Print Quarterly, December 2019

Posted in books, exhibitions, journal articles, reviews by Editor on December 4, 2019

The eighteenth century in the current issue of Print Quarterly:

Print Quarterly 36.4 (December 2019)

Étienne Fessard and Augustin de Saint-Aubin, after Charles Natoire, Gaetano Brunetti, and Paolo Antonio Brunetti, Perspective View of the Chapel of Enfants Trouvés in Paris, 1759, etching and engraving, sheet (trimmed) 80 × 59 cm (New York, Metropolitan Museum of Art).


Rena M. Hoisington, “Étienne Fessard’s Prints of the Chapel of the Hôpital des Enfants Trouvés in Paris,” pp. 404–25.

Soon after Charles Natoire (1700–1777) completed his cycle of paintings for the Chapel of the Hôpital des Enfants Trouvés in Paris, Fessard announced a subscription plan for a series of prints reproducing them. Often addressed merely for their documentary value, these prints are here analysed as objects in themselves. The article explores their complex publication history and assesses them in the context of Fessard’s career. Also analysed is the series’ repercussion on the reputation of the artists involved in their realization, Natoire included.

N O T E S  A N D  R E V I E W S

Colin Harrison, Review of Peter Whitfield, Oxford in Prints: 1675–1900 (Bodleian Library, 2016), p. 448.

The book explores how Oxford has been pictured between 1675 and 1922 by illustrating a selection of volumes in the collection of the Bodleian Library. The largest group consists of almanacks printed by the University, which took their definitive format of a topographical headpiece with a calendar beneath in the early eighteenth century.

Jean Michel Massing, Review of Cheryl Finley, Committed to Memory: The Art of the Slave Ship Icon (Princeton University Press, 2018), p. 484–88.

The book “focuses on the life, and afterlife, of  famous anti-slavery icon,” the 1788 engraved Plan of an African Ship’s lower Deck with Negroes in the proportion of only one to a Ton (484). Part One “considers abolitionist slave ship prints from the period 1788 to 1900; the remainder of the book is devoted to their stature as an icon reappropriated by twentieth-century African American, British and African artists” (488).

P U B L I C A T I O N S  R E C E I V E D

Mungo Campbell and Nathan Flis, eds., William Hunter and the Anatomy of the Modern Museum, exhibition catalogue (Yale Center for British Art, and The Hunterian, University of Glasgow, in association with Yale University Press, 2018), p. 472.

Exhibition | Portraying Pregnancy

Posted in books, catalogues, exhibitions by Editor on December 2, 2019

From the press release for the exhibition:

Portraying Pregnancy: From Holbein to Social Media
The Foundling Museum, London, 24 January — 26 April 2020

Curated by Karen Hearn

The Foundling Museum is proud to present the first major exhibition to explore representations of the pregnant female body through portraits from the past 500 years, Portraying Pregnancy: From Holbein to Social Media, which opens on 24 January 2020.

Until the twentieth century, many women spent most of their adult years pregnant. Despite this, pregnancies are seldom made apparent in surviving portraits. This exhibition brings together images of women—mainly British—who were depicted at a time when they were expecting (whether visibly so or not). Through paintings, prints, photographs, objects, and clothing from the fifteenth century to the present day, Portraying Pregnancy explores the different ways in which pregnancy was, or was not, represented; how shifting social attitudes have impacted on depictions of pregnant women; how the possibility of death in childbirth brought additional tension to such representations; and how more recent images, which often reflect increased female agency and empowerment, still remain highly charged. This exhibition is the first of its kind and provides an exceptional opportunity to situate contemporary issues of women’s equality and autonomy in a 500-year context.

The earliest portrait featured in the exhibition—and a major highlight—is Hans Holbein II’s beautiful drawing of Sir Thomas More’s daughter, Cicely Heron, made in 1526–27, lent by Her Majesty The Queen from the Royal Collection. Sketched from life, it is a rare, clear-eyed, observation of a pregnant woman. In many pre-twentieth-century works in the exhibition, however, the sitter’s pregnancy has been edited out. The mezzotint made after Sir Joshua Reynolds’s full-length portrait of Theresa Parker, for example, shows no visible sign of her pregnancy, in line with conventions of the time, despite rich documentary evidence that by her second sitting in February 1772, Theresa was heavily pregnant.

