Curated by Sergej Androsov – Massimo Bertozzi
JULY 9 – OCTOBER 23, 2016
For the exhibition Cities of the Grand Tour from the Hermitage and Apuan Landscapes from Italian Collections, curated by Sergej Androsov and Massimo Bertozzi, forty-seven, including works, paintings, drawings, and watercolors from the Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg and Italian public and private collections, were exhibited.
For centuries, knowledge of Italy, of its extraordinary artistic heritage and millenary civilization, but also of the natural and human qualities of a beautiful and complicated country, has been a significant part of the cultural education of elites throughout Europe; that is why the Voyage of Italy was, between the late 17th and the first half of the 19th century, an experience, to be had at least once in a lifetime, for the scions of the leading European families, whether belonging to the aristocratic aristocracies or to the rising commercial and financial bourgeoisies. Until it became a real craze for all those social classes that could afford it.
The Grand Tour was thus much more than just a tourist trip: it was a period of extraordinary education in contact with exceptional history and culture. Every European man of culture dreamed of taking at least one trip to Italy, for the vestiges of the classical, Greek and Roman past, for the splendid bucolic landscapes, to appreciate an almost carefree way of life, where daily hardships were diluted by endless parties and countless opportunities for entertainment and spectacle..
Rome was the main destination, but the journey, both outward and return, was punctuated by stops, more or less prolonged, in the main cities scattered along the route, with obligatory detours at least to Venice, Florence, and Naples.
An important role, both in the identification of the routes and in the choice of things to see and to send to future memory, was played in every era by scholars and art dealers, and then by painters, who were able to produce images, not only of the monuments but also of the events that characterized each traveler’s individual and personal journey in Italy.
For this exhibition, some of the traditional views of the Italian Journey have been selected, brought together as a gallery of “portraits” of places, of imagination and memory, attentive therefore not only to the physiognomy of the Italian landscape, but also to the character of the men who constructed that landscape, and thus able to nurture those psychological suggestions that the image of Italy confers on the character of Italians, especially outside Italy, at least in the thoughts of those who had only been able to see it once, but intended to remember it forever.
Thus to the paintings of some of the “pioneers” of the Grand Tour, such as the Flemish Jan Miel and Hendrik Frans van Lint, the Dutch Johannes Lingelbach, the German Philipp Hackert, and the French Hubert Robert, true points of reference, in the various eras, of foreign groups visiting Rome or Naples, are juxtaposed with those of a large group of Italian vedutisti, from Giovanni Paolo Panini to Ippolito Caffi, from Giulio Carlini to Angelo Inganni, up to the naturalist turn of Giovanni Fontanesi.
Through these paintings the exhibition summarizes in full that image of Italy, captivating and surprising, that painters reproduced so that it could last longer in effigy and not only in memory, at least of those outsiders who could afford to charge on their travel expenses, even this kind of precious souvenir.
So here are the most prized Italian postcards: from Hendrik Frans van Lint’s Panorama with the Arch of Titus to Hubert Robert’s view of the Colosseum, from Carlo Bonavia’s View of the Gulf of Bay to Ippolito Caffi’s View of Rome and Castel Sant’Angelo, from Antonio de Pian’s View of the Grand Canal to Angelo Inganni’s Piazza del Duomo in Milan.
But also the curiosities of local traditions and the strange lifestyle of the Italians: Jan Miel’s The Charlatan, Iohannes Lingelbach’s chaotic Market in the Piazza; and then the festivals, from the sumptuous one in front of the Palazzo del Quirinale by Antonio Cioci, to the noisy Venetian carnival, in Friedrich Paul Nerly’s Concert in a Gondola, to the private party to which The Tolstoy Family in Venice seems to dispose itself, in Giulio Carlini’s painting.
But then Rome still remained the capital of Christendom, and here then is the allusive Sermon of St. Paul amid the ruins of ancient Rome by Giovanni Paolo Panini, and then the popular and visionary devotion, in Joseph Severn’s Prayer to the Virgin Mary or the more collected and composed devotion In the Church St. Mary of Peace by Anselmo Gianfanti.
Alongside the classic views of the Grand Tour, the exhibition includes a section on the “discovery” of the Apuan landscape, with works from the Civic Museum of Reggio Emilia, the State Archives of Massa, the Province of Massa-Carrara and private collections, intended to represent one of the many pleasant places for which Italy was always considered the garden of Europe.
An area whose naturalness has aroused strong impressions already in ancient travelers, from Francesco Petrarca to Michel de Montaigne, it imposes itself on the attention of modern travelers, thanks to the panorama of its mountains, which form the horizon, far or near, of a wide territory, from Florence to Lucca to Pisa, as well as for the Ligurian or upper Tyrrhenian coast, from Lerici, with its Gulf of Poets, to Livorno. In short, an attractive panorama not only for itinerant travelers, but also for the regulars of the nearby cities of art or the prospective Riviera.
The first views of the Apuan territory are thus due to foreign travelers lodged in the surrounding area, such as the English admiral William Paget, or his compatriot Elisabeth Fanshawe, or the Swiss painter and writer Julie Goldenberger, who would eventually settle in these parts and spend the last years of her life in Carrara.
But they are also due to professional painters, such as the Massese painter Saverio Salvioni, who in the early years of the 19th century would paint at length the wide panoramas of the Carrara quarries, or as, testifying to the change of interest in the image of the territory, or the Emilian Giovanni Fontanesi, who devoted a good part of his production to Ligurian-Apuan panoramas. The exhibition concludes with Antonio Puccinelli ‘s painting “Michelangelo alle quarries”(1860-1865), a perfect synthesis of the work of an artist faithful to the Purism of his masters (Bezzuoli and Minardi) in the narrative of “history painting,” but who around the Apuan Alps adheres to a new way of looking at the sentimental suggestions of the landscape.