As visitors are roaming the floors of art museums once again, two unique expositions an ocean away have brought the dramatic lights of the Baroque to center stage. In Saint Petersburg’s Museum of Fine Arts (Florida), ‘Bernini and the Roman Baroque: Masterpieces from Palazzo Chigi in Ariccia’ was exhibited between February 12th till May 8th. While back in Rome, at the Scuderie del Quirinale, ‘Super Barocco: Art in Genoa From Rubens To Magnasco’ will be on display until July3rd. Those two art routes captured different aspects of the Baroque style, presenting the viewers with a complete picture of a fascinating art movement.
The Italian Baroque developed in the historical context of the 16th century’s Counter-Reformation. As a response to the Protestant Reformation, the Roman Catholic Church went through an internal restoration of its culture, symbols and way of living. From the 16th to the mid-18th century, Baroque’s role was to depict and communicate biblical truths and ideals in a new and more humane light. These changes can be best witnessed in Caravaggio’s freedom to represent religious figures as ordinary (often dirty) men and women. Other famous artists from the Baroque era were Annibale Carracci, Artemisia Gentileschi, and – the star of the Museum of Fine Arts’ exposition – Gian Lorenzo Bernini.
Organized by Glocal Project Consulting, ‘Bernini and the Roman Baroque’ was the first of a series of expositions at the MFA; the opening act to a 2022 full of post-COVID excitement in art and museums. As the name suggested, the route focused on Bernini’s work, capturing the theatrical reconstruction of Rome. Sculptor, painter, and architect, Bernini transformed Rome in the early 1600s, representing the Baroque ideal of embodying intense drama, engaging the audience, and emotional imagination. The expositions showcase Bernini’s smaller works that do not disappoint in details and drama. For instance, his hanging lamp decorated with cherubs is full of symbolic references: the biblical creatures are holding a crown, referencing the Virgin Mary’s crowning, topped by stars, representing the Chigi family (Bernini’s powerful patrons). The exposition also includes 40 canvases by other Baroque artists, such as Pietro da Cortona, Mattia Preti, and Giovanni Battista Gaulli. To inspire the Baroque mood, on February 13th the Florida Orchestra performed ‘From Bach to Baroque’ in the MFA; a powerful concert to complement an exposition that featured never before-seen in America and privately owned masterpieces from the Chigi family.
Meanwhile, at the Scuderie del Quirinale, 120 works of art showcase the Baroque of Genoa; as bright and cosmopolitan in its composition as its Roman counterpart, but more intimate than what was exposed in Florida. Co-produced with the National Gallery of Washington, the Scuderie’s rooms have been filled with faces that capture the protagonists of the political, social and economic history of Genoa. ‘Giovan Carlo Doria’ by Pieter Paul Rubens, ‘La Cuoca’ by Bernardo Strozzi, and ‘Agostino Pallavicino as Pope’s Ambassador’ by Antoon van Dyck are some of the portraits that capture the spirit and bright colors of the Genovese Baroque. The visitors will meet a parade of multifaceted characters, from the noble to the peasant, that embodies the intense and artistic diversity of 17th Century Genoa. This artistic journey concludes with Alessandro Magnasco’s masterpiece, ‘Entertainment in a garden of Albaro’: a melancholic view of Genoa, with nobles looking minuscule compared to the sublime panoramic view. The 120 works come on loan from major American and Italian art institutions, alongside international private collections, to commemorate one of the most eventful and brightest cities of the Baroque movement.
With new safety measures, museum expositions are coming back to stay. What better way to get back into it than with the Baroque; an art movement that brought new light and artistic excitement after years of darkness.