Jay A. Levenson. Washington, DC: National Gallery of Art, 1991.

Brochure: Circa 1492: Art in the Age of Exploration, by Jay A. Levenson. Washington, DC: National Gallery of Art, 1991.

Download a free PDF of the exhibition catalog (PDF 238.6MB)