Caravaggio and his followers. Paintings from the Roberto Longhi Foundation in Florence and The Pushkin State Museum of Fine Arts

28.12.2015 – 10.01.2016

Main Building

The combination of works from the collections of the Pushkin State Museum of Fine Arts and the Roberto Longhi Foundation as part of the exhibition offers the public an opportunity to make interesting comparisons and new discoveries of common and individual factors in the working methods of these artists.

Price for exhibition "Caravaggio and his followers":

from 11 am до 1 pm: 300 rub., students, seniors 150 rub.
from 1 pm до 5:30 pm: 400 rub., students, seniors 200 rub.
from 5:30 pm till closed: 500 rub., students, seniors 250 rub.

Fridays, during events "Fridays in the Museum":
from 5:00 pm till closed: 700 rub., students, seniors 350 rub.

Saturday, Sunday:
from 11 am до 1 pm: 400 rub., students, seniors 200 rub.
from 1 pm till closed: 500 rub., students, seniors 250 rub.

Children under age of 16, ICOM members, disabled visitors with one accompanying person – free.

Paintings in the two collections from Italy and Moscow are united by the unified stylistics that evolved under the influence of Caravaggio’s work. Roberto Longhi himself expressed this with his customary eloquence: ‘Caravaggio discovered the “form of shadows”: a style in which light is liberated and, far from being subjected to the plastic definition of the bodies on which it falls, itself becomes, with the shadow that follows it, the arbitrator of the existence of bodies.’ Tommaso Salini, one of Caravaggio’s first followers whose superbly executed painting ‘The Crowning with Thorns’ features in this exhibition, mastered these lessons fully. Also closely related is the canvas ‘Saint Sebastian and Saint Irene’ by Angelo Caroselli, an artist represented in both collections that used similar techniques of chiaroscuro contrast.

The painting by Battistello Caracciolo in the Museum collection was for many years considered the work of an unknown artist. But it is in no way inferior to the ‘The Entombment’ from the Longhi collection and demonstrates the characteristic repertoire of techniques used by Caravaggio in his work on large-scale altar compositions. Another painting of indisputable interest is the monumental canvas by Giovanni Baglione, ‘The Appearance of the Angel to St. Joseph’, acquired by the Pushkin Museum in 2014. While developing his art in the traditions of Late Mannerism, Baglione, a master of the older generation and pupil of Salini, was one of Caravaggio’s first followers and his biographer.

Paintings by the Dutch painters from Utrecht Hendrick ter Brugghen, Gerrit van Honthorst, Matthias Stomer and Jan van Bijlert supplement the works by artists of this circle from the Longhi collection. Together with paintings by the French Valentin de Boulogne and Simon Vouet, they serve as an illustration of the ‘Manfrediana methodus’ (Manfredi’s method) – this is how the German biographer and artist Joachim von Sandrart described the proliferation of Caravaggesque painting methods and subject matter among foreigners working in Rome in the 17th century, referring to one of the first Caravaggisti, Bartolomeo Manfredi. A typical example of a work executed in the Manfredi manner is the composition ‘The Fruit Seller’. It is indicative to compare two paintings by Valentin de Boulogne with the same subject, ‘The Denial of St. Peter’, from the Longhi Foundation and Pushkin Museum collections. In terms of quality they may be numbered among the artist’s best works, although in the later painting from the Pushkin Museum the viewer can see alterations introduced by the artist, complicating both composition and drama of the subject matter.

Particularly important parallels between the two collections arise in Spanish paintings. Longhi’s series with five images of the Apostles, attributed by him to the Master of the Judgement of Solomon but now ascribed to the celebrated Jusepe de Ribera, is continued in a picture from the Pushkin Museum collection depicting St. Jacob the Elder. This work, the property of acclaimed Moscow collector Felix Vishnyevsky, is exhibited for the first time after restoration. The superior quality of the painting, characteristic plasticity of the face and effective minimalism in the background resolution prove that it belongs to this same group of works.

