The very suggestive painting Street Musicians by Bernardo Strozzi, on view at the Portland Art Museum.
  • The very suggestive painting "Street Musicians" by Bernardo Strozzi, on display at the Portland Art Museum.

The last thing you probably want to do on this sunny Friday is spend the evening in a drafty museum, HOWEVER: Today is Free Fourth Friday at the Portland Art Museum! Really short notice—it starts in T-1/2 hour—but it goes until 8 pm, and there's a great exhibit, “Venice: The Golden Age of Art and Music" currently on display. Although the rest of the museum is free, the Venice exhibit is $5 (cheap!), and it does an excellent job as a period survey of the Golden Age (roughly, 1500s-1700s). Included are some stunning and stunningly obscure instruments (see: archlutes). There are incredible, elaborate illuminated manuscripts. There are wacky processional outfits. And, at the top of the list, there are some fantastic, dynamic drawings by Giovanni Battista Tiepolo on the bottom floor of the museum.

There's no big heavyhitters of the period, like, say Titian, in the exhibit, but, it's totally worthwhile nonetheless. The skill in everything is still mind-blowing; I left the show dazzled, wondering: where have all the craftsmen gone (a la)? Things have obviously changed for Venice since the Golden Age: namely, it has become an unsustainable sinking shithole, so it’s interesting to see an image of the way things were, to see a proud city, reveling in its decadence and its painters. “Venice: The Golden Age of Art and Music" opened earlier this month, and runs through May 11 (Portland is the only United States stop for the show's tour).

For a preview of the show, check out this spunky trailer:

Catch it if you can.