Today, women with access to birth control can expect to plan if, or when, they become pregnant. Prior to the 1960s, many women would have experienced, between marriage and menopause, a number of pregnancies—and their daily lives might alter little for most of the gestation period. This is exemplified in a portrait of the celebrated eighteenth-century actress, Sarah Siddons, shown in the role of Lady Macbeth, which she famously played up until the final weeks of pregnancy.

Russian style dress belonging to Princess Charlotte, ca. 1817, silk, gold, metallic and silk lace, gold metallic fringe (Royal Collection Trust, 74709).

Fear of dying in childbirth was very real, and often justified. Until the early twentieth century, most births took place at home, often attended by family members, and consequently many women witnessed death in childbirth. Elizabethan and Jacobean portraits of visibly pregnant women, such as Marcus Gheeraerts II’s portrait of a heavily-pregnant unknown woman, dated 1620, appeared in the same era as the ‘mother’s legacy’ text—in which a woman wrote a ‘letter’ for the benefit of her unborn child, in case she should not survive her confinement. An example is the manuscript that the well-educated Elizabeth Joscelin wrote in 1622 for the child that she was carrying. Maternal mortality is also powerfully represented by George Dawe’s 1817 portrait of the pregnant Princess Charlotte, the heir to the British throne, wearing a fashionable loose ‘sarafan’ dress, as well as by the actual surviving garment, lent by Her Majesty The Queen from the Royal Collection, which will be displayed alongside it. Charlotte died in childbirth, in November that year.

While Christianity played a central role in everyday life, conceiving a baby (or not), was seen as a gift from God. Historically, the New Testament story of The Visitation—the meeting of the pregnant Virgin Mary and her cousin, Elizabeth—was a particularly inspiring and comforting one for pregnant women. Images of it had been widespread in England prior to the sixteenth- century Reformation, and reappeared in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. The Pre-Raphaelite artists’ doctrine of absolute realism saw them model their depictions of it on pregnant women among their own social circle.

Augustus John’s ca. 1901 full-length portrait of his wife, Ida, must have seemed astonishingly transgressive to viewers at the time, as it clearly depicts her as pregnant. It was not until the later twentieth century that pregnancy stopped being ‘airbrushed out’ of portraits. In 1984, the British painter, Ghislaine Howard, produced a powerful self-portrait of herself as heavily pregnant. However, the watershed moment occurred internationally in August 1991, when Annie Leibovitz’s photographic portrait of the actress, Demi Moore, naked and seven months pregnant, appeared on the cover of Vanity Fair magazine. This image was considered so shocking that some retailers refused to stock the issue. Nevertheless, it marked a culture shift and initiated the trend for more visible celebrations of pregnant bodies—especially nude ones. In 2017, Leibovitz returned to the theme, photographing the pregnant tennis champion, Serena Williams, naked, for Vanity Fair’s August cover.

The final photograph in the exhibition, by Awol Erizku, was commissioned by the singer, Beyoncé Knowles, who posted it on Instagram on 1 February 2017. Erizku’s iconographically complex portrait of Beyoncé, pregnant with twins, veiled and kneeling in front of a screen of flowers, became the most liked Instagram post of that year. Beyoncé’s image powerfully demonstrates how some women have succeeded in taking ownership not just of representations of their pregnant bodies, but also the distribution of their portraits.

This exhibition, curated by Professor Karen Hearn FSA, previously the curator of sixteenth- and seventeenth-century British art at Tate Britain (1992–2012) and now Honorary Professor at University College London, is the first of its kind and provides an exceptional opportunity to situate contemporary issues of women’s equality and autonomy in a 500-year context; it forms part of the Foundling Museum’s ongoing programme of exhibiting art that reflects its mission to celebrate the power of individuals and the arts to change lives. The exhibition is supported by the Drapers’ Company, Norland College and the 1739 Club.

Karen Hearn, Portraying Pregnancy: Holbein to Social Media (London: Paul Holberton, 2020), 112 pages, ISBN: 978-1911300809, £18.

New Book | The Mobility of People and Things

Posted in books by Editor on November 18, 2019

From Routledge:

Elisabeth A. Fraser, ed., The Mobility of People and Things in the Early Modern Mediterranean: The Art of Travel (New York: Routledge, 2019), 160 pages, ISBN: 978-1138488083, $150.

