Exhibition: ‘Italy Observed’ at the Met

Posted in exhibitions by Editor on October 29, 2010

Press release from the Met:

Italy Observed: Views and Souvenirs, 1706-1899
Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, 12 October 2010 — 2 January 2011

Luca Carlevaris, "The Bacino, Venice, with the Dogana and a Distant View of the Isola di San Giorgio," ca. 1709 (New York: Metropolitan Museum of Art, Robert Lehman Collection)

In the 18th century, privileged Europeans embarked on the Grand Tour, traveling principally to sites in Italy, where they visited cherished ruins of the ancient world and the splendid architecture of the Renaissance and Baroque eras. The influx of these travelers to destinations north and south – Venice, Rome, and Naples in particular – led to a flowering of topographical paintings, drawings, and prints by native Italians serving a foreign market eager to return home with pictures and souvenirs.

Italian Fan with view of the Roman Colosseum flanked by grotesques and landscapes, late 18th-century. Paint on parchment (New York: Metropolitan Museum of Art)

Italy Observed: Views and Souvenirs, 1706-1899, currently on view at the Metropolitan Museum through January 2, 2011, showcases a selection of the rich holdings of Italian vedute (views) collected by Robert Lehman. From paintings of Venetian life by Luca Carlevaris to a Neapolitan album of gouache drawings documenting the eruption of Vesuvius in 1794 to sketches and watercolors of Italian antiquities, the installation captures the artist’s romantic attraction to Italy and its irresistible Roman heritage. It also includes various marketed souvenirs—exquisite fans, spoons, teapots, and pocket watches—on loan from the Museum’s Department of European Sculpture and Decorative Arts.

The exhibition is divided into three sections: Venice, Rome, and Naples. The British elite constituted the largest percentage of Grand Tourists, and their fascination with Venice and its surrounding landscapes fueled the vedute market. Artists like Luca Carlevaris, Canaletto, Bernardo Bellotto, and Francesco Guardi produced vedute of the Venetian Grand Canal. In Rome, wealthy aristocrats commissioned artists such as Pompeo Batoni to paint their portraits surrounded by imagery of the Coliseum, Palatine Hill, Saint Peter’s Basilica and other emblematic souvenirs of the Grand Tourist culture. And in Naples, the picturesque Bay of Sorrento, Mount Vesuvius, and Pompeian frescoes inspired a prosperous trade in affordable mementos to foreign visitors in port. The spectacular eruptions of Mount Vesuvius were particularly popular, and found expression on porcelain, fans, and even pocket watches. The installation combines the rich artistic tradition of Canaletto and his contemporaries with marketed souvenirs adapting the same iconic monuments as keepsakes. (more…)

Current Issue of ‘Eighteenth-Century Studies’

Posted in books, catalogues, exhibitions, journal articles, reviews by Editor on October 29, 2010

Selections from Eighteenth-Century Studies 44 (Fall 2010):

  • Lisa L. Moore, “Exhibition Review: Mary Delany and Her Circle, in the Museum and on the Page,” pp. 99-104.
  • Yuriko Jackall, “Exhibition Review: Jean Raoux, 1677-1734,” pp. 104-111.
  • Katherine Arpen, “Review of Thomas Kavanagh’s Enlightened Pleasures: Eighteenth-Century France and the New Epicureanism (Yale UP, 2010),” pp. 136-38.
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