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ექსპოზიციის თემატიკა



ექსპოზიციის თემატიკა

The invention of the genre scene: The landscape or "veduta" and the still life

During the seventeenth century, the representation of nature or "vedutism" became an independent subject. The artistic interest for landscape originated from a general sentiment for nature which beauty evoked a sort of nostalgia towards a past that had long been lost. During the previous centuries, great masters such as Vittore Carpaccio, Giovanni Bellini, Leonardo da Vinci, Palma il Vecchio, Tiziano or Jacopo Bassano had proven themselves pioneers in experimenting and interpreting architectures and landscapes as cardinal expressions of their compositions. Starting from the second half of the sixteenth century, with the progressive specialization of art workshops, the landscape becomes a subject that was codified as a genre articulated according to different categories (country-sides, seascapes, urban views) and different styles. The works here on display reveal how the landscape slowly became a topos starting with the Renaissance within sacred and profane compositions, reaching step by step its own autonomy in the hierarchy of pictorial genres, starting from Nicolas Poussin at the beginning of the Seicento, and reaching its peak one century later with Canaletto.

Active in Venice, during the sixteenth century, Bonifacio de Pitati (Verona 1487 ca. - Venice 1553), (and his circle), proposes a composition depicting human deeds inserted within nostalgic and lush environments. A poetic narrative filled with saints, shepherds and domestic animals anticipating the poetics of the Palmas and the Bassanos. As exemplified by the painting Madonna with child, saint Dorotea and saint Catherine, the representation is luxuriant and the nature is of great atmospheric transparency conveying a sense of human beauty and Christian charity. The nocturnal annunciation to the shepherds executed by a seventeenth century painter active in the Bassano’s workshop, stands out for its chromatic and chiaroscuro effects. It is in fact a vivid work pervaded by human sentiment. The imaginative stories typical of the Bassano’s manner are cleverly articulated within landscapes that structurally present the same importance of the figures. Half a century later, Antonio Carneo (Concordia Sagittaria 1636 - Portogruaro 1692) was much appreciated for his swift and natural brushstroke, with compositions of a naturalistic and sometimes rustic taste pervaded with a restless, passionate and extraordinarily modern perception of reality; all characteristics that we find in his Wayfarers. Carneo experimented with a visionary and often dramatic pictorial vision, bringing substance and curiosity to the development of seventeenth century genre painting.

As for landscape, still life compositions ceased to be a mere subsidiary elements within history paintings during the Renaissance, therefore acquiring their own aesthetic and moral identity. If still life representations from the Netherlands were centered on the transience of life (Vanitas) depicting close-ups of dried fruit, skulls, and hourglasses - allusions to an ineluctable mortality and allegories to human vanity - in Italy the artists preferred instead to paint collections of flowers and fruits as allegories of seasons or cycles of nature and human emotions. Between the end of the sixteenth century and the beginning of the seventeenth century, the still life genre became a very popular throughout the peninsula thanks to artists such as Annibale Carracci, Caravaggio, Michelangelo Cerquozzi, Mario dei Fiori, Vincenzo Campi and Pier Francesco Cittadini known as il Milanese (Milan 1613/1616 - Bologna 1681), whose work Still Life with Candied Fruit and Seasonal Fruit skillfully reveals the pleasure of interpreting the effects of light on fruit and textiles surfaces, through the use of a "lenticular" manner that results in an almost tactile and olfactory emotion. Finally, we present four magnificent sketches illustrating views of the city of Venice realized by Antonio Canal, known as Canaletto (Venice 1697 - 1768). Although his works are still imbued with idealism - which translates into overexposed compositions permeated with bright and luminous tones - they depict everyday scenes, staged almost as theatrical sets, immersed into singing and carefree atmospheres, but where the visual perception nevertheless reveals an unconditional optical accuracy in complete antithesis with the whirling movements of the Rococo, by then at its sunset.

The portrait: between sacred and profane

In Italy, portraiture as an autonomous pictorial genre developed from the end of the fifteenth century when society, culture and religion all complied in recognizing "Man" at the center of the universe. Until then, the celebratory practice of portraits had been a prerogative exclusively dedicated to saints, prelates and nobles. From the beginning of the Renaissance and with the circulation of ideas related to the humanistic movement - legitimized by the artistic production of masters such as Antonello da Messina, Vittore Carpaccio and Piero della Francesca - this genre had consolidated both in the experimentation of compositions of a mystical nature, as symbolic representations of the human conscience (i.e. the Salvator Mundi by Antonello da Messina at the National Gallery in London), and in the recognition of the bourgeois social class as a reflection of a new values attributed to the single individuals (which most famous examples can be considered the self-portrait with fur by Albrecht Dürer at the Alte Pinakothek of Munich and the Portrait of Baldassare Castiglione by Raphael in the Louvre). Beside the "political" or "monumental" portraits (of which great examples were realized by Tiziano, Domenichino, Ferdinand Voet, Giovan Lorenzo Bernini etc…) and the portraits so called of "apparatus" (for which we can cite other great masters including Andrea del Sarto, Raphael, Leonardo da Vinci, Lorenzo Lotto, Tintoretto etc…) soon the practice of allegorical and sacred portraiture started to spread, that is the representation of biblical and mythological characters depicted individually and often "zoomed" in close-up representations, using dramatic and highly humanized effects (and of which formidable interpreters were Guercino, Domenichino, José de Ribera, Veronese, Domenico Fetti and Morazzone, to name a few…). As a result, the portrait genre, in its various meanings, took on in a celebratory, realistic and highly dramatic value, becoming a real introspective investigation of the human nature, revealing an image of marked individuality and of profound self-awareness.

