Exhibition | The King of Spain’s Grandchildren by Mengs

Posted in books, catalogues, exhibitions by Editor on October 16, 2017

From the Uffizi Galleries:

The King of Spain’s Grandchildren: Anton Raphael Mengs at the Pitti Palace
Pitti Palace, Florence, 19 September 2017 — 7 January 2018

Curated by Matteo Ceriana and Steffi Roettgen

Anton Raphael Mengs, Double Portrait of the Archdukes Ferdinando (1769–1824) and Maria Anna (1770–1809) di Asburgo Lorena, 1770–71 (Florence: Uffizi Galleries).

Barely twenty days after the opening of an exhibition at the Uffizi devoted to the purchase of two preparatory paintings by Luca Giordano and Taddeo Mazzi, the Uffizi Galleries are now launching a second exhibition to present the prestigious acquisition of yet another important painting in 2016, by Anton Raphael Mengs (1728–1779), portraying Ferdinando and Maria Anna, two of the children of Archduke of Tuscany Pietro Leopoldo of Lorraine and of his consort María Luisa de Borbón y Sajonia, dressed in contemporary costume and depicted inside the Pitti Palace.

Eike D. Schmid: “The task of a living museum is to safeguard works of art, to preserve memory and to transmit culture through exhibitions and research, but also to allow its collections to ‘breathe’ with targeted additions closely linked to the story of the city, of its hinterland and of the collection of which they are going to become a part. Acquisitions, especially if they are so subtly motivated, are a crucial part of a museum’s life, particularly if they are the product of research guaranteeing both their provenance and a fertile interaction with the museum’s existing heritage.”

When this unfinished painting appeared on the antique market, it was instantly clear that it had to enter the collections of the Gallerie degli Uffizi so that we could showcase it in the Pitti Palace, because even if Anton Raphael Mengs did not paint the picture entirely in the palace, he certainly conceived it there. The young princes lived in the Pitti Palace with their family, under the watchful eye of governesses and tutors, of course, but more especially under that of their own parents, while the Boboli Garden was their playground.

We were eager to celebrate the new acquisition, which would not have been possible without the generous cooperation of the Galleria Virgilio in Rome, with an exhibition illustrating the historical and artistic environment in which the portrait was painted.

Mengs was born in Bohemia but soon moved to the west, becoming an adoptive Italian and Spaniard. He sought permission from King Charles III of Spain to travel to Rome so that he could both work and pursue his study of Classical antiquities and of the great Renaissance artists, chiefly that of Raphael after whom he had been named. The Spanish King, who loved Italy and had once almost governed Tuscany himself (eventually becoming the King of Naples), granted Mengs permission to make the trip but only on condition that he send him portraits from Florence of his young grandchildren, the children of his daughter María Luisa de Borbón y Sajonia and of Pietro Leopoldo of Lorraine. The pictures, loaned to the exhibition by the Museo del Prado where they normally hang, were painted while Mengs was in the Tuscan capital from April 1770 to January 1771. The portraits show us Pietro Leopoldo’s two extremely young children dressed in Spanish court attire with the marks of royalty (the Golden Fleece) in the traditional dress of the Infantes, as reported in the Gazzetta Toscana published on 29 September 1770. Once finished, but before they were packed up and shipped to the Spanish court, the portraits were shown to the Florentine public in the Pitti Palace, where they were much admired both for their sparkling technique and for their accurate rendering of the sitters’ features.

Anton Raphael Mengs, Double Portrait of the Archduke Ferdinand (1769–1824) and Maria Anna (1770–1809), 1770–71 (Madrid: Museo del Prado).

