Art in corona times 23. Caravaggio – Bernini: Baroque in Rome; Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam

Caravaggio, Palazzo Barberini, Rome
Caravaggio, Palazzo Barberini, Rome

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.   .

Gian Lorenzo Bernini, Musei Capitolini, Rome

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.

Gian Lorenzo Bernini, Musei Capitolini, Rome
Gian Lorenzo Bernini, Musei Capitolini, Rome
François Duquesnoy, Galleria Sabauda, Turin

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

François Duquesnoy, Galleria Sabauda, Turin
Nicolas Régnier, Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna
Simon Vouet, Musée des Beaux-Arts, Lyon

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.

Simon Vouet, Musée des Beaux-Arts, Lyon
François Duquesnoy, Palazzo Barberini, Rome
François Duquesnoy, Palazzo Barberini, Rome
(detail) Simon Vouet, Musée Réattu, Arles

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.

Gian Lorenzo Bernini, Victoria and Albert Museum, London
Gian Lorenzo Bernini, Victoria and Albert Museum, London
Gian Lorenzo Bernini, Uffizi, Florence

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.

Gian Lorenzo Bernini, Louvre, Paris
Francesco Mochi, Art Institute of Chicago
attributed to Domenichino, Art Gallery, York
attributed to Domenichino, Art Gallery, York
Caravaggio, private collection, Florence

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.

Andrea Sacchi, National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa
Giuliano Finelli, Metropolitan Museum, New York

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.

Giuliano Finelli, Metropolitan Museum, New York
Carlo Saraceni, Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna

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.

Gian Lorenzo Bernini, private collection, Rome
Hendrick de Keyser

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.

Orazio Borgianni, Real Academia de San Fernando, Madrid
(detail) Valentin de Boulogne, Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza, Madrid
Gian Lorenzo Bernini, private collection, Florence
Annibale Carracci, Kunsthisorisches Museum, Vienna
Francesco Mochi, private collection, England

One of the surprises of the exhibition is this St. Cecilia by Francesco Mochi, which almost looks like a Futurist sculpture.

Francesco Mochi, private collection, England
Francesco Mochi, Galleria Pallavicini, Rome
Francesco Mochi, Galleria Pallavicini, Rome
Francesco Mochi, Galleria Pallavicini, Rome
Gian Lorenzo Bernini, private collection
Gian Lorenzo Bernini, private collection
Ludovico Carracci, Getty Museum, Los Angeles
2nd century AD Roman torso completed by François Duquesnoy, British Museum, London

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.

2nd century AD Roman torso completed by François Duquesnoy, British Museum, London
2nd century AD Roman torso completed by François Duquesnoy, British Museum, London
2nd century AD Roman torso completed by François Duquesnoy, British Museum, London
Orazio Gentileschi, Galleria Nazionale della Liguria, Genoa
Orazio Gentileschi, Galleria Nazionale della Liguria, Genoa
Spadarino, Museum and Art Gallery, Perth – Scotland

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).

Caravaggio, Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna

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.

Caravaggio, Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna

That’s why the ending of this photo report is a bit of an anti-climax.

1st century AD Roman sculpture restored by Alessandro Algardi, private collection, Chicago
1st century AD Roman sculpture restored by Alessandro Algardi, private collection, Chicago
1st century AD Roman sculpture restored by Alessandro Algardi, private collection, Chicago
Caravaggio, Galleria Corsini, Rome
Caravaggio, Museo Civico, Cremona

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.

Guido Reni, Galleria Nazionale della Liguria, Genoa

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© Villa Next Door 2020

Contents of all photographs courtesy to all owners of the works and to the Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam.

Bertus Pieters

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Towards the end of a break

Hendrick ter Brugghen, Fluteplayer, 1621

Dear Villa watchers/readers, i decided to extend my holidays as the weather is improving a bit and i must say i like the feeling of not being pressed.

Orazio Gentileschi, Judith, a Servant and Holofernes’ Head, 1620s

What does your editor do when not visiting art exhibitions?

Simon Vouet, David & Goliath, around 1621

Well, visiting art exhibitions, i guess.

Caravaggio, Medusa, 1598/9

There were and are some interesting shows these days.

Valentin de Boulogne, TheCrowning with Thorns, 1620s

In England the brexit crisis is quickly gaining momentum, in this country a narcissistic  appendix has won the elections, but in the mean time i saw more important things.

Spadarino, Christ showing his Wounds, 1625/35

Not in the least in the Centraal Museum in Utrecht where i visited the much touted exhibition Utrecht, Caravaggio and Europe. I am usually not an enthusiastic visitor of the Centraal Museum as i always find it a bit gloomy and depressing, in spite of its interesting collections.

Orazio Gentileschi, The Crowning with Thorns, 1610/15

Happily the caravaggists exhibition had nothing of that spirit.

Gerard van Honthorst, The Liberation of St peter, 1616/18

Great painting was presented in a grand way.

Medieval reliquary

As i had some time left in Utrecht i also visited the exhibition of the Münster Cathedral Treasure at Museum Catharijneconvent.

Medieval reliquary
Medieval reliquary

Highlight was the collection of medieval gold and silver reliquaries which were very well presented, although i must admit i am not a great fan of gold and silver objects, but it is the medieval awe and wonder these objects evoke i am really interested in.

Cornelis van Cleve, Mary with Child, mid 16th century
Rembrandt van Rijn, The Baptism of the Man from Ethiopia, 1628

The museum also tries to profit a bit from the upcoming Rembrandt mania this year by showing some smaller works from its own collection by masters from the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, amongst which a very early work by the master himself.