Interesting analogies may also be observed in 18th-century Italian painting. Among the works of a superior quality there is a new (2014) acquisition by the Museum, ‘Old Woman Warming Her Hands over a Brazier’ by Gaspare Traversi, which together with two other works from the collection gives a good idea of the master’s mature style. Almost completely forgotten soon after his death, the Neapolitan Traversi was rediscovered in the 1920s, again by Roberto Longhi, who especially valued this artist for the combination of emotionality in the image and documentary observation that is typical of his paintings. In many respects these same principles, also characteristic of Caravaggio himself, ensured the success of the Caravaggist movement, making its founder, in Longhi’s words, ‘the first painter of modernity’.

Caravaggio and His Followers from the Longhi Foundation Collection 

The ‘Caravaggio and His Followers’ exhibition at the Pushkin State Museum of Fine Arts was conceived as a continuation of the highly successful Caravaggio exhibition in the winter of 2011-2012, when eleven works by the great master were shown to the public. Paintings by Caravaggio and artists in his circle from the Roberto Longhi Foundation collection in Florence that belonged to the eminent art historian are now presented for the first time in Russia, as part of a joint project. The exposition is supplemented by works of the same period from the Museum’s own collection. As a whole the exhibition includes more than fifty works from two collections, as a visual demonstration of the immense influence Caravaggio’s painting exerted on his contemporaries and on artists of later generations, in Italy and beyond.

The exhibit opens with a picture entitled ‘Boy Bitten by a Lizard’ one of the recognised masterpieces of the young Caravaggio, known from numerous testimonies by his contemporaries. Longhi acquired the painting in 1920 and identified it as an earlier version of the work with the same title at the National Gallery in London. The expressive quality of the image and the numerous attempts to interpret the subject make this canvas particularly important for the early work of the artist, who arrived in Rome in 1593 and frequently repeated his works for sale. With regard to arrangement of the image and the time of completion, ‘Boy Peeling Fruit’, one of several repetitions of the very first surviving painting from Caravaggio’s Roman period, bears a close resemblance to this work.

The exhibition continues with paintings by the first followers of Caravaggio in Rome and Naples, well represented in the Roberto Longhi collection and rediscovered in the 20th century in his publications. Working in Rome, Orazio Borgianni, Carlo Saraceni and Angelo Caroselli were among the first to apprehend Caravaggio’s new creative method, with his typically monumental figures, light effects and naturalistic details. Borgianni’s ‘Lamentation of Christ’ is a superb example of fusion between Renaissance perspective, harking back to Andrea Mantegna’s celebrated work of the same name, and the chiaroscuro effects of Caravaggism. Three works by the Venetian Carlo Saraceni give an idea of this master famed for his imitation, not only of Caravaggio’s artistic techniques, but also his way of life.

Works by Giovanni Lanfranco and Guido Reni reflect the influence Caravaggio’s ideas exerted on the pupils of Annibale Carracci, the representative of Bolognese academism, who were then working in Rome. Inspired by the classical tradition of Italian art and regarding Raphael as their ideal, they were not indifferent to Caravaggio’s discoveries, as can be clearly seen in Lanfranco’s painting ‘David Dragging Goliath’s Head’. ‘Madonna and Child with the Infant John the Baptist’, painted by Guido Reni towards the end of his life, is accomplished in a different style that already anticipates European paintings of the 18th and 19th centuries.

The art of Caravaggio, who worked in the south of Italy for the last years of his life, exerted a decisive influence on the artistic development of Neapolitan Battistello Caracciolo and Calabrian artist Mattia Preti. Preti’s ‘The Concert’, discovered by Longhi on the wall of the town hall in his native town, Alba, served as the starting point for a series of publications that prompted further research into the artist’s work. Also due to Longhi’s efforts, after his acquisition a number of canvases were identified, by the Dutch artist Matthias Stomer and the first Roman painting by Dirck van Baburen, which, together with the impressive series ‘The Apostles’ by Jusepe de Ribera, prove that Caravaggism was an international phenomenon.

