Curated by Beatrice Paolozzi Strozzi, in collaboration with Silvio Balloni and Ilaria Ciseri, the aim of the exhibition is to tell the story of the period in which the Bargello Museum took shape, at the end of the 19th century, through the figure of its first director, Igino Benvenuto Supino (1858-1940), a great art historian, but also a painter and museographer of international renown. Supino mixed with the most eminent personalities of literary, historical and figurative culture between the end of the 19th century and the Second World War – from Pascoli to Carducci, Wilhelm von Bode, Adolfo Venturi, Marcel Reymond, Gabriele D’Annunzio, Giovanni Fattori, Vittorio Corcos… and was the founder of the modern subject known as history of art, based on documentary research and the then pioneering use of photography. But in his youth he was a painter himself (a pupil of Antonio Ciseri at the Accademia di Belle Arti in Florence) and a prominent figure in the Florentine artistic milieu at the end of the century. His rare paintings, inspired first by the Macchiaioli and then by Symbolism, which have never been exhibited before, testify to his close relationship, in his youth, with Giovanni Fattori (attested to in the exhibition by a signed letter from the maestro and by two paintings he gave him); later, with Vittorio Corcos and Plinio Nomellini, who both portrayed him in two paintings, also presented to the public. His passion for caricature is evoked by the many works dedicated to him by his artist friends: from Tricca – “official portraitist” of the Macchiaioli – to Vamba, Emilio Lapi, “Nasica”…
On the cusp of thirty, with his sudden conversion to art history, his career as a scholar and curator swiftly took off, with prestigious assignments such as organising the new Museo Civico of Pisa in 1893 and, three years later, being appointed Inspector in charge of the Bargello National Museum. Subsequently, he was the first to hold the post of Director, which was established in 1904. Supino’s ten years at the Bargello, which was fundamental for the transformation of the museum and its physiognomy, which it still maintains today, will be recalled in a sweeping overview, also involving photography. Crucial to the museum’s history were in fact his project for a general reorganisation (1897), the acquisitions he proposed and obtained, and his studies of the collections, starting with the complete guide, published in 1898, which is still today the most comprehensive inventory of the collections. The exhibition concludes with a section devoted to Supino’s years in Bologna (1907-1940). Founder of the University’s Institute of Art History, he authored a series of fundamental essays and catalogues and, for thirty years, was an internationally renowned lecturer. Promoted by the Ministry for Cultural Heritage and Activities, financed by the non-profit association “Friends of the Bargello” and the Special Superintendency for the Historic, Artistic and Ethno-anthropological Heritage and for the Polo Museale (Museum Network) of Florence, the exhibition presents a “visual” biography of this figure who was extraordinary in so many ways, reconstructed through signed documents, photographs and works of art (paintings, sculptures, drawings) owned by his heirs. There is also a film – made by Matteo Musso, screened at the exhibition and contained on the DVD accompanying the catalogue, published by Mauro Pagliai Editore – that retraces the places where Supino lived his life and the years of his directorship of the Bargello.
The Ugo Nespolo monographic exhibition (the first to be held in Florence) responds to the need to promote also contemporary art in museums whose collections include works that prompt direct comparisons between tradition and modernity, especially with regard to the various artistic techniques. In this way, the Bargello aims to promote its extraordinary heritage of “minor” arts by presenting a series of works displaying the most diverse techniques and functions (majolica, glass, mosaics, sculptures, paintings, graphics, set design, art publishing), created by one of the most famous contemporary Italian artists, some of which are actually dedicated to the Bargello Museum. The aim is to involve even the segment of the public most responsive to contemporary culture, prompting them to reconsider the role of our historical and artistic heritage as a source of inspiration and as an expression of continuity with the present.
Following the exhibition Bernini and the Birth of Baroque Portrait Sculpture organised by the J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles and the National Gallery in Ottawa (5 August 2008 – 8 March 2009), Florence too pays tribute to the artist and his exceptional qualities as a portraitist: with the bust of Costanza Bonarelli, the Bargello National Museum possesses the most mesmerising and famous testimony to the turning point that Gian Lorenzo Bernini (1598-1680) brought about in the genre of sculptural portraiture.
