Enfilade

Exhibition | Winckelmann and the Vatican Museums

Posted in books, catalogues, exhibitions by Editor on January 4, 2019

Now on view at the Vatican:

Winckelmann: Masterpieces throughout the Vatican Museums
Winckelmann: Capolavori diffusi nei Musei Vaticani
Vatican Museums, 9 November 2018 — 9 March 2019

Curated by Guido Comini and Claudia Valeri

A ‘journey within the journey’ along the entire Vatican Museums tour itinerary, this ‘dispersed’ exhibition celebrates the great German scholar Johann Joachim Winckelmann, father of modern archaeology and precursor of today’s art historians. Preceded by and announced in May at the study day on the Montalto Collection in Villa Negroni, Winckelmann: Masterpieces throughout the Vatican Museums symbolically brings to a conclusion the many initiatives organized to honour the renowned archaeologist in the dual anniversary year of 2018—300 years since his birth and 250 since his tragic death in Trieste.

In the years of his ‘dazzling’ stay in Rome (1755–1768), the Vatican Museums as we know them did not yet exist, but Winckelmann already visited the Vatican Belvedere and returned repeatedly to admire the statues conserved there. Indeed, it was due to his favourable judgement that many antiquities that he studied during his visits to the monuments and collections of the Eternal City were then purchased by the pontiffs. The exhibition, curated by Guido Cornini and Claudia Valeri, is intended to highlight precisely this role of the Vatican collections as a cornerstone for the studies, theories, and writings of the renowned German archaeologist. All sectors of the museums have been involved in this impressive and original exhibition project that offers the visitor a thematic itinerary with pauses for in-depth analysis of 50 selected works—on the basis of the role Winckelmann attributed to them in the construction of his aesthetic thought.

Room XVII of the Pinacoteca is dedicated to the presentation of the figure and his age. The screening of a film and the display of some of his most important writings help explain the atmosphere and cultural climate of Rome around the mid-eighteenth century. Winckelmann arrived in 1755 for a brief stay and instead spent the rest of his life in Italy; enchanted by the grandiose beauty of the antiquities, he devoted all his attention and prodigious talent to them.

Guido Comini and Claudia Valeri, Winckelmann: Masterpieces throughout the Vatican Museums (Vatican City: Edizioni Musei Vaticani, 2018), 232 pages, ISBN: 978-8882714307, $58. Also available in Italian.

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