At the same time as Mengs was painting these portraits of the children for their grandfather, the Spanish King, however, he must also have produced the picture recently purchased by the Uffizi Galleries portraying Ferdinando and Anna Maria with a totally different approach and in a very different spirit. The two children portrayed here, looking happier than the children depicted in many of Mengs’s other works, are shown in contemporary clothing, and the choice of full, resonant hues such as the green and pink of their attire instantly reveals this new spirit. The prince is dressed in boy’s costume and the feather hat in his right hand is the kind of headgear one might have worn for strolling or hunting, thus introducing a touching note of daily intimacy into the picture—a far cry from the stiff, ceremonial approach evinced in the official portraits now in Madrid. The painting must have been very much to the liking of Pietro Leopoldo, a man of stern tastes, an enlightened sovereign, a reformer, in fact a thoroughly ‘modern’ (not to say bourgeois) monarch in both his public and his private life. We are drawn to the picture because we can not only see the lesson of Velázquez in it, but we actually get a foretaste of Goya, a great admirer of Mengs, and even of Manet.

Johan Zoffany, Francis I, Grand Duke of Tuscany of the House of Lorraine (1708–1765), 1775 (Vienna: Kunsthistorisches Museum).

The official court portrait painter to Pietro Leopoldo, however, was another German—albeit a naturalised Englishman—called Johann Zoffany. The exhibition showcases the portrait that he painted of Pietro Leopoldo’s first-born son Francis, the first Grand Duke of Tuscany of the House of Lorraine, which was painted for Francis’s paternal grandmother, the Empress Maria Theresa of Austria, and which has been loaned by the Kunsthistorisches Museum in Vienna. Having doffed the dazzling turquoise attire of a Spanish Infante, we discover him in the courtyard of the Pitti Palace leaning against the majestic rustication, a small man fairly split between his government duties, his arms and his studies. This very fine portrait, which has returned to Florence for the first time since it was despatched to Vienna, depicts a boy who, while he may appear a little melancholic, is already very much aware of his imperial destiny.

The exhibition opens with portraits of the sitters’ grandparents, parents, and little cousins from Naples and Parma and closes with the self-portraits of the two painters from the Uffizi’s celebrated collection: Mengs’s famous, heroic self-portrait, bursting with emotion even though it is not yet Romantic, and Zoffany’s subtly ironic self-portrait in which he portrays himself with his small dog a painting that will come as a pleasant surprise to visitors after being specially restored for the exhibition.

Matteo Ceriana and Steffi Roettgen, I Nipoti del Re di Spagna: Anton Raphael Mengs a Palazzo Pitti (Livorno: Sillabe, 2017), 184 pages, ISBN: 978 888347 9687, $35.








Call for Papers | Books of Drawings, 1550–1800

Posted in Calls for Papers by Editor on October 16, 2017

From H-ArtHist:

Libri di Disegni e Album di Disegni nell’Età Moderna, 1550–1800:
Nuove prospettive metodologiche e di esegesi storico-critica
Accademia di Belle Arti di Roma, Rome, 31 May — 1 June 2018

Proposals due by 9 December 2017

La netta distinzione tipologica e terminologica tra libri di disegni e album di disegni è stata dimostrata dalla storiografia artistica contemporanea sulla base di evidenze documentarie e letterarie italiane, cinque e seicentesche. Nell’Età moderna sono gli artisti stessi o i conoscitori del calibro di Filippo Baldinucci ad utilizzare l’espressione ‘libro de’ disegni’ per indicare le raccolte rilegate della produzione grafica di pittori, scultori o architetti, ben prima che i termini taccuino, carnet, skizzenbuch, note-book e simili, venissero introdotti più tardi dal collezionismo, dalla letteratura artistica e dalla storiografia.

Nella fase attuale, con l’espressione ‘libro di disegni’, drawing-book in inglese, si tende a indicare a book of original drawings in a bound volume (book, codex), consisting of one or more quires (gatherings), which are predominantly filled with drawings, irrespective of the age, intention and profession of a draughtsman … whether the structure has been consolidated before or after the drawing process, protected by a leather binding or a simple parchement or paper cover (Elen, 1995).