Here, the iconographic model of the half-length portrait is illustrated in an antithetical manner by two portraits of anonymous characters realized a few decades aside, respectively by Jacopo Tintoretto and by a close follower of Genoese painter Bernardo Strozzi (Genoa 1581/82 - Venice 1644). The Portrait of a Gentleman with a beard, featuring a noble figure clearly belonging to the aristocratic Venetian class of the time. Jacopo Robusti, known as Tintoretto (Venice 1519-1594), here painted a work of "apparatus", a refined execution with refined luminous contrasts that reveal a dynamic, vivid and palpitating humanity. In contrast, Head of Old Woman reveals a highly unconventional vision of a crude and anti-heroic realism and in which the intensity of psychological investigation seems to anticipate by almost a century the ruthlessly and revolutionary language of Francisco de Goya.

The Prophet Jeremiah by Pier Francesco Mazzucchelli known as Morazzone (Morazzone 1573 - Piacenza? 1626) belongs instead to the genre of the "sacred" portraits. The work presents a forced and compressed close-up where the prophet seems to be about to cross the edge of the canvas. The chiaroscuro contrasts between the white of the turban and the face of the prophet, absorbed in his thoughts and enveloped in semi darkness, highly exacerbates the dramatic effect emphasizing the sacredness of the moment.

Finally, the magnificent depictions of the senses executed by German-born painter Johann Heinrich Schönfeld (who lived and worked many years in Italy, between Rome, Naples and Venice) can be considered of allegorical nature. The compositions Taste and Smell are a clear example of the combination and influence between different styles and artistic traditions, in an original combination of German realism and Neapolitan Caravaggism inspired by the painter José de Ribera.

Naturalism and Classicism: divine, myth and allegory

Starting from the second half of the sixteenth century and until the first half of the eighteenth century, paintings of historical, biblical, mythological and allegorical subjects were considered both symbol of truth, in the interpretation of reality and the expression of earthly morality. The stories of sacred subjects, great battles and mythological divinities were commissioned to be represented by the arts in the binary aim of being celebrated as the symbol of the power of the Church and of the great noble families as to affirm the idea that man and nature were the manifestations of divine perfection (contrarily to the iconoclastic convictions of the Protestant Reformation). As evidenced by the Saint Francis and the angel by Lorenzo Lippi (Florence 1606 -1 665) - which features the last threads of classicism hailing from the lesson of Guido Reni. A different example of this dialectics can be found in the painting entitiled The Iron Age by Pietro Berettini, called Pietro da Cortona (Cortona 1597 - Rome 1669), a typically baroque composition in which the figures are arranged in a swirling spiral motion. Clearly, the drama of the massacre takes place in the ruins of an ancient temple, dominated by dark clouds of smoke coming from a distant burning city. On the left, the statue of a deity (maybe Ceres the goddess of the Earth) as the last vestige of a broken and lost "grandeur".

On a different plan we can regard at the works: Venus, Cupid, Ceres, Bacchus (Sine Cerere et Baccho friget Venus,) executed by a Venetian painter active at the beginning of the seventeenth century - who was certainly active in Titian’s workshop if we consider the compositional similarity with the masterpieces Venus blinfolding Cupid, today at the Galleria Borghese in Rome - and the Sleeping Venus with Cupids, by Daniel Seiter (Vienna 1647 - Turin 1705). Both paintings are executed following the principles of classical literary models expressed in the works of Virgil and Ovid in which the ideal of pastoral and bucolic life was celebrated and inspired to the "Arcadia"; a nostalgic evocation of a lost time in which man and nature coexisted in perfect harmony.

On the contrary, Amorous scene by Pietro Muttoni known as Pietro della Vecchia (Venice 1603 - 1678) expresses an interpretation of human nature that is both idealistic and realistic. The painting can be defined as a "fantasy scene", a free and witty (almost disturbing) gaze on reality, expressed by a strong chiaroscuro tension clearly inspired to Caravaggio, although compensated by brilliant chromatic tones and soft contours.