Compared to the Los Angeles and Ottawa exhibitions, this new exhibition has a strong identity of its own, starting with the decision to focus on the portraits made by Bernini from a very young age. There are two sections:
1) Bernini the portraitist: the beginnings and the rise;
2) The ‘speaking portraits’ (1630-1640).
Corresponding to the two rooms in the museum that house the exhibition.
Sculpted portraits were extraordinarily popular in Rome in the first half of the 17th century. This innovation originated in the 16th century mainly as a state-portrait with a strong official connotation, and lasted little more than twenty years, from 1615 to 1640. Thanks to Bernini, there was a shift from staid and severe images to figures that seem to breathe and even speak to the viewer. The so-called ‘speaking portraits’.
In a direct and captivating comparison with the sculpted busts, some works by the greatest masters of painting of the time, working in Rome (Rubens, Carracci, van Dyck, Velazquez, Vouet, Valentin de Boulogne, Pietro da Cortona) are also on display. Bernini seems to relate to them and sometimes draw his inspiration from them. Two paintings (Portrait of Urban VIII and Self-portrait from the Uffizi) familiarise us with Bernini as a portrait painter.
The Florentine exhibition thus highlights the most significant phase of the artist’s portrait production, the one in which his mastery was affirmed. In addition to the bust of Costanza Bonarelli, this is also displayed in the Portraits of Urban VIII, Scipione Borghese and other personalities of the papal entourage. In this same period a pupil and assistant of Gian Lorenzo named Giuliano Finelli also emerged. The exhibition presents some of their most superb portraits: such as the bust of Maria Barberini Duglioli at the Louvre, the portrait of Francesco Bracciolini at Victoria & Albert Museum, or that of Michelangelo Buonarroti the Younger in Casa Buonarroti (Florence).
On 29 November 2008, the restored David by Donatello was returned to public view at the Museo Nazionale del Bargello.
The restoration was carried out – in a “open worksite” for all to see – in the Bargello National Museum’s Donatello Room (where the work has been on display since 1887), with funding from the Civil Protection Department of the Presidency of the Council of Ministers, in agreement with the Regional Council of Tuscany, the Ministry for Cultural Heritage and Activities, and the Special Superintendency for the Historic, Artistic and Ethno-anthropological Heritage and for the Polo Museale of Florence, on the occasion of the 40th anniversary of the Flood of the Arno (4 November 1966).
The bronze David by Donatello (1386-1466) is one of the best known and most admired works of the entire 15th century, but there are no documents regarding its execution: it is only explicitly mentioned for the first time in 1469, as standing in the centre of the courtyard of Palazzo Medici.
It was almost certainly commissioned by Cosimo il Vecchio and perhaps initially kept in the “old house” of the Medici. From about 1459 to 1495, it occupied that place of honour in the new Medici palace, completed by Michelozzo in 1455.
Because of the silence regarding its sources, scholars’ opinions on the chronology of the work have always been conflicting and range from the late 1420s to beyond the middle of the century. The most reliable theory today places the David in the years immediately preceding Donatello’s departure for Padua (1443), partly because of its close formal relationship with other works carried out by the artist, which have been dated between the end of the 1440s and the beginning of the 1450s. Whatever meaning the artist and the patron who commissioned it intended to give the figure, Donatello here creates an entirely new image of the young shepherd-hero of the Bible, protector of the Florentine Republic: a young adolescent, whose immature nudity alludes to humility and courage, which have the power to defeat pride and brute force.
The David had not been restored for at least a century and its conservation had been limited to ‘routine maintenance’. Due to the importance of this work of art, the delicacy of its modelling and the presence of the remains of the original gilding, carried out using the extremely fragile ‘mission’ technique, in-depth cleaning had not been recommended to date. In recent years, however, new methods of restoration (use of lasers) for Renaissance bronzes have made it possible to tackle the cleaning of Donatello’s masterpiece, while guaranteeing perfect results: as shown today by the fact that most of the gold leaf has been recovered, especially on the hair, together with the chromatic quality of the original patina. The restoration and the scientific innovations – both historical and technical – that emerged on this occasion are documented in this extensively illustrated catalogue, with contributions from the scholars and all the specialists who took part in the work, carried out at the Bargello National Museum from June 2007 to November 2008.
