Inventing the Baroque brings together approximately 60 models from the outstanding collections of Rome’s prestigious Palazzo Barberini and Galleria Corsini museums and includes examples by many of the leading artists of the period. Through this original investigation of understudied artworks, many of which will be shown in America for the first time, the exhibition offers a new lens on the complexities of Baroque invention and cultural power.
In the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, sumptuously painted ceilings, magnificent altarpieces, monumental sculptures, and integrated painted environments glorified the grandeur of Rome and its most prominent families. While these extraordinary site-specific masterpieces have defined the visual culture of the Eternal City, the artists who created them also produced intricate, scaled-down versions that were highly coveted artworks during the period and reveal the creative force of the Baroque age. Stylistically complex and emotionally evocative, these sketches and models—called bozzetti—are highly sophisticated paintings and sculptures. They reveal crucial histories about the development of the most innovative artistic practices of the period and offer a remarkable lens into the tangled webs of patronage and influence that characterize Baroque Rome.
Realized within an artist’s atelier, bozzetti were both artworks in and of themselves and archetypes of larger commissions. As preparatory studies, they allowed artists to explore new techniques and to develop the crucial forms and ideas that would animate the awe-inspiring force of their larger commissions. As presentation pieces or as commemorative models they served as lasting reminders of magnificent finished paintings and sculptures that could indicate the extent of an artist’s talent or the magnitude of a collector’s taste and influence.
Inventing the Baroque begins with a major bozzetto—Pietro da Cortona’s Triumph of Divine Providence and the Fulfilment of its Purposes under Pope Urban VIII, 1632-1639—executed after one of the earliest and most accomplished examples of Baroque painting. The highly finished model showcases the painter’s deft compositional strategies and understanding of architecture in a format that could disseminate the narrative of Barberini grandeur beyond the walls of the central salon. The lynchpin of the exhibition’s first gallery, this painting will be juxtaposed with a multimedia reproduction of the finished fresco to help visitors understand the significance of bozzetti as powerful stand alone artworks and as crucial objects that inform our understanding of Baroque magnificence.
The exhibition then expands to consider various themes, including artists’ use of models in developing the universal design aesthetic of the Baroque, and the way painters and sculptors including Gian Lorenzo Bernini and Peter Paul Rubens experimented with new formal techniques. Here, oil sketches present rough and quick artistic marks that appear disconcertingly modern because of their freedom