Settecento Enlightenment

Posted in catalogues, exhibitions by Editor on September 17, 2009

From the Polo Museale Fiorentino website:


Marco Ricci, "Riunione musicale," before 1708 (Florence: Galleria dell'Accademia)

Splendour and Reason: Art in Eighteenth-Century Florence

(Il fasto e la ragione: Arte del Settecento a Firenze)

Uffizi, Florence, 30 May — 30 September 2009


Francesco Carradori, "Bacchus and Ariadne," 1776 (Florence: Palazzo Pitti, Galleria Palatina)

With the extinction of the Medici dynasty in 1743, Florence did not lose its prestige as capital of culture and the arts, thanks to the government of the Lorraines, who gave the city the international profile required by Enlightenment policies. This exhibition is the first overall panorama of the principal artistic events of the eighteenth century in Florence. We are speaking of 120 paintings, sculptures, art objects and furnishings of the great, public and private commissions, works from the entire century, which in a spectacular vein record the changes in taste from the late Baroque period to Neoclassicism.

The show starts with the commissions made by Cosimo III and the Grand Prince Ferdinando de’ Medici, which opened the city to “foreign” artists like Sebastiano Ricci and Giuseppe Maria Crespi. They favoured sculpture (with personalities like Giovan Battista Foggini and Massimiliano Soldani Benzi), and developed the manufacture of tapestries and semiprecious stones. In this context, the families of the Florentine aristocracy performed a very conspicuous role: the Gerinis for the diffusion of the veduta, the Ginoris for the famed manufactory of porcelain of Doccia, the Corsinis for their constant relations with pontifical Rome. All these episodes contributed to defining the image of a vital and modern city, crossroads of many experiences and a workshop of original artistic productions.


Pompeo Batoni, "The Education of Achilles," 1746 (Florence: Galleria degli Uffizi)

With the extinction of the Medicis, Peter Leopold of Lorraine brought the European version of Rococo and Neoclassicism to Tuscany, along with the reformist spirit that accompanied the theories of the Enlightenment even in the figurative arts. A new elite of patrons thus took shape in Florence, also made up of its foreign residents (the Englishman Horace Mann, for example). It was also thanks to them that Florence became a mandatory lap of the grand tour. The Tuscan artists received advantages, especially the modern painters of vedutas (landscapes) (including the naturalised Englishman Thomas Patch and Giuseppe Zocchi). Foreign visitors preferred the repertory of gallantries and vedutas translated into semiprecious stones by the renovated Opificio dei Siriès. The Grand Duke proved to be a protector of the arts. He reformed the by-laws of the Academy where prominent artists like Pietro Pedroni, Innocenzo Spinazzi, and Francesco Carradori worked. He stimulated the worksites of the grand-ducal residences – first and foremost, the Pitti Palace and the Villa at Poggio Imperiale – and spurred the study of antiquity,
transferring the spectacular group sculpture of the Niobe from Rome to Florence.


Catalogue edited by Carlo Sisi and Riccardo Spinelli, 352 pages, ISBN 9788809743755

In this climate of civic and cultural fervour, the Frenchmen François-Xavier Fabre, Bénigne Gagnereaux, Louis Gauffier and Jean-Baptiste Desmarais came to Florence, driven from Pontifical Rome after the murder of the diplomat Nicolas de Basseville. With them came the international version of neoclassicism, thus contributing to the “reform” of the portrait, the veduta, and the historical painting, on the eve of the instatement of the Napoleonic court (1799).

The exhibition is curated by Carlo Sisi and Riccardo Spinelli. The catalogue is available through Michael Shamansky, at artbooks.com.

[All images are taken from the exhibition website; click here for more information]

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