Caravaggio in Florence and Rome this Spring

Caravaggio_Sacrificio di Isacco_smThis Spring there are two major exhibits that celebrate Michelangelo Merisi, better known as Caravaggio, on the 400th anniversary of his death, and they are only an hour and a half apart on the fast train. At Rome's Scuderie del Quirinale, the originally titled show "Caravaggio" runs from Feb 20 to June 13th, 2010. Florence's Uffizi and Pitti gallery have chosen to explore "Caravaggio and the Caravaggesques in Florence" from May 22 to October 10, 2010. This means that there is about a month's overlap, between May 22 and June 13th, that the lucky Caravaggio-loving Italian traveler could visit both exhibits on one trip! The Florence exhibit has gathered together the Caravaggio works resident in the city and compares them to works by followers or those influenced by the artist. This includes quality works like the famous Bacchus and the Sacrifice of Isaac (pictured above), both from the Uffizi Gallery. This makes for a show of over one hundred paintings that will surely contribute to our understanding of Caravaggio's influence in Florence, where we don't know for sure if he even resided; visitors should not, however, expect a whole room full of paintings by the master - these kinds of shows seldom work that way. Rome's show, on the other hand, seems to have pulled out all the stops: they display only those works securely attributed to Caravaggio and have procured expensive loans from museums worldwide. I'd say this will be worth the 50 euro trip on the Freccia Rossa down to Rome to see it. The biggest question is... how will the Uffizi's Bacchus manage to be in both shows at once :-). (Careful reading of both websites indicates its presence in both shows!)

Here is the press release for the show in Florence; below is the information for the show in Rome.

Caravaggio_Bacco_smFlorence and Caravaggio:sound like a gamble? Did Caravaggio actually come through Florence? Did he see, as some would claim, the wonderful botanical watercolours by Jacopo Ligozzi in the Medici collection? It is certain that he frequented the Palazzo Firenze in Rome whence ambassador Cardinal Del Monte kept on good terms with grand duke Ferdinando I de' Medici. While the other interrogatives remain without answers for the moment, we know that splendid paintings by Caravaggio - the Bacchus and the Medusa - reached the Uffizi already towards the end of the XVI century. Others (two or three) were in time purchased by the Grand Dukes who thus proved to be early and staunch admirers - especially Cosimo II - of the controversial Lombard painter and of his followers and imitators. The presence of important artists in the city such as Artemisia Gentileschi, Battistello Caracciolo and Theodoor Rombouts, and the direct dealings with artists like Gerrit Honthorst, Bartolomeo Manfredi and Jusepe Ribera gave rise to an intense Caravaggesque "season" which left an extraordinary number of paintings at the court and in the city that after Rome still today boasts the largest collection of Caravaggesque paintings in the world. Gerrit Honthorst (who authored the Adoration of the Shepherds, today in the Uffizi Gallery, though heavily damaged by the Via dei Georgofili bombing of 1993) was the protagonist of one of the most important episodes of the fortune of Caravaggesque painting outside of Rome. This was the never-completed decoration of the Guicciardini Chapel in the church of Santa Felicita which he was to execute with Cecco del Caravaggio (the Resurrection of Christ, Art Institute of Chicago) and Spadarino and of which, for the first time, the exhibition proposes a virtual reconstruction. Thanks to the outstanding Florentine legacy of works by Caravaggio, a nucleus of Caravaggesque paintings, and numerous loans, two of the most important state museums of Florence - the Uffizi Gallery and the Palatine Gallery - will host the Caravaggio and Caravaggesque exhibition in Florence, on the occasion of the IV centennial of Caravaggio's death. Forty years after the pioneering exhibition curated by Evelina Borea, the event will be the occasion to present more than one hundred paintings, both famous and less famous, in the light of research, documents and new attributions that have modified the critical panorama and the taste of the public. ----- In ROME: Caravaggio An exhibition that adopts a radically innovative and up-to-date approach to this extremely famous and enormously celebrated "Lombard genius". A large amount of recent research and scholarship, along with numerous exhibitions and papers probing the life and career of Michelangelo Merisi, alias Caravaggio, have confirmed growing worldwide interest in this artist's painting and the pivotal role that painting has played in the history of art over the past four centuries.  This is the backdrop and the mood that has spawned the idea for a new and ambitiously "simple" exhibition - an exciting and straightforward display devised on the basis of a stringent criterion and presented to the public in a tight rather than an anthological exhibit focusing exclusively on the artist's "capital" works; in other words, including only those works historically ascertained to be by the master's own hand. The decision to focus only on paintings known to be by Caravaggio himself has meant that we have excluded any works attributed to his "school" and have set aside, almost in a kind of temporary suspension, the "additional versions" and all of the questionable works debated by critics with often differing opinions throughout the 20th century.  The end result is a consistent and stringent exhibition that sheds new light on the various stages in the development of Caravaggio's tortured artistic career - an exciting, crystal-clear display that distills and enhances the exceptional, indeed the unique, quality of his output. The exhibition will include many of Caravaggio's most representative works, including the Bacchus from Florence's Uffizi Gallery, the David With the Head of Goliath from the Borghese Gallery in Rome, the Musicians from the Metropolitan Museum in New York, the Lute Player from the Hermitage in St. Petersburg, Amor Vincit Omnia from the Staatliche Museum in Berlin, and numerous other masterpieces from many of the most important museums in Italy and around the world.  The exhibition is designed in many ways to be a tribute to the unique quality of Caravaggio's work in this year in which celebrations are being held to mark the 400th anniversary of his death. The exhibition at the Scuderie del Quirinale is set to offer the public a new and stimulating opportunity to penetrate the very essence of the "terribly natural" painter, his revolutionary and astonishing naturalistic criterion, and his stubborn if questioning deference to the depiction of reality which no pattern or school could contain, which was solitary in its poetic greatness. The project, designed to celebrate the 400th anniversary of the great artist's death and enjoying the lofty patronage of the President of the Republic, has been developed under the aegis of the Soprintendenza Speciale per il Patrimonio Storico Artistico ed Etnoantropologico e per il Polo Museale of the City of Rome.