The Bargello National Museum is organising the first monographic exhibition dedicated to the sculptor Vincenzo Danti (Perugia, 1530-1576). The exhibition took its cue from the restoration of the three large bronze statues in the Florence Baptistery, which depict the Beheading of the Baptist and are the sculptor’s masterpiece. Thanks to the generosity of the Opera di Santa Maria del Fiore, this newly restored monumental group will be the focus of the exhibition, which is thus entitled: The Great Bronzes of the Baptistery. The art of Vincenzo Danti, Michelangelo’s disciple.
Although Danti died quite young, he was a contemporary of Giambologna and, like him, worked for many years in the service of the Medici. Most of the works he created for Cosimo I are now preserved in the Bargello National Museum, which is therefore the best venue for drawing the public’s attention to this extraordinary 16th-century sculptor, who was particularly attentive to the teachings of Michelangelo. Although Danti was neither a pupil nor a direct collaborator of Buonarroti, he was nevertheless one of his most original and important followers. His relationship with Michelangelo, of whom he can consider himself an ideal ‘disciple’, was in fact based on a free selection of the master’s works as standard models: studying them at length and closely, he shared in depth not only their formal ideals, but also their technique and working method. Moreover, his ‘Michelangelism’ is different from that of Buonarroti’s Florentine followers, who were linked to the master’s early works in Florence. In contrast, Danti brought to the city of the Medici the formal language of the works created in Rome by Michelangelo and his many disciples – sculptors and painters – from 1550 onwards.
The exhibition, which aims to bring together the Baptistery group and the works by Danti already on display at the Bargello with a large number of those housed in other Florentine sites and in museum collections in Italy and abroad, will undoubtedly provide an opportunity for an in-depth critical study of this sculptor, also from the standpoint of his masterly technique. The current restoration of the monumental group of the Baptistery, carried out under the supervision of the Opificio delle Pietre Dure (Workshop of semi-precious stones), will provide the exhibition and the catalogue with a further fundamental scientific contribution. The exhibition will be curated by the Directorate of the Bargello National Museum and Charles Davis, a renowned specialist in sixteenth-century sculpture and in the work of Vincenzo Danti in particular. Essays in the catalogue by other scholars and specialists will elucidate the various aspects of Danti’s art in order to offer as comprehensive a ‘portrait’ as possible of the artist within the broader perspective of the figurative culture of his time.
As of 29 September, the Bargello National Museum will once again exhibit the large papier-mâché Madonna and Child by Jacopo Sansovino, which has been returned to the Museum after careful restoration by the Istituto Centrale per il Restauro (Central Institute for Restoration) in Rome.
Thanks to the restorative work carried out, the bas-relief has recovered much of its original polychromy, which greatly enhances the work of the Florentine sculptor. The exhibition has been organised by the Bargello National Museum with the Ministry for Cultural Heritage and Activities, the Special Superintendency for the Polo Museale of Florence, in cooperation with the ICR and the ‘Friends of the Bargello’ association, which has helped fund the initiative. At least another ten copies of Sansovino’s composition, made of a rare and fragile material, are housed in European and American museums. This case featuring such a large number of papier-mâché reliefs is unique in the 16th century. The exhibition aims to explain this with the help of explanatory panels and an audiovisual show, which also illustrate the technical aspects and the restoration work itself. With the return of the Madonna to the Bargello, the museum wished to provide visitors with the opportunity, for the first time ever, to compare it with the other copies from the Louvre, the Museo del Cenedese in Vittorio Veneto and the Acton Collection at Villa La Pietra (New York University). On the occasion of its restoration at the Bargello, the ICR launched an experiment based on 3D digital technology, thanks to which it was able to ascertain that the various copies had been derived from a common model.
At the height of the 15th century in Florence, the work of Desiderio da Settignano (1429-1464) embodied one of the most supreme moments of creativity in the field of Renaissance sculpture.
The Bargello National Museum, in collaboration with the Louvre Museum and the National Gallery in Washington, decided to organise the first exhibition dedicated to this artist. Even though Desiderio died young, in 1464 (around thirty-five years of age), his work is particularly emblematic of the Florentine style of the 1450s and 1460s, i.e. the period that followed Donatello’s departure for Padua (1443), allowing a new generation of sculptors to develop Renaissance ideas. Together with other artists – such as Antonio Rossellino – Desiderio characterised his formal language as a ‘gentle style’, combining sensitive treatment of the material with graceful figures and power of expression in an extraordinary repertoire of works, mainly in marble.
