26 Aug Luca Signorelli and Rome
Oblivion and rediscoveries
This exhibition is focused of the exceptional relationship between Luca Signorelli and Rome: a city where the painter stayed on different occasions, obtaining profound inspirations for his artistic production.
At the turn of the 15th to 16th century, Classical and Christian antiquities were emerging in every corner of the city; alongside with the architecture and the ancient ruins they stimulated the artist’s creativity.
Through his studies of the antiquity, Signorelli obtained a rich repertoire of male nudes and a variety of figurative poses, which he reproduced in his activity throughout the main centers of central Italy. Luca Signorelli born in Cortona Round 1450 and deceased in the same city on 23 October 1523, was held in high esteem by his contemporaries, who entrusted him with increasingly prestigious tasks. In 1482 he was called to Rome to participate in the decoration of the walls of the Sistine Chapel. His paintings for this task were “considered the best” according to Giorgio Vasari, and soon he would also work in Florence, for Lorenzo il Magnifico and other members of the Medici family.
During five years at the height of his career (1499-1504), he painted the cycle of frescoes with dramatic scenes of the Last Judgement, in the Cappella Nova of the Orvieto Cathedral. However, the fame achieved by the painter during his lifetime was insufficient to avoid a sudden fall into oblivion. The work of the master of Cortona was obscured by the enthusiasm for the “modern manner” of the two giants of the next generation: Michelangelo( 1475-1564) and Raphael ( 1483-1520). It was only at the end of the 18th century and especially in the early 19th century that art critics began to rediscover Signorelli’s fundamental role in the development of the Reinassance. The exhibition is divided into seven thematic sections. In the first room, the enigma of the “true image” of the artist is narrated, showing two depictions in dissimilar versions, created in the 19th century by Pietro Tenerani and Pietro Pierantoni. Next, we immerse ourselves in the atmosphere of Rome during the papacy of Sixtus IV (1471-1484), when classical antiquities and monuments became an inexhaustible source of inspiration for many artists, including foreigners, as would later happen for the Dutchman Maarten van Heemskerck.
The central room is the fulcrum of the exhibition: here we see works painted by Signorelli after his return from Rome, in Tuscany, Umbria, and Marche. The reputation of his success had intensified hi receipt of commissions from religious brotherhoods and aristocratic families. A large alterpiece with the Martyrdom of Saint Sebastian, originally executed for the church of San Domenico in Cittá di Castello, and restored for this occasion, dominates this room.
The following section is dedicated to the most spectacular parts of the Cappella Nova of the Orvieto Cathedral.
Backlit reproductions of the frescoes highlight the artist’s virtuosity and creative genius.
Continuing to the next space, we find three refined paintings on panel of the Madonna and Child, revealing his particular sensitivity on the theme of grace and maternal love. We then move on to the story of the background and protagonists of Luca Signorelli’s two stays in Rome, in 1507 and in 1513, marked by abrubt transitions between success and difficulty.
The exhibition ends with a section dedicated to the progressive rediscovery of the artist during the 19th and 20th centuries,in the figurative arts, critical literature and the antiquities market.