For centuries artists, diplomats, and merchants served as cultural intermediaries in the Mediterranean. Stationed in port cities and other entrepôts of the Mediterranean, these go-betweens forged intercultural connections even as they negotiated and sometimes promoted cultural misunderstandings. They also moved objects of all kinds across time and space. This volume considers how the mobility of art and material culture is intertwined with greater Mediterranean networks from 1580 to 1880. Contributors see the movement of people and objects as transformational, emphasizing the trajectory of objects over single points of origin, multiplicity over unity, and mutability over stasis.

Elisabeth A. Fraser is Professor of Art History at the University of South Florida, Tampa.


List of figures
List of Plates
Chapter Abstracts

Elisabeth Fraser, Introduction
1  Sylvia Houghteling, ‘From Scorching Spain and Freezing Muscovy’: English Embroidery and Early Modern Mediterranean Trade
2  Meredith Martin and Gillian Weiss, A Tale of Two Guns: Maritime Weaponry between France and Algiers
3  Julia Landweber, Furnishing the Taste for Coffee in Early Modern France
4  Ashley Dimmig, Substitutes and Souvenirs: Reliving Polish Victory in ‘Turkish’ Tents
5  Elisabeth Fraser, The Ottoman Costume Album as Mobile Object and Agent of Contact
6  Leyla Belkaïd-Neri, Entangled Styles: Mediterranean Migration and Dress in Pre-Modern Algiers
7  Michèle Hannoosh, The Art of Wandering: Alexander Svoboda and Photography in the Nineteenth-Century Mediterranean

Contributor Biographies

Exhibition | The Golden Age of English Painting

Posted in books, catalogues, exhibitions by Editor on November 17, 2019

Press release for the exhibition:

The Golden Age of English Painting: From Reynolds to Turner
L’âge d’or de la peinture anglaise: De Reynolds à Turner
Musée du Luxembourg, Paris, 11 September 2019 — 16 February 2020

Curated by Martin Myrone and Cécile Maisonneuve

This exhibition, showing a selection of masterpieces from Tate Britain, highlights a key period in the history of painting in England, from the 1760s to around 1820, capturing the originality and diversity of the period. It takes visitors from the founding of the Royal Academy, with artists such as Reynolds and Gainsborough, to the turning point in the early 19th century, notably with Turner. The public will rediscover the great classics of British art here, all too rarely exhibited in France.

The reign of George III was preponderant for British art, with the founding of the Royal Academy of Arts, of which Joshua Reynolds (1723–1792), was the first president at the height of his career. This period also saw Thomas Gainsborough (1727–1788) join the Academy. In their own ways, Reynolds and Gainsborough, both masters of portraiture, brought novel visual and intellectual innovations to the genre, honouring the great masters while reinventing the wheel. With signs of an artistic golden age booming, this movement was also supported by major players in trade and industry, and then by the king himself.

The exhibition tackles the confrontation of the two portrait painters, through full-length paintings and intimate studies of members of the royal family or personalities of the day. Reynolds’s intellectual ambitions contrast with Gainsborough’s pictorial ease. Redefining British art alone, they raised the next generation to new heights. A selection of major portraits by their competitors and/or followers, such as John Hopper, William Beechey, and Thomas Lawrence, recall the influence of these two precursors. The exhibition also addresses the themes of lineage, family, and home with the genre painting that gave birth to a new approach to childhood. Reynolds’s extraordinary portrait The Archers puts the concept of wilderness at the service of a heroic representation of the British ruling class, while Gainsborough, George Stubbs, and George Morland focus their attention on the picturesque, through paintings depicting everyday life, especially in rural areas.

With the political and commercial exploitation of overseas territories as the basis for artistic progress, part of the exhibition addresses the presence of Great Britain in India and the Caribbean. Another section discusses the tremendous growth of watercolour, which allowed many artists to stand out by meeting the needs of a new amateur society. The last part of the exhibition shows how British artists such as Henri Fuseli, John Martin, P.J. de Loutherbourg, and J.M.W. Turner sublimated narrative figuration, paving the way for a new conception of art as a support for the imaginary.