Henrick Douwerman, St. Christopher, around 1525
Anonymous, Theodosia Altar, around 1545, Gueldres
Anonymous, Christ and his Disciples in the Garden of Getsemane, around 1440, probably Worms
Anonymous, Christ and his Disciples in the Garden of Getsemane, around 1440, probably Worms
Anonymous, St. John under the Cross, around 1200, Meuse region
Anonymous, St. Lambert Triptych, 1470/80, Utrecht
Anonymous, St. Lambert Triptych, 1470/80, Utrecht

The presentation of its own collection of medieval objects is probably the best one can think of, with some great pieces, including the loan from the Parisian Musée du Moyen Âge, the 15th century Saint Lambert triptych.

King and former general Horemheb and the god Horus (14th century BC)
The goddess Sekhmet of both disease and healing (14h century BC)
Feet of a lost sculpture (around 600 BC)
Small statue (around 600 BC)
Detail of a mummy coffin (700-300 BC)

A lover of Old Egyptian art and aesthetics, i visited the Gods of Egypt exhibition at the National Museum of Antiquities in Leiden.

Ptahmose, vizier of Amenhotep III, 14th century BC (relief from the 13th century BC)

However, the educational aspect and the presentation of the objects and statues were so uninspiring that i preferred a stroll around the museum’s own Egyptian collection.

Wall of the chapel of the tomb of Hetepherachty (around 2400 BC)
Wall of the chapel of the tomb of Hetepherachty (around 2400 BC)

Even so i have my doubts about the presentations of these antiquities.

Donkeys on a threshing floor (around 2400 VC)
King Horemheb and his wife (1335-1320 BC)

What does the museum want? Does it want to show the aesthetics of the objects? Does it want to tell their stories? Does it want to be educational?

Canope (jar with intestines of the deceased; 14th century BC)
Queen Hatshepsut’s royal steward Senemut and Princess Neferure (1479-1458 BC)

I am sure it wants all of that at the same time, but there is a kind of scientific objectiveness in the presentation that seems to deny the aesthetic specificity of these objects and their different contexts (both the archaeological, the historical and the present day).

Holidays 033 Egypt
Probably Queen Nefertiti (around 1340 BC)

Generally, how true is the story that Old Egypt was the great ancestor of our own present-day Western culture and that it should be appropriated as such? Why are antiquities other than Egyptian, Greek and Roman stored in another museum in Leiden? And how does this idea affect the quasi-objective presentation of the museum?

In between i visited Rotterdam Zoo, designed by Sybold van Ravesteyn (1889-1983) it was built around 1940.

Sumatran tiger

It still contains many buildings and decorations of Van Ravesteyn’s design in which modernism and neoclassicism were combined.

Sacred ibis
Spotted hyena
Reticulated giraf
Pelicans in the rain

While the former Rotterdam zoo was only open to a small elite, the then new zoo opened to the general public, so the people had to be uplifted with both science, mildly modern neoclassical architecture and art.

Later on i visited Museum de Fundatie in Zwolle to see the exhibition Freedom , an exhibition compiled by critic and art historian Hans den Hartog Jager with fifty works by fifty Dutch artists of the last fifty years. There is more to be said about this interesting show, so i’ll reserve that for a more elaborate review in Villa La Repubblica (in Dutch) later next month. The building itself has been expanded with a strange and somewhat disturbing tumour on its roof.

Part of ‘The Unexpected Return of Blinky Palermo from the Tropics’ by the artists’ collective Seymour Likely

Apart from being remarkable from the outside, from the inside it has created a lot of unpractical and intrusive space. But then, of course, the swelling has to elevate Zwolle far above its provincial roots. And naturally one can make a striking exhibition even in a murky shed.

‘Peanut Butter Floor’ by Wim T. Schipper

Alas, that didn’t happen at the Stedelijk Museum in Schiedam in the exhibition Manzoni in Holland.

‘This Way Brouwn’ by Stanley Brouwn

One can regard Piero Manzoni’s (1933-1963) tins with the artist’s shit as reliquaries just as the medieval reliquaries at Museum Catharijneconvent, but in Schiedam the museum doesn’t succeed in evoking the special euphoria of Manzoni’s time.

Cylinders containing lines of deifferent lengths by Piero Manzoni

The exhibition has the atmosphere of a musty antique shop, it is an auction of grandfather’s estate.

‘No. 7’ by Heinz Mack

The novelty of Manzoni’s works and his contemporaries doesn’t come to life and any link with present day Dutch art seems to have been avoided at all cost.

Detail of an Achrome by Piero Manzoni

Such while this period has had an enormous effect on Dutch art making and appreciation today.

‘Lichtballet’ (Light Ballet) by Otto Piene

Manzoni in Holland is nothing more than nostalgia, a missed opportunity.

‘Fabricator’ by Marisa Rappard
‘Nameless Streets #1’ by Lennart Lahuis
‘Undressed Days’ by Femmy Otten

More interesting were the presentations of new acquisitions and….

Funda Gül Özcan
Neo Matloga
Neo Matloga
Lonneke van der Palen
Holidays 062 Lonneke van der Palen
Lonneke van der Palen
Neo Matloga

….of works by the contenders for the Volkskrant Visual Arts Award, Funda Gül Özcan, Neo Matloga and Lonneke van der Palen.

Jan Pieters
Jan Pieters

To end this holiday report in a more or less nepotistic way here are two paintings by my brother which i saw in Spijkenisse where he is taking part in a group show.

© Villa Next Door 2019

Contents of photographs courtesy to all artists, owners, museums and galleries involved.

Bertus Pieters