The Return of the Italians at Museo Nacional de Arte Decorativo Posted on 3 Oct 13:32 , 0 comments

Article by Anna Lowe.

Everyone knows the best ever sequel is The Godfather Part II. A couple of years after The Godfather redefined mobster movies and swept the Oscars, it returned, but broader and with flash backs and some unknown named Robert De Niro. Well the Italians are back in Buenos Aires too. In 2012, the Museo Nacional de Arte Decorativo received over 100,000 visitors for its hugely popular exhibit of Renaissance art from the Marche region on Italy’s Adriatic coast –  ‘Meraviglie dalle Marche’ (Marvels from Marche). Now, just two years later, they’ve collaborated with ‘Artifex’ exhibition organisers again to produce a sequel! Unsurprisingly it’s titled ‘Meraviglie dalle Marche II’.

For this second exhibition visitors won’t see the same big names like Caravaggio, Raphael and Rubens that were displayed in 2012, but the 36 works on show include other important Renaissance artists such as Domenico Tintoretto, Tiziano Vecellio, Lorenzo Lotto and Giovanni Francesco Bellini. As with all blockbuster shows, the exhibition was expensive and difficult to realise – logistics cost $700,000, three planes were used and insurance ran into the millions. It is sponsored in part by the Government of Le Marche, recognizing that the largest ‘Marquichiana’ community outside Italy reside in Argentina (over half a million native or direct descendants). Showing the paintings, many of which have never left Italy before, is therefore an important cultural link for Buenos Aires. Maria Pimentel, director of the Argentine branch of Artifex commented, “It is a big productionThe works have been carefully selected not solely on their beauty or relevance, but also, pragmatically, on whether they were fit for travel. The works are heavy and the way they have to be packed doubles their weight.”

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The difficulties of transporting these artworks to Buenos Aires is apparent upon first entering the exhibition at the Museo de Arte Decorativo. Hung chronologically, the opening room shows a fragment of the fresco Christ Judge by Andrea da Bologna, depicting Christ surrounded by musical angels and worshipers. This fresco was originally painted in a church in Osimo and in order to display it, we’re given a whole slab of wall. The extra effort was definitely worth it! Here is a beautiful example of early Renaissance work – the imagery is still flat with cartoonish beady eyes, yet there are elements experimenting with volume and perspective.

The real strength of this exhibition, however, is works from the late Renaissance and after, Mannerism and Baroque (16th – 18th Centuries). While Protestants harshly criticized the cult of images, the Catholic Church embraced the religious power of art. For them it had to be clear, persuasive, and powerful – convincing the viewer of the truth of the message by provoking the senses and inspiring emotions. In this sample we see the dramatic use of colour, distorted figures, violent and dynamic compositions and some fairly outrageous ornamentation. For example, in Lorenzo Lotto’s San Miguel Expelled Lucifer (circa 1545) the dialectic between Good and Evil is expressed in an interesting composition. Lucifer is represented as beautiful, not yet transformed into an angel of darkness, and Michael seems to want to assist him with an outstretched hand. The two angelic figures are twins and mirrors – the falling movement of one matches in reverse, the ascension of the other. Lotto’s representation is also said to refer to the Catholic-Protestant battle.

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Another star of the exhibition is Tiziano Vecellio’s San Francisco Receiving the Stigmata (painted between 1567 and 1569). Tiziano, otherwise known at Titian, was probably the best known artist in his time from the selection presented here. The sumptuous colours he uses to depict St Francis of Assisi receiving the stigmata conveys the miraculous scene in vivid detail.

One of my personal favourites of the exhibition is a seventeenth-century work, Caroselli’s The Necromancer. Caroselli is an intriguing artist who usually painted allegorical scenes of vanity but here shows us a rare work on the theme of necromancy and magical arts. The painting is of a woman, her shoulders brightly lit and almost bare, wearing a white chemise under a blue cloak. Her hands cover her breast in a gesture of fear, while her horrified gaze rests on a skull and monsters claws in the left corner. In total opposition, another rare work is the Praying Virgin by Sassoferrato. This is a serene depiction of a praying Madonna totally peace. This small painting has never before been exhibited.

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Unfortunately, having missed the 2012 Meraviglie dalle Marche I can’t say if this is Godfather Part II situation or a relative anti-climax. For many, Renaissance art remains unpopular for is excessive and overdramatized scenes. Yet what we see here is testament to the intensity of religious thought for Renaissance artists. Certainly, this is one of the most interesting cultural events of the season and will probably attract similar queues to the first edition.

And in the spirit of all things Renaissance – Here is my favourite website of Renaissance Gifs.

  • Open until 30th November.
  • Extended hours for exhibition: Tuesday to Friday 12 -19 hrs. Saturday and Sunday 12.30 – 19 hrs.
  • Standard Entry Fee: $50 AR (Tuesday is free)