Amandine Rabier, L’âge d’or de la peinture anglaise (Paris: Gallimard / Réunion des musées nationaux, 2019), 56 pages, ISBN: 978-2072859595, 10€.


Exhibition | The Torlonia Marbles

Posted in books, catalogues, exhibitions by Editor on November 13, 2019

From the Fondazione Torlonia . . . (In 1866 the Torlonia family bought the Villa Albani and its collection):

The Torlonia Marbles: Collecting Masterpieces
Musei Capitolini at Palazzo Caffarelli, Rome, 25 March 2020 — 10 January 2021

Curated by Carlo Gasparri and Salvatore Settis

From 25 March 2020 to 10 January 2021, ninety-six marbles from the Torlonia Collection will be on view to the public at a major show in Rome, in the new exhibition venue of the Musei Capitolini at Palazzo Caffarelli.
 The exhibition The Torlonia Marbles: Collecting Masterpieces is the first step of the agreement signed the 15th of March 2016 between the Ministry for the Cultural Heritage Activities and Tourism and the Torlonia Foundation, and is a result of the institutional agreement signed by the Directorate General for Archaeology, Fine Arts and Landscape and the Special Superintendency of Rome with the Torlonia Foundation itself. The scientific project for enhancing the collection is entrusted to Salvatore Settis, who is curating the exhibition with Carlo Gasparri; both are archaeologists and academics of the Accademia dei Lincei. The exhibition is organized by Electa, publisher of the catalog. The sculptures selected have been restored thanks to the contribution of Bvlgari.

This will be the opportunity to inaugurate the new prestigious exhibition venue in Roma Capitale of the Musei Capitolini at Palazzo Caffarelli. The choice of the location was dictated by the intention to focus the exhibition on the history of collecting. In this respect, the history of the Torlonia Museum at the Lungara (founded by Prince Alessandro Torlonia in 1875), with its 620 catalogued works of art, appears of outstanding importance. This collection is the result of a long series of acquisitions and some significant shift
 of sculptures between the various residences of the family.
 We can even say that the Torlonia Marbles constitute a collection of collections or rather
 a highly representative and privileged cross-section of the history of the collecting of antiquities in Rome from the 15th to the 19th centuries. The items on display are not only outstanding examples of ancient sculpture (busts, reliefs, statues, sarcophagi, and decorative elements), but also a reflection of a cultural process—the beginnings of the collecting of antiquities and the crucially important transition from the collection to the Museum, a process where Rome and Italy have had an indisputable primacy. In this way the exhibition traces the formation of the Torlonia Collection. The last of its five sections eloquently relates to the adjacent exedra of bronzes and the statue of Marcus Aurelius 
in the Musei Capitolini, bringing out the ties between the beginnings of private collecting
 of antiquities and the significance of the donation of the Lateran bronzes to the city of Rome by Sixtus IV in 1471.

The project to organize the exhibition of the Torlonia Collection in the renovated spaces
 of the new venue of the Musei Capitolini at Palazzo Caffarelli, restored to life by David Chipperfield Architects Milan. 
The March 2020 event is the first stage of a traveling exhibition, for which agreements are in progress with major international museums and which will conclude with the identification
 of permanent exhibition spaces for the opening of a new Torlonia Museum.

Also see the article by Elisabetta Povoledo from The New York Times (28 October 2019).


New Book | Painting with Fire

Posted in books by Editor on November 9, 2019

From The University of Chicago Press:

Matthew C. Hunter, Painting with Fire: Sir Joshua Reynolds, Photography, and the Temporally Evolving Chemical Object (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 2019), 304 pages, ISBN: 978-0226390253, $50.

Painting with Fire shows how experiments with chemicals known to change visibly over the course of time transformed British pictorial arts of the long eighteenth century—and how they can alter our conceptions of photography today. As early as the 1670s, experimental philosophers at the Royal Society of London had studied the visual effects of dynamic combustibles. By the 1770s, chemical volatility became central to the ambitious paintings of Sir Joshua Reynolds, premier portraitist and first president of Britain’s Royal Academy of Arts. Valued by some critics for changing in time (and thus, for prompting intellectual reflection on the nature of time), Reynolds’s unstable chemistry also prompted new techniques of chemical replication among Matthew Boulton, James Watt, and other leading industrialists. In turn, those replicas of chemically decaying academic paintings were rediscovered in the mid-nineteenth century and claimed as origin points in the history of photography.