Three centuries of sacred painting: from the Counter-Reformation to the Rococo

Following the Protestant Reformation initiated by Martin Luther and the consequent Council of Trent (1545–1563) undertaken by the Catholic Church, the subjects favored by Christian art often aimed at highlighting the theological differences between Catholicism and Protestantism, focusing on the mysteries of the faith or illustrating the roles and miracles of the Virgin and Saints. In order to minimize the effects of the Reform, the Roman church denied the Lutheran thesis that supported any individual interpretation of the Holy Scriptures, establishing that the divine revelation was not only contained in the Bible, but could also be interpreted by the Pope himself, supported in unison by the clergy. To this end, the commissions for new architectures, works of art, altarpieces and frescoes in churches and noble palaces were multiplied exponentially, at first in Rome, then in Italy, and later throughout Europe. Catholicism strongly believed in the educational and inspirational power of visual arts, thus establishing a series of guidelines for the production of religious paintings and sculptures that were the foundation for what became known as counter-reformed art. The Church encouraged the production of dramatic and suggestive images that alluded to the sufferings of the Christ or that represented the apparitions of the Virgin to the saints in a theatrical way; images of epiphanies and divine ascensions, the stories of miracles, of mystical episodes and the glories of holy healers. Everything was aimed at impressing the observer with emotions of pity, compassion and hope. Going beyond the iconographic debate between the Reformation and the Counter-Reformation, many artists succeeded - thanks to their genius - in experimenting and developing new languages, eluding the claws of the Inquisition and generating new forms of spiritual expression. In this context, the Dead Christ supported by the Angel executed by Domenico Robusti, son of Jacopo Tintoretto in about 1595, is a pivotal composition of great chromatic sensitivity, from which emerges the white and luminous body of the dead Christ abandoned in the angel’s arms. The artist creates a picture that epitomizes a trait d'union between the Renaissance spirit of the Compassion of Christ supported by the angel composed by Antonello da Messina in 1476-78 (Museo del Prado) and the formidable and poignant image of the Deposition of Christ of Bernini - exhibited here - probably realized between 1660 and 1670, in which the great director of the Roman Baroque captured the viewer within a foreground devoid any ornaments, in a composition saturated with intense and dramatic humanity. The Vision of Saint Jerome by Guercino and workshop is differently innovative for it introduces a new realistic and engaging manner, realized with chiaroscuro effects and innovative light solutions.

The iconography of light

If the Counter-Reformation had attempted to impose aesthetic and cultural norms to control the artistic production, the experimental and unstoppable impulse of great masters like Annibale Carracci, Caravaggio, Pieter Paul Rubens and Anthony Van Dyck had instead laid the foundations for the creation of a new language, which, oscillating between realism and classicism, gave birth to a revolutionary artistic and cultural movement: the Baroque. A true dialogue between the real and supernatural, between superfluous and necessary, the Baroque at first developed in Rome, orchestrated by Giovan Lorenzo Bernini and Pietro da Cortona, Andrea Pozzo, Baciccio and Andrea Sacchi, to name a few. Embodying the communicative, moral and spiritual apparatus of the Catholic Church, this protean movement spread throughout the Italian peninsula influencing the artistic manner of eclectic and multifaceted painters such as Domenico Fetti (Saint Francis in meditation), Vincenzo Spisanelli (The call of Saint Andrew), Simone Brentana (Giuditta and Oloferne) or Francesco Maffei (The liberation of the obsessed), finally crossing the Italian borders, from Paris to Vienna, from Prague to St. Petersburg, until reaching the South American continent.

The Rococo: between sense and sensitivity

Between the end of the seventeenth century and the beginning of the eighteenth century was the era of the great European monarchs, a period that valued rationality at the expense of faith and sentiment and in which the absolute autonomy of reason was affirmed. God was imagined as the architect of the cosmos that only science was able to reveal. In art, the Enlightenment meant as an opposition to the Baroque, obliterating all artificial excesses and chiaroscuro virtuosity for a lightness of the forms and symmetrical and luminous compositions. Artistic experimentation focused on dichotomies such objective and subjective, rule and freedom. The artist affirmed the independance of art, supporting their own creative autonomy. Among the great interpreters of the Rococo movement were: Nicola Grassi (The Magdalene and the Annunciation), Domenico Zorzi (The Virgin appears to Saint Gaetano), Francesco Fontebasso (The Virgin appears to Saint Jerome), Francesco Cappella called Daggiù (Madonna with child) and - representing the Roman school - Pompeo Batoni (The Virgin with Child and Saint John Nepoceno). Particularly emblematic of this period is the work of Carlo Innocenzo Carloni (Scaria d'Intelvi 1686/87 -1775) depicting The Glory of Saint Filippo Neri. The composition is a preparatory sketch (perhaps in view of the frescoes for the church of San Filippo di Lodi) and fully embodies the Rococo spirit in its wide and airy composition, enriched by the use of precious and brilliant colors and in which a multitude of characters move throughout a bold perspective space. The manner of Carloni c was the undisputed protagonist.