Press release, Rijksmuseum : “Caravaggio-Bernini : Baroque in Rome, from Feb.14 to June 7, 2020
In the first decades of the 17th century a new generation of ambitious artists led by the brilliant painter Caravaggio and sculptor Bernini shook the eternal city of Rome from its slumber. They introduced a new language to art that dispensed with elegance and incited the emotions. This was Baroque, a spectacular artistic style charged with drama, dynamism and bravura, which sparked intimate collaborations between painting, sculpture and architecture. This was a revolution in Western art, one that started in Rome and resonated throughout Europe.
Caravaggio-Bernini. Baroque in Rome is an exhibition of more than 70 masterpieces by Caravaggio, Bernini and their contemporaries. The paintings and sculptures are on loan to the Rijksmuseum from museums and private collections around the world.
Barok in Rome
This joyous Italian counterpart to the reserved and austere Protestant Dutch culture of the 17th was overlooked in the Netherlands. Elsewhere, however, it sparked an artistic revolution, and its impact was felt throughout Catholic Europe. The leading lights of Baroque in Rome were Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio (1571-1610) and the sculptor Gian Lorenzo Bernini (1598-1680), two geniuses around whom many other talented artists flocked. The arts in Rome were booming in the first decades of the 17th century, and in the space of just a few years the eternal city was transformed into an international pressure cooker bursting with new artistic ideas and initiatives. This vibrant climate formed the ideal conditions for the birth of a new style, one that would be only be named ‘Baroque’ much later – from the Portuguese barocco, for the irregular form of a natural pearl. More than ever before, painters teamed up with sculptors, and the central figures in this exhibition – Caravaggio, Bernini and their kindred spirits – embody this artistic fraternalism. Together, their works tell a story of immense artistic vigour in Rome and radical renewal in the arts in the approximate period from 1600 to 1640. The exhibition will be guided by key terms in the artistic vocabulary of the time, such as wonderment (meraviglia), vivacity (vivezza), motion (moto), jest (scherzo) and horror (terribilità).
Caravaggio and Bernini
Baroque began in Rome in the moment around 1600 when Caravaggio was causing a sensation with powerful chiaroscuro paintings imbued with an utterly innovative and intense naturalism. His radical art started a movement with many followers – they would later come to be known as Caravaggisti – including Italian artists such as father and daughter Gentileschi, Borgianni, Bartolomeo Manfredi, Guercino, Baglione and Mattia Preti, as well as the Dutch artsist Ter Brugghen and Honthorst van Van Baburen, for example. Just a few years after Caravaggio’s death in 1610, the multitalented sculptor Bernini came to the fore with a series of impressive and technically virtuoso sculptures that evoke drama, natural vitality and motion. In the decades that followed, Bernini’s sculptural work gave new impetus to Caravaggio’s legacy, one that radically altered the face of Rome. The sculptor’s innovations are felt to this day in any number of artistic terrains, including lifelike portraits, grand mausoleums, sculpted fountains and church architecture.
The exhibition highlights are Caravaggio’s mesmerising Narcissus, his Boy Bitten by a Lizard and The Crowning with Thorns, and Bernini sculptures such as the rarely exhibited early work Bacchus, his poignant Saint Sebastian, the bust of Medusa, as well as striking marble portraits of Thomas Baker and Cardinal Richelieu, and a painting titled Self-Portrait. Other paintings in the exhibition are by Ludovico and Annibale Carraci, Guido Reni, Giovanni Baglione, the Gentileschis, Nicolas Poussin, Simon Vouet, and the eccentric artist Tanzio da Varallo.
Other sculptures include works by Alessandro Algardi such as his black marble Sonno (Sleep), the dancing Rondinini Faun by the Flemish-Roman sculptor François du Quesnoy, and Francesco Mochi’s never-before-seen bronze horse at full trot.
Further informations on the exhibition are available here.
Image : Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio, Narcissus, Rome, c. 1600 Canvas, 113.3 × 94 cm Rome, Gallerie Nazionali d’Arte Antica, Palazzo Barberini Inv. no. 1569; gift of Vasilij Bogdanovič Khvoschinskij, 1916 Photo: Gallerie Nazionali d’Arte Antica – Bibliotheca Hertziana, Max Planck Institute for Art History/Enrico Fontolan.