Tracing the long arc of chemically produced and reproduced art from the 1670s through the 1860s, the book reconsiders early photography by situating it in relationship to Reynolds’s replicated paintings and the literal engines of British industry. By following the chemicals, Painting with Fire remaps familiar stories about academic painting and pictorial experiment amid the industrialization of chemical knowledge.

Matthew C. Hunter is associate professor in the Department of Art History and Communication Studies at McGill University. He is the author of Wicked Intelligence: Visual Art and the Science of Experiment in Restoration London, also published by the University of Chicago Press.


Introduction: Slow-Motion Mobiles
1  ‘Pictures . . . in time petrify’d’
2  Joshua Reynolds’s ‘Nice Chymistry’ in the 1770s
3  ‘Rend’rd Imortal”: The Work of Art in an Age of Chemical Reproduction
4  Space, Time, and Chemistry: Making Enlightenment ‘Photography’ in the 1860s
Conclusion: Art History in/as an Age of Combustion


New Book | Ancient Marbles in Naples in the Eighteenth Century

Posted in books by Editor on November 6, 2019

From Brill:

Eloisa Dodero, Ancient Marbles in Naples in the Eighteenth Century: Findings, Collections, Dispersals (Leiden: Brill, 2019), 630 pages, ISBN: 978-9004362857, €139 / $167.

In Ancient Marbles in Naples in the Eighteenth Century Eloisa Dodero aims at documenting the history of numerous private collections formed in Naples during the 18th century, with particular concern for the ‘Neapolitan marbles’ and the circumstances of their dispersal. Research has thus made it possible to formulate a synthesis of the collecting dynamics of Naples in the 18th century, to define the interest of the great European collectors, especially British, in the antiquities of the city and its territory and to draw up a catalogue which for the first time brings together the nucleus of sculptures reported in the Neapolitan collections or coming from irregular excavations, most of which shared the destiny of dispersal, in some cases here traced in definitive fashion.

Eloisa Dodero is curator archaeologist at the Capitoline Museums, Rome. She is involved in the publication of the Paper Museum of Cassiano dal Pozzo (Brepols) and in a new, revised edition of Taste and the Antique: The Lure of Classical Sculpture (Brepols).


List of Figures
List of Abbreviations


1  The Collections of Antiquities in Naples in the 18th Century: A Changing Scenario

2  Sources for a Knowledge of the Neapolitan Collections of Antiquities in the 18th Century
• The Descrizioni of Naples and the Travel Literature in the 17th and 18th Century
• Erudite Works, Epigraphic Sylloges and Corpora
• The Correspondence of Antiquarians
• Catalogues of Collections
• Private Archives, Inventories and Auction Catalogues
• The Evidence Offered by the Paintings
• The Townley Archive, the Townley Drawings and the Topham Collection of Drawings

3  Collections of Antiquities in Naples between the End of the 17th and the Closing Years of the 18th Century
• Sculptures as Furniture: Ancient Marbles in Old Palaces and Stately Homes
• The Leading Collectors
• Small Collections of Vases, Inscriptions, Coins, Gems
• Wunderkammern in Naples
• The Collections of the Religious Orders
• The Collections of the Foreigners

4  The Channels of Dispersal of the Neapolitan Marbles from the Viceregal Period to the End of the 18th Century
• The Spanish Viceroyalty and the Austrian Viceroyalty
• The Age of the Bourbons
• Marbles of Neapolitan Origin in 18th-Century British Collections


Catalogue – Part 1: Ancient Marbles in 18th-Century Neapolitan Collection

Sculptures as Furniture: Ancient Marbles in Old Palaces and Stately Homes
• Palazzo Carafa di Colubrano (cat. no. 1–43)
• Villa Mazza (cat. no. 44–50)
• Palazzo Firrao (cat. no. 51–52)
• Palazzo Cellamare (cat. no. 53–64)
• The Gaetani d’Aragona, Dukes of Laurenzano (cat. no. 65–71)

The Leading Collectors
• Giuseppe Valletta (cat. no. 72–122)
• Felice Maria Mastrilli (cat. no. 123–133)
• Giovanni Battista Carafa Duke di Noja (cat. no. 134–138)

