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Exhibit of Portugal's Baroque Flaunts Dazzling Opulence

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THE Age of the Baroque in Portugal'' is a show of blockbuster appeal on a number of levels. This exhibition has that eye-popping glitz that amazes the lay viewer and art scholar alike. As a window into the history of Europe during the tumultuous centuries encompassing the discovery of the New World, the rise of entitled monarchies, and the gradual decline of same, this show is a must-see.

Debuting to critical raves earlier this year at the National Gallery of Art in Washington, the exhibition is now on view at the San Diego Museum of Art.

``The Age of the Baroque'' provides a look at the opulence that attended royal and noble life in 18th-century Portugal - exaggerated excesses tied to an abiding Portuguese Catholicism, but also reflecting the unspoken subtext of all art at this grandiose scale: the expression of power.

The indescribable wealth and self-conscious craftsmanship of the works in this fine show remind us of the international sophistication of a little sliver of a country that was by the 1700s a major world player, influencing and being influenced by the highest culture and global politics of its day.

The show's 120 works include crown jewels laden with enough diamonds, rubies, and precious metals to dazzle; furniture; sacramental objects; scientific instruments; and silver work, all executed with unabashed lavish.

The reign of Portugal's King John V represents the apogee of this age of luxury. King John was the learned cosmopolitan King who, though he never left Portugal, aspired in the early 1700s to duplicate the absolute power and art patronage of France's Louis XIV. A commemorative pendant commissioned by King John is adorned with 400 perfect good-sized diamonds, 102 rubies, and a large perfect sapphire.


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