Mentre i libri di disegni, integri nella loro configurazione originaria, sono piuttosto rari o poco conosciuti e studiati (non ne esiste a oggi un censimento sistematico e ragionato), molto più numerosi sono gli album di disegni, monografici o collettanei, raccolti da eruditi, conoscitori, curatori e collezionisti nei secoli XVII–XIX, all’interno dei quali sono confluiti singoli fascicoli o singoli fogli provenienti da libri di disegni più antichi. La capillare presenza di libri di disegni e album di disegni, giunti in forme più o meno frammentarie e dopo molti passaggi proprietari nelle print rooms e nelle biblioteche di tutto il mondo, invitano oggi a indagarne e analizzarne compiutamente gli sviluppi storici delle forme, dei contenuti, delle funzioni, e a studiarli anche sotto gli aspetti della fortuna critica e materiale, della storia del gusto, del mercato dell’arte e del collezionismo.

Il Workshop Internazionale si propone di porre in evidenza, attraverso i contributi originali dei maggiori specialisti dell’argomento, l’imprescindibile circolarità esistente tra la conoscenza e lo studio analitico dei ‘libri de’ disegni’ di singoli artisti e la conoscenza e lo studio analitico degli album di disegni formatisi in epoche successive, al fine di avanzare nuove e non ancora esplorate prospettive di ricerca, individuazione, classificazione tipologica, analisi storica, storico-critica, collezionistica e materiale, che possano contribuire ad ampliare la nostra comprensione del fenomeno, delle teoriche e delle prassi operative, soprattutto ma non solo di bottega e di matrice accademica, degli artisti italiani dell’Età moderna, e dei percorsi, il più delle volte molto articolati e complessi, di creazione e di costituzione delle raccolte e delle collezioni internazionali di grafica, a partire dalla dispersione del ricco patrimonio di volumi rilegati di disegni lasciati in eredità dagli artisti del passato.

Per le proposte di intervento, sono indicate di seguito alcune delle possibili linee di approfondimento:
• Questioni terminologiche e tipologiche tra fonti documentarie, letteratura artistica, prassi collezionistiche, storia dell’arte, archeologia del libro, connoisseurship;
• Codex, libro, album: disegni originali, modelli e copie d’après;
• Libri di disegni e album di disegni: forme, funzioni, temi e soggetti;
• Analisi tipologica, strutturale, tecnica, materiale di uno o più libri e/o album di disegni, tra storia dell’arte e del disegno, archeologia del libro, scienza codicologica;
• Analisi funzionale, stilistica, iconografica di uno o più libri e/o album di disegni, tra storia dell’arte e del disegno, metodo del conoscitore, scienza dell’attribuzione;
• Le collezioni pubbliche e private di libri e album di disegni: gli allestimenti originali, le filiazioni, i percorsi di ricognizione e catalogazione, i progetti di digitalizzazione;
• Ipotesi di ricostituzione virtuale di libri di disegni italiani smembrati tra raccolte pubbliche e private;
• Libri di disegni e album di disegni come fonti visive per la teorica e la pratica del disegno degli artisti italiani, tra la seconda metà del Cinquecento e il primo Ottocento;
• Libri di disegni e album di disegni come fonti visive per l’insegnamento e l’apprendimento del disegno, e per la trasmissione dei modelli e dei repertori visivi, dentro le botteghe, le accademie, gli ateliers;
• Disegni rilegati in volume e autonomia del disegno: il processo creativo dell’artista tra ricerca-ideazione autofondata e verifica-progetto dell’opera d’arte finita;
• Il ruolo di eruditi, conoscitori, collezionisti, conservatori dei secoli XVII–XIX nella formazione delle raccolte e album di disegni, tra fortuna critica e fortuna materiale, dinamiche del gusto, del mercato dell’arte e del collezionismo pubblico e privato.

Gli studiosi sono invitati a far pervenire, entro e non oltre il 9 dicembre 2017, le proposte di intervento—un abstract di max 500 caratteri (spazi inclusi) in italiano o in inglese—al seguente indirizzo di posta elettronica: drawingsbook.abaroma2018@gmail.com. Entro il 20 dicembre 2017, a seguito della selezione svolta dal Comitato Scientifico, l’accettazione degli interventi prescelti sarà comunicata via email agli interessati.

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