The exhibition concludes with works from the Longhi Foundation by Giacomo Ceruti, Gaspare Traversi and Vittore Ghislandi, also called Fra Galgario, three 18th-century masters who creatively transformed the lessons of Caravaggism, referred to by Longhi as ‘painters of reality’.

Roberto Longhi, scholar and collector

The art historian, critic and collector Roberto Longhi (1890–1970) has made a vast contribution to the study of Italian painting. Due to his research activity many forgotten artists were rediscovered, including Caravaggio, whose work was an object of special interest for the academic.

In Turin in 1911 Longhi defended his thesis on Caravaggio before continuing his studies in Rome with Adolfo Venturi, author of the celebrated Storia dell'arte italiana (History of Italian Art). It was he that invited Longhi to collaborate on the journal L’Arte, where publications by the young scholar on artists from Caravaggio’s circle that were then virtually unknown appeared one after the other – on Orazio Borgianni, Battistello Caracciolo, Orazio and Artemisia Gentileschi, Mattia Preti and others. Around the year 1920 Longhi met Florentine collector Alessandro Contini-Bonacossi, with whom he made a Grand Tour of Europe, studying paintings in museums and private collections. During those years Longhi developed an interest in acquiring art works, and this passion lasted to the end of his days. As a rule the pictures he obtained also reflected his field of study as research scholar. This collection now belongs to the Longhi Foundation named after him, and is comprised of some two hundred paintings from the 14th to 20th centuries.

In 1927 the first monograph on Piero della Francesca appeared, bringing Longhi fame and restoring the artist’s rightful place as one of the great painters of the Renaissance. Between 1928 and 1934 a series of essays on the Caravaggisti under the general title ‘Quesiti Caravaggeschi’ was published by the art historian in the periodicals Pinacotheca and Critica d'Arte. Longhi’s revelations also found vehement opponents, among them Lionello Venturi, the son of Adolfo. In 1934 polemics between the two authors developed into a volume on the painting of Ferrara, which presented the work of Cosimo Tura, Francesco del Cossa and other masters in a new light. At this period Longhi began teaching at Bologna University. The vivid imagery and precise formulation of his lectures attracted students such as the future film director Pier Paolo Pasolini and poet Attilio Bertolucci.

In 1939 Longhi acquired the Villa Il Tasso near Florence to house his vast collection, photo archive and splendid library. At the height of the war Longhi continued his devoted work after losing a teaching post when he refused to pledge allegiance to the Republic of Salò. In 1943 he founded the journal Proporzioni, in which a new series of articles on the Caravaggisti artists appeared, ‘Ultimi Studi Caravaggeschi’. In the post-war period Longhi became a professor at the University of Florence in 1949, and a year later he and his wife, the writer Lucia Lopresti, known by the pen name Anna Banti, founded the periodical Paragone, which is still published. Two parallel series of issues reflected the interests of both spouses: fine art and literature.

Longhi’s undying fascination with the work of Caravaggio and his followers resulted in the first exhibition of Caravaggio and the Caravaggisti in Milan  (1951), and the publication of two monographs on the artist (1952 and 1968). The year 1953 heralded another important exhibition, ‘Painters of Reality in Lombardy’, which presented in a new light a number of masters from the 16th to 18th centuries, all united by a theme shared with Caravaggio, that of representing the surrounding world.

Roberto Longhi’s scholarly interests were not limited to the art of the Renaissance and early modern period. As an art critic he welcomed the Italian Futurism of Umberto Boccioni and Carlo Carrà, and later the paintings of Giorgio Morandi, whom he particularly admired. Ideas put forward by Benedetto Croce and the academic approaches of Giovanni Morelli and Bernard Berenson all influenced Longhi’s development, although he invariably preferred attentive examination of monuments and the ‘intuitive eye’ to any theories.

Longhi died in 1970, bequeathing his collections ‘for the benefit of future generations’. They are preserved by the Roberto Longhi Foundation for Studies on Art History, established in Florence in 1971 and since then presided over by Mina Gregori, the student closest to Longhi who ultimately succeeded him as Professor Emeritus at Florence University.

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