Friday, 7 January 2011

Rome and Antiquity - Reality and Vision in the 18th Century

Orsay Minerva, 2nd century AD
(marble replaced late 18th century)
Musée du Louvre, Paris
Rome and Antiquity. Reality and vision in the 18th century
Palazzo Sciarra, Rome
30th November 2010 - 6th March 2011

The Fondazione Roma, chaired by Prof. Emmanuele Francesco Maria Emanuele, is turning the spotlight on ancient art once more, with an extraordinary new event dedicated to the rediscovery of classical antiquity in Rome in the eighteenth century. curated by Carolina Brook and Valter Curzi, the exhibition gathers works of art and archaeological finds which highlight the key factor behind Rome’s rise to international renown in the eighteenth century, namely the rediscovery of classical Antiquity: a model for the arts, learning and style that spread throughout Europe. Promoted by the Fondazione Roma, the exhibition Roma e l’Antico. Realtà e visione nel ’700 (Rome and Antiquity. Reality and vision in the 18th century) has been organised in conjunction with Arthemisia group and springs from a partnership with the Capitoline Museums, the Vatican Museums and the Accademia Nazionale di San Luca.

The exhibition features an extraordinary nucleus of 140 works, including sculptures, paintings and sophisticated pieces of decorative art, and sees the involvement of important museums in Italy and abroad: as well as Rome’s most important museums, the National Galleries of Parma, Turin and Florence, the Canova Museum in Possagno, the Prado Museum, the Royal Palace and Archaeological Museum in Madrid, the Louvre, the Victoria & Albert Museum in London, Dresden’s Museum of Archaeology, the Hermitage in St. Petersburg and the Royal Academies of London and Madrid.

Anton Rafael Mengs (1728-1779), Apollo and the Muses on Mount Parnassus
Hermitage Museum, St Petersburg

Divided into seven sections, the exhibition explores the appeal of eighteenth century Rome and its extraordinarily cosmopolitan character: a city of monuments and magnificent ruins, interest in its historical past grew during the eighteenth century due to the archaeological digs which increasingly brought significant finds to light. The exhibition opens with a selection of vedute of ancient Rome and a group of capriccio paintings.

Giovanni Battista Piranesi (1720-1780), Architectural capriccio
Private collection

The second section examines the great season of Roman archaeological digs in the eighteenth century which gave rise to the discipline of archaeology. The major works present in this section include the Capitoline Flora and Eros, the former found in Tivoli in 1744 and the latter from the important collection belonging to Ippolito d’Este, the Herm of Pericles from the Vatican Museums, the inspiration for a famous sonnet by Vincenzo Monti, and the valuable series of watercolour etchings illustrating the colourful wall paintings of the Domus at Villa Negroni and the Domus Aurea, now lost. The interiors of the latter can be admired in the video featuring the virtual reconstruction of this lavish residence.

Flora, 2nd century AD
Musei Capitolini, Rome

The topics of restoration, falsification and art dealing, of much interest to collectors in the day, are explored in the third section, which features the extraordinary Minerva d’Orsay from the Louvre, the result of restoration additions in white marble onto an extremely rare archaeological find in golden onyx. The latter, together with the 2nd century A.D. sculptures from the Prado (Head of Serapis and Bust of Hercules) and Dresden (Bust of Marcus Aurelius and Lemnian Athena), highlight how the aristocratic Roman collections dispersed, with the consequent diaspora of works abroad. On the occasion of the exhibition these masterpieces are making an exceptional return to Italy after more than two centuries.

Apollo with Lyre, 2nd century AD
Museo Pio-Clementino, Vatican City

The subsequent section documents the work of two of the most famous Roman workshops, those of Bartolomeo Cavaceppi and Giovanni Battista Piranesi, and explores their trading activities for the first time. The exhibition features two extraordinary marble vases by the latter, who was primarily known as an etcher, made by assembling the fragments of ancient artefacts that he assiduously collected. As for Cavaceppi, the section presents a little-known group of terracotta pieces copied from famous classical works, illustrating the wealth of designs available to be reproduced in his workshop.

Angelica Kauffmann (1741-1807), Virgil reading the Aeneid to Augustus and Octavia
Hermitage Museum, St Petersburg

The fifth section illustrates artistic training in the city and the spread of the Roman educational model, as the rest of Europe began to acknowledge the prime importance of classical antiquity.

Luigi Valadier, Dessert service for Carlos IV (1778)
Museo Arqueologico y Palacio Real, Madrid

One specific section looks at style and interior décor, featuring the stunning Dessert Service created by Luigi Valadier in 1778 and subsequently purchased by King Carlos IV of Spain. This incredible piece is both priceless and unique: a three metre long centrepiece in antique marble and semi-precious stones decorated with reproductions of classical buildings that the famed Roman sculptor and goldsmith dreamt up for an exceptionally wealthy clientele.

Jacques-Louis David (1748-1825), Male nude study or Hector
Musée Fabre, Montpellier

The last section of the exhibition gathers a selection of paintings and sculptures by the most famous artists who looked to classical antiquity for inspiration. Antonio Canova, significantly acknowledged in his time as the greatest “emulator of Phidias”, closes the exhibition, with two masterpieces: Venus and Adonis from the Possagno Gypsotheque, and the Winged Cupid from the Hermitage.

Antonio Canova (1757-1822), Winged Cupid
Hermitage Museum, St Petersburg

The exhibition also features a highly original and atmospheric virtual reconstruction of the lost interiors of the Domus Aurea, designed by Stefano Borghini and Raffaele Carlani. Modern virtual technology has been used to bring historic drawings and watercolour etchings of this ancient artwork to life, giving us the chance to relive the vision that would have greeted eighteenth century observers. Visitors to the exhibition will thus be able to experience this fascinating spectacle of frescoes, stuccoes and mosaics and fully enter into the enthralling atmosphere of the rediscovery of antiquity.

Fondazione Roma official exhibition page
Exhibition page of sponsor Arthemisia Group

1 comment:

  1. This is an amazing exhibition - great for those studying the Grand Tour.