MART showcases Antonello da Messina
First monographic show since Rome record-breaker in 200609 October, 19:50
(By Denis Greenan).
(ANSA) - Rovereto, October 9 - One of northern Italy's top museums, the MART in Rovereto near Trento, is showcasing Sicilian Renaissance master Antonello da Messina in what it calls its "most significant" exhibition of the year.
The October 5-January 14 show on the still-mysterious 15th-century Sicilian artist credited with bringing oil painting to Venice has been organised by the MART in conjunction with Sicily's regional government and leading Italian art publishing house Electa. "This is the museum's most important exhibition of 2013, not only for the exceptional nature of the works displayed, thanks to international loans granted for the occasion, but also for the groundbreaking chronological breadth of the comparisons offered," said the MART, which is based in Italian contemporary great Fortunato Depero's birthplace. The exhibition, curated by Ferdinando Bologna and Federico De Melis with the assistance of Maria Calì and Simone Facchinetti, offers "a complex investigation and an original overview of the artist and his times, through the study of the art-historical links and airing of controversies that remain open to this day, proposed here as points of strength through which to explore new avenues in critical interpretation," the MART said.
The exhibition offers not only insights into chronological details, an analysis of Antonello da Messina's collaborations, similarities and differences, imitators and masters, but concentrates also on "a profound study of the poetic intelligence of an artist who succeeded in capturing the psychological overtones and most intimate characteristics of the human soul", it said.
The exhibition has been made possible thanks to previous and generous collaborations with leading national and international institutions like the Museums of Sicily, the Galleria Borghese in Rome, the Musei Civici di Venezia, the Fundación Colección Thyssen Bornemisza of Madrid, the Philadelphia Museum of Art and the Metropolitan Museum of New York.
The National Gallery of Washington, for example, will be depriving itself of two major works from its permanent collection for the entire duration of the exhibition in Rovereto.
Also on show will be some works not present in recent retrospectives in other Italian museums dedicated to Antonello da Messina, including the Portrait of a Man from the Philadelphia Museum of Art, the Salvator Mundi from the National Gallery in London and the Madonna Benson from the National Gallery of Washington.
The last Italian landmark show on Antonello was at the Scuderie del Quirinale in 2006, when it was one of the biggest hits of that art year in Italy and set a new attendance record for the exhibition space opposite Italy's presidential palace. Although much of Antonello's life (c. 1430-1479) remains shrouded in mystery, Giorgio Vasari's 16th-century Lives Of The Artists insists he introduced the "secret" of oil painting to Venice.
While later historians have greeted this claim with some degree of scepticism, it is generally accepted that his stint in Venice, from 1475-76, was extremely influential.
As well as popularising little-known oil techniques, he is also credited with bringing Flemish styles to the lagoon City.
Antonello had himself been introduced to these techniques while studying in Naples, a thriving cultural centre at the time. He was apparently immediately captivated by Flemish work, in particular, that of Jan van Eyck.
His skill at blending Flemish techniques and realism with traditional Italian forms is already visible in his earliest known works, a Crucifixion (c. 1455) and St Jerome in His Study (c. 1460).
Although the bulk of Antonello's work was drawn from religious commissions, producing altarpieces for churches and convents, his dazzling miniature portraits brought him renown across Italy.
After leaving Naples, he opened his own workshop in his native town of Messina, where he lived until 1474 before heading north. His reputation preceded him and he was in huge demand shortly after settling.
During this period he was supported by the Venetian state and his techniques quickly spread among local artists.
It was while in Venice that he produced some of his best-known works, including perhaps his most famous piece of all, a St Sebastian (c. 1476).