Like Donatello, Desiderio achieved a rarely equalled level of perfection in the working of marble – and particularly in the rendering of the ‘stiacciato’ style bas-relief technique. Around Desiderio’s sculptures, housed in the three museums responsible for organising the event, with the contribution of a few other key works lent by other European and American museums, the exhibition – divided into different thematic sections – aims to highlight different genres and various subjects in which Desiderio demonstrated his mastery: busts of children and young girls, characterised by great delicacy; Madonna and Child reliefs, and others, still of a devout nature but with great narrative vivacity, such as San Girolamo; his extraordinary repertoire of decorative sculpture, including heraldic pieces complementary to civil and religious architecture, in the years of Florence’s greatest architectural splendour.
So the purpose of this event is to render justice to an extraordinary ‘virtuoso’ of marble, highlighting his key role in the history of 15th-century Tuscan sculpture, as a pupil of Donatello and as the most sensitive and modern interpreter of the latter’s teachings: the young Leonardo would also pay particular attention to Desiderio’s art, in his studies of the ‘sfumato’ technique and in the psychological rendering of his figures.
The exhibition also wishes to provide an opportunity to compare most of the sculptor’s works, thus enabling a deeper understanding of his style and technique, as well as the decorative ‘genres’ in which his workshop specialised. The catalogue includes contributions from a number of Italian, French and Anglo-Saxon art historians and, through a rich series of essays, descriptions and images, provides an overview of an artist who is as exquisite as he is controversial and mysterious, and who has not been the subject of a monographic study for forty years.
This is the first exhibition in Italy dedicated to Giambologna, whose last monographic exhibition was held in Vienna and London in 1978. In the twenty years and counting since then, a great deal of new archive research has been carried out and a large group of scholars has recently been working on the figure of this important artist, the most famous of the sculptors resident in Italy after Michelangelo and before Bernini. Thanks to this important new information, we can now have a better understanding of his story and his artistic personality. The exhibition will focus on three aspects of Giambologna’s secular sculpture: models and sketches, nude figures with mythological subjects and equestrian monuments. These “inventions’ met with great success and were widely imitated in the great courts of Europe. One section will be devoted to the works Giambologna was commissioned by the Grand Duke Francesco de’ Medici, the sculptor’s most important patron.
The exhibition is dedicated to one of Donatello’s most famous and mysterious works, the so-called “Amor Atys”, which has been returned to the Museum after long, complex restoration works, carried out by the Opificio delle Pietre Dure. Before returning to its place in the Donatello Room, on the first floor of the Bargello, Donatello’s bronze is displayed to the public and scholars in the ground floor rooms dedicated to temporary exhibitions. The results of the restoration are excellent: the cleaning (partly carried out by laser) has led to the recovery of the “leaf” gilding and extraordinary original patinas, which seem to “colour” the bronze and bring it to life. From the structural and conservation perspective, the restoration work has succeeded in fully repairing old damage: in particular, a noticeable fracture in the right arm, which is now firmly in place, restoring the figure’s integrity and grace of Moreover, this lengthy restoration has also provided the opportunity for new studies, the results of which are presented in the exhibition and the catalogue. This sculpture, due to its complex iconography and lack of details on its commissioning, has always been a puzzle, the solution to which has not yet been found. The first reference to it as the work of Donatello is in Vasari’s Lives (1568). Vasari saw the bronze in the home of Giovanni Battista di Agnolo Doni and described it as “a metal statue of Mercury […] one-and-a-half arms-lengths high, free standing and clothed in a certain odd fashion”. By the end of the 16th century, however, the memory of Donatello’s authorship had been lost, and the sculpture was considered ancient until 1778, when – on the occasion of its sale to the Grand Duke by the Doni family, who still owned it – it was recognised as the work of the great 15th-century sculptor, thanks to Luigi Lanzi, the Gallery’s “antiquarian”. In the same year, the work took its place in the modern bronzes room in the Uffizi, before moving to the new Bargello National Museum in 1865.
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