As a lead-in to another big event, an exhibition of pieces from the collection of the National Museum of Capodimonte in Naples planned for 2020, the Pushkin State Museum of Fine Arts presents the exhibition “Guests from Naples. Artemisia Gentileschi and Her Contemporaries.” It features three paintings from the early 17th century – “Judith Slaying Holofernes” by Artemisia Gentileschi, “Angel with Dice and the Holy Tunic” by Simon Vouet, and “Saint Agatha” by Francesco Guarino. There will also be artworks by their contemporaries, Guido Reni, Guercino, and Simone Cantarini, from the holdings of Pushkin State Museum. VTB Bank is the general sponsor of the exhibition.
The National Museum of Capodimonte boasts one of the largest collections of art, specifically European art, in Italy. The museum is located in a former palace previously owned by the Bourbons, surrounded by the famous Royal Park in the estate of Capodimonte. The Palace Museum collection includes artworks dating back to the 13th-18th centuries, ancient Roman sculptures, and modern art. The most valuable artworks in the 126-hall exposition are masterpieces by artists from the late Middle Ages, Renaissance, and Baroque periods – Simone Martini, Botticelli, Mantegna, Michelangelo, Rafael, Titian, Giovanni Bellini, Bruegel the Elder, Caravaggio, and other masters.
The three paintings selected for the exhibition are rightfully considered gems of the Capodimonte Museum collection. Neapolitan art was greatly influenced by two visits of Caravaggio in 1606–1607 and 1609–1610. That resulted in the emergence of a bright and revolutionary concept in painting – Neapolitan naturalism. Caravaggio did not have any apprentices, but his innovative ideas still spread quickly among painters in Italy and abroad. Having formed a new movement, they were later identified as Caravaggesque, or tenebrist painters. Each of the paintings presented at the exhibition bears, in one way or another, a stamp of the new Caravaggesque style. At the same time, they reflect different aesthetics that co-existed at the time, exposing a variety of trends that pervaded Italian painting of the Baroque age aside from Caravaggesque and Academic styles.
“Judith Slaying Holofernes” by Artemisia Gentileschi, the artist’s most famous work, is a cornerstone of the exhibition. She was 20 when she painted it. Her father, Orazio Gentileschi, was a notable tenebrist, so from her early days Artemisia literally lived among art. Artemisia Gentileschi was the first woman to enter the Academy of Fine Arts of Florence. During her lifetime she tried different styles and techniques while remaining true to her own artistic individuality.
Bringing together paintings from the Capodimonte Museum and the Pushkin State Museum of Fine Arts, this exhibition highlights a number of pivotal moments in the evolution of Italian painting in the 17th century, as well as specific features in the personal styles of Baroque painters.
It is a kind of introduction to another significant project that will bring a larger selection from the riches of the National Museum of Capodimonte to Russia in 2020.
We appreciate the support of the Embassy of Italy in Moscow in the preparation of this exhibition.
Exhibition Curator: Viktoria Markova, Deputy Director for Research at the Pushkin State Museum of Fine Arts, Custodian of the Italian painting collection.