Small Collections of Vases, Inscriptions, Coins, Gems
• Ferdinando Galiani (cat. no. 139–140)

Wunderkammern in Naples
• Francesco Antonio Picchiatti (cat. no. 141–145)

The Collections of the Foreigners
• Sir William Hamilton (cat. no. 146–200)
• Vinzenz von Rainer zu Harbach (cat. no. 201–202)

Catalogue – Part 2: Sculptures Found in Naples and Its Surroundings Between the 17th and the 18th Century

Pimentel’s Excavations at Cuma (cat. no. 203–217)

The Dispersal
• Berlin (cat. no. 218–222)
• Paris (cat. no. 223–224)
• Saint Petersburg (cat. no. 225)
• Rome (cat. no. 226–233)

Hadrawa’s Excavations in Capri (cat. no. 234–240)

Neapolitan Marbles in British Collections
• Wilton House
• Other Collections Assembled in the First Half of the 18th Century (cat. no. 241)
• Charles Townley Collection (cat. no. 242–252)
• Lyde Browne Collection (cat. no. 251–253)
• Henry Blundell Collection (cat. no. 254–255)
• Thomas Hope Collection (cat. no. 256)

Archival Sources
Index of Sculptures by Location
General Index

New Book | The Lost Library of the King of Portugal

Posted in books by Editor on November 5, 2019

On 1 November 1755, Lisbon was devastated by a massive earthquake. From PHP:

Angela Delaforce, The Lost Library of the King of Portugal (London: Paul Holberton Publishing, 2019), 208 pages, ISBN: 978-1912168156, £45.

The destruction on the morning of All Saints Day 1755 of the heart of the city of Lisbon by an earthquake, tidal wave and the urban fires that followed was a tragedy that divides the 18th century in Portugal. One casualty on that fatal morning was the Royal Library, one of the most magnificent libraries in Europe at the time. The Lost Library of the King of Portugal tells the story of the lost library—its creation, collection, and significance.

This 18th-century library was founded by the Bragança monarch Dom João V shortly after he came to the throne in 1706 and was housed at the heart of the royal palace, the Paço da Ribeira, in Lisbon. The king’s abiding ambition was to create one of Europe’s great court libraries, and, at the time of his death in 1750, it was reputed to be one of the most magnificent libraries in Europe. The Royal Library was also composed of a Cabinet of Prints and Drawings, medals and scientific instruments as well as a Cabinet of Natural History with specimens from across Portugal’s global empire.

This documented study describes the creation of the library, its cultural significance in 18th-century Portugal, the acquisition of single volumes as well as entire libraries from across Europe, and the role in this of Portugal’s most talented diplomats. It includes the collection of manuscripts from the celebrated library of Charles Spencer, 3rd Earl of Sunderland and the unpublished correspondence exchanged during the negotiations between London and Lisbon. Throughout his reign, the devout Dom João V set out to conjure up his own vision of Rome and the papal court he never saw. Two chapters are devoted to Italy—one to the talented archaeologist Francesco Bianchini at the papal court, including the unpublished correspondence between him and his royal patron Dom João V, as well as the guides to Rome and art and architecture at the ducal courts of northern Italy, both commissioned by the king.

When the library was destroyed in 1 November 1755 by the earthquake, tidal wave, and the fires that followed, only a few books, manuscripts, and albums of prints were saved, and the author traces their final journey with the royal family and court to Brazil on the eve of the invasion by Napoleon’s army in November 1806.

New Book | Aquatint Worlds

Posted in books by Editor on November 4, 2019

From Yale UP:

Douglas Fordham, Aquatint Worlds: Travel, Print, and Empire, 1770–1820 (London: The Paul Mellon Centre for Studies in British Art, 2019), 384 pages, ISBN: 978-1913107048, £45 / $60.

In the late 18th century, British artists embraced the medium of aquatint for its ability to produce prints with rich and varied tones that became even more stunning with the addition of color. At the same time, the expanding purview of the British empire created a market for images of far-away places. Book publishers quickly seized on these two trends and began producing travel books illustrated with aquatint prints of Indian cave temples, Chinese waterways, African villages, and more. Offering a close analysis of three exceptional publications—Thomas and William Daniell’s Oriental Scenery (1795–1808), William Alexander’s Costume of China (1797–1805), and Samuel Daniell’s African Scenery and Animals (1804–5)—this volume examines how aquatint became a preferred medium for the visual representation of cultural difference, and how it subtly shaped the direction of Western modernism.

Douglas Fordham is associate professor of art history at the University of Virginia.

Exhibition | Canova and Thorvaldsen

Posted in books, catalogues, exhibitions by Editor on October 31, 2019

Antonio Canova, The Three Graces, 1813–16
(St. Petersburg: State Hermitage Museum)

◊  ◊  ◊  ◊  ◊

From the press release (via Art Daily) for the exhibition:

Canova and Thorvaldsen: The Birth of Modern Sculpture
The Gallerie d’Italia—Piazza Scala, Milan, 25 October 2019 — 15 March 2020

Curated by Stefano Grandesso and Fernando Mazzocca

The Gallerie d’Italia—Piazza Scala, Intesa Sanpaolo’s museum in Milan, presents Canova and Thorvaldsen: The Birth of Modern Sculpture, on display from 25 October 2019 to 15 March 2020. The exhibition tells the story of the two great sculptors, Italian Antonio Canova (1757–1822) and Danish Bertel Thorvaldsen (1770–1844), focusing on their rivalry and how they transformed the very idea of sculpture and its techniques to create works of art that inspired their contemporaries and generations of artists that followed. Italy played a central role to both sculptors’ lives, and careers and the exhibition brings over 150 works together from across Italy and further afield to Milan with key works from the Intesa Sanpaolo collection to be shown together for the first time.

The city of Rome was particularly important to both artists. Canova arrived in 1781 and remained in the city until his death in 1822, while Thorvaldsen settled in the city in 1797, spending the next forty years there. It was in Rome that the two great masters began engaging in one of the most famous and fruitful instances of artistic competition in history, interpreting identical themes and subjects to create a number of masterpieces: classical mythological works, such as Psyche Revived by Cupid’s Kiss, Venus, Paride, Hebe, and The Three Graces—which embodied some of life’s great themes, from the brevity of youth, the enchantment of beauty, to temptation and heartbreak. Canova and Thorvaldsen brings together the fruits of this historic competition and ongoing rivalry for the first time, including Canova’s celebrated Graces from the State Hermitage Museum alongside Thorvaldsen’s Cupid and The Graces from the Thorvaldsen Museum, offering visitors the unique opportunity to compare each of these masters’ approach and style.

Both Canova and Thorvaldsen were celebrated by their contemporaries and by critics of the era for their appreciation for the classical world and ability to reinterpret classical themes through the lens of the modern day. Canova was seen as a revolutionary artist in Italy and abroad who gave sculpture precedence over all other forms of art by confronting ancient works and reinterpreting them for a contemporary audience. Keeping a close eye on the work and strategy of his rival, Thorvaldsen was inspired by a stricter and more conservative adherence to classical norms, beginning a new period of Nordic art inspired by Mediterranean civilisations.

Both artists not only revolutionised an approach to classical ideals in sculpture but also advanced new techniques. Each established large studios the size of complex workshops with numerous colleagues, and students and were able to break free from the constraints that clients typically placed on sculpture due to the high costs of marble or bronze. Thanks to the technical innovations like the use of preparatory plaster models, introduced by Canova and used on a large scale by Thorvaldsen the sculptors had—for the very first time—the freedom to express their own poetic vision through statues designed without being commissioned.

The unprecedented pairing of these two great sculptors is made possible through Intesa Sanpaolo’s partnerships with the Thorvaldsen Museum in Copenhagen and the State Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg, as well as the contribution of major works loaned by museums and private collections in Italy and abroad including the Vatican Library, the Uffizi Galleries in Florence, the J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles, the Museo Nacional del Prado in Madrid, the Pinacoteca di Brera gallery and Pinacoteca gallery of the Ambrosian Library in Milan, the Metropolitan Museum in New York, the Museo e Gypsotheca Antonio Canova in Possagno, the National Gallery of Ancient Art in Rome, and the Gallerie dell’Accademia in Venice.

Stefano Grandesso and Fernando Mazzocca, Canova e Thorvaldsen: La nascita della scultura moderna (Milan: Skira, 2019), 408 pages, ISBN: 885724252, €42.

More information about the exhibition (in Italian) is available here»