The Universal Museum. From Napoleon's Dream to Canova

  16 December 2016 - 12 March 2017

 

curated by Valter Curzi, Carolina Brook and Claudio Parisi Presicce

 

Image: Guido Reni, La Fortuna con una corona, 1637 circa. Roma, Accademia Nazionale di San Luca. Courtesy Accademia Nazionale di San Luca

 

The exhibition

 

A major exhibition recounting the fantastic recovery of Italy's masterpieces from France.
From Raffaello to Titian, from the Carraccis to Guido Reni, Tintoretto and Canova.

 

2016 marks a crucial anniversary in the history of European civilisation and culture in general and for Italy in particular.

 

It was in 1816 that the Papal States' masterpieces of art and archaeology returned to Rome after the Napoleonic confiscations. This event was preceded and accompanied by other administrations of the peninsula recovering many of more than 500 paintings that had been confiscated throughout the Italian territories in the course of French military campaigns from 1796 to 1814, and packed off to Paris where they were selected for display in the embryonic Musée du Louvre.

 

As the works of art that had been taken to France began to return home, the whole of Italy was confronted for the first time with the problem of what to do with the thousands of paintings and sculptures that had been removed from churches and convents after the religious orders had been suppressed in the early 19th century. The fate of the Musée du Louvre, as an universal museum, the loss of several masterpieces of art remained in France, but most of all the sheer mass of paintings now in state ownership and stored in improvised warehouses, fuelled a lively debate on the public value of art heritage and fostered the foundation of museums that still number among the country's leading cultural institutions today, for example the Pinacoteca di Brera in Milan, the Gallerie dell’Accademia in Venice or the Pinacoteca in Bologna.

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It was in these and other museums in Italy and abroad, which looked with interest to the Louvre's experience, that a revisitation of art history began and eventually led to significant progress being made in the fields both of scholarship and of the public display of cultural heritage.

 

Thus the aim of this exhibition is to retrace the salient phases in the historical events discussed above, but also, indeed above all, to offer a critical interpretation capable of stimulating today's audiences to appreciate the value that our national cultural heritage acquired in those years, when it was seen for the first time as a key tool for educating the citizen and at the same time as a playing a linchpin role in a common European identity.

 
This interpretation seems still today to be absolutely relevant and topical, which is why the exhibition sets out also to trigger an occasion to reflect on the cultural heritage as a primary terrain for the definition of a common European language.

 

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