Opening of the exhibition “Italian painting
and sculpture of the Baroque epoch in the State Hermitage collection”
in the Hermitage-Vyborg Exhibition Centre
On 30 September 2011, in the Hermitage-Vyborg Centre the exhibition “Italian painting and sculpture of the Baroque epoch in the State Hermitage collection” opened. It includes 25 paintings and 34 sculptures from the museum collection, some of which are exhibited for the first time.
The artistic language and style of the paintings and sculptures created in Italy in the 17th and first half of the 18th century is varied and sometimes contradictory: from sharp and dramatic naturalism, to illusionistic, dynamic, or thought out classic. The Baroque style became very clear in the synthesis of architecture, sculpture and painting, in monumental city ensembles, in paintings for churches and courtyards and altarpieces. The main schools of the period were Rome, Bologna, Florence and Venice.
The 17th century Hermitage collection of Italian paintings is one of the most significant outside the Apennine Peninsula. A real art innovator was Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio. His work, seeped in the traditions of north Italian Renaissance, is permeated with deep humanism and, in many ways, determined the development of 17th century art and influenced artists in all areas of Italy and Western Europe. The Roman artist Antiveduto Grammatica painted “Mary Magdalene at the Tomb” under the influence of Caravaggio’s paintings. Fabrizio Santafede continued the Caravaggio tradition in Naples. At the same time a new direction developed in Italy, which became known as Bolognese academism. The Accademia degli Incamminati (Academy of the Progressives), founded by Ludovico Carracci and his cousins Annibale and Agostino, became the foundation of the European art education system, where particular attention was paid to drawing, composition, anatomy and the study of classicism. The exhibition has works from masters of the Bolognese School: Guido Reni, Guercino (Giovanni Francesco Barbieri), Simone Cantarini and Marcantonio Franceschini. One of the leading 17th century Roman painters was Pietro da Cortona. He was a talented artist as well as architect. His painting Christ Appearing to Mary Magdalene, on view at the exhibition, is a rare example or the artist working on wood. Roman artists of the second half of the 17th century, Giovanni Francesco Romanelli, Pier Francesco Mola, Carlo Maratta, rejected the emotional visual language of Baroque for clear and strict classicism. In Maratta’s work “Madonna with a Book”, free painting, peculiar to Baroque, is united with a clear and thought out concept, fundamental for 18th century neoclassicism.
Two of the best works are represented by the Florence school, “Andromeda” by Francesco Furini and “Saint Catherine of Alexandria” by Carlo Dolci.
In the second half of the century the Neapolitan school blossomed. Its most famous artist was Luca Giordano, the small painting, sketch “Saint Jerome in the Desert” is from his late period, when King Charles II invited Giordano to Spain to work in Madrid and El Escorial. “Saint Vincent Ferrer” is a typical example of Baroque painting by Francesco Solimena. One of the first Genovese school artists, whose works were known in Russia during his life, was Alessandro Magnasco. The theme of his painting, “Bandits Stopping Place” is close to Dutch and Flemish art of the 17th century, whose influence helped Genovese art to blossom.
Sculptures, created in Rome between 1600 and 1750, make up the main part of the Vyborg exhibition. Gian Lorenzo Bernini was a great Italian Baroque artist, whose many talents were fully expressed in architecture and sculpture. The exhibition has two different kinds of his works from the Hermitage collection. “Tritons with Dolphins” is one of the early designs (bozzetto) for a fountain group intended for Navona square in Rome. Despite the sketchy character of the model, the sculpture shows features of Bernini’s work: his talent can be seen in the strained muscles and the uncomfortable pose, from which the tritons overcome resistance from the dolphins who are trying to escape. In the image of “Blessed Ludovica Albertoni” two conditions of the nun are expressively and ornately united: deathbed suffering and religious ecstasy. Bernini’s high artistic achievements are particularly visible in comparing his works with a replica of a statue made by one of his students.
Particularly interesting are the terracotta models of portrait busts, made by Bernini’s sole rival, Alessandro Algardi. Designed to be transferred to marble, they preserve the softness and spontaneity which arise when working with nature.
Apart from the main group of masters from the Eternal City, who dictated the development of Baroque statues, the exhibition includes works created in Florence and Venice. Bronze sculptures by Giovanni Battista Foggini and Giuseppe Piamontini are examples of the Florentine sculpture school. The golden patina which decorates Piamontini’s statue “Faun and Kid” is of particular interest: it is typical for Florence in particular. The Flemish sculptor Giusto Le Court, who was familiar with Bernini’s style, discovered the new Roman style in Venice. The sculpture group “Fight between the Lapiths and the Centaurs” by Francesco Bertos is an example of sculpture from the collection of Peter I.
All terracotta works are from the collection of the abbot Filippo Farsetti, who as well as traditional models with classic sculptures and masters from the recent past (Michelangelo, Bernini, Algardi, Rusconi, Le Gros), was the first to collect models and bozzetto by 17th and 18th century masters. Ca' Farsetti museum, open to the public in an old Palazzo on the banks of the Canal Grande, was visited by the future emperor Pavel I, who then bought a unique collection of sculptures for the Academy of Arts. In 1919 a large number of models by the new masters were given to the Hermitage. To this day the only rival to the Hermitage to such a rich collection of its kind, is the collection of the Museum of Palazzo Venezia in Rome.
Exhibition curators - Sergey Olegovich Androsov, doctor of art history, Head of Western European Fine Art Department of the State Hermitage and Tatyana Borisovna Bushmina, senior researcher of the Western European Fine Art Department of the State Hermitage.
An illustrated catalogue has been published for the exhibition, by the
publishing house Slavia, Saint Petersburg. Authors on: