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From Picasso's Christ on the Cross to Van Gogh's Pieta, a new exhibition in Italy reveals the revival and radical revision of sacred art after the Age of Enlightenment, all thanks to a revolutionary pope. "The Divine Beauty," an exhibition now up at Florence's Strozzi Palace, throws fresh light on religious art produced between the middle of the 19th and 20th centuries. It was Pope Pius IX (1792-1878) who encouraged this period of innovation in the arts.The call to find a modern vocabulary for Christian art led to an explosion of new styles and in some cases total abandonment of classical figuration. In a second etching of the same work in the collection, the figure is framed by sperm, wriggling toward a fetus with a skeletal head, an echo of the figure in Munch's now iconic painting "The Scream". Pope Francis has said the Chagall is one of his favorite paintings.
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