Most of the Caravaggios on show have a history of doubt. They are enthusiastically added to the list of the master’s works or they are mercilessly deleted. Caravaggio’s oeuvre seems to be either expanding or shrinking every now and then (well, like any old master’s). The famous Narcissus seems to have got a definitive roof over its head in Caravaggio’s house, after having been attributed to others, Spadarino amongst others. And what is definitive in art history? Now it shares its place as a frontispiece with Bernini’s Medusa for the exhibition Caravaggio – Bernini: Baroque in Rome at the Rijksmuseum. .
The exhibition shows works by Caravaggio and Bernini and especially by their followers and competitors. Amongst them some really great masters, whose fame only just survived the big shadows of the two great masters who have become iconic for the early Baroque period in Rome.
Amongst others the Brabantian sculptor François Duquesnoy, who arrived in Rome when he was around 20 years old and stayed there for the rest of his life
Look at this amazing self-portrait of Simon Vouet how he painted his collar. It’s just white paint and still it’s a collar.
Another great Vouet. Not just the expression of the sitter may strike you but also the way his cloths are painted with sketchy sprezzatura. It may remind you of Frans Hals.
One of the few but famous self-portraits by Bernini. Bernini, whose great example was Michelangelo, was not just a great sculptor, he was also an architect, a stage designer, director and actor and a talented painter, although – like Michelangelo – he preferred sculpture as a matter of principle.
This portrait of Maffeo Barberini is said to be by Caravaggio. According to the catalogue it is regarded as a real Caravaggio, based on “many arguments.” Whatever the arguments are, personally i think that if it is by Caravaggio it must be one of his very first ventures in portraiture, or it is a copy of a lost original by Caravaggio.
This bust of Scipione Borghese by Giuliano Finelli is said to be ordered by the sitter in competition with Bernini’s now famous bust of Scipione (in the Villa Borghese in Rome). Like in Bernini’s bust the cardinal seems to have had problems with his buttons and buttonholes.
It is a good thing that the exhibition doesn’t show just examples of masterpieces, although one could ask what this misfit by Carlo Saraceni is doing here, especially since there is a much more convincing Saraceni elsewhere in the exhibition.
This Boy stung by a bee by Hendrick de Keyser is a little extra by the Rijksmuseum, as De Keyser didn’t work in Rome and he is not in the catalogue.
One of the surprises of the exhibition is this St. Cecilia by Francesco Mochi, which almost looks like a Futurist sculpture.
In those days archaeology of the Roman past and its restoration had become a serious cultural business. Remains of antique sculpture were restored and completed by great sculptors, like this Faun whose limbs and head were sculpted by François Duquesnoy.
This impressive Spadarino was also on show in last year’s exhibition of the Caravaggisti at the Centraal Museum in Utrecht, where i made this picture (click here for the report).
From here on i realised i had only very little time left as i had spent the morning and part of the early afternoon at the Stedelijk to see the Nam June Paik retrospective (see reports here in Dutch and here in English) , and as it was increasingly difficult to take a look at all interesting items of the exhibition and to keep a five feet social distance and to make some pictures which would give some idea of what i found to be interesting. So i decided to skip the photographing.
That’s why the ending of this photo report is a bit of an anti-climax.
It is a very full and detailed exhibition (which was made in co-operation with the Kunsthistorisches Museum in Vienna) and i can only advise you to visit it, as far as possible and as far as wise, taking into account the upsurge of the Corona virus in Amsterdam.
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© Villa Next Door 2020
Contents of all photographs courtesy to all owners of the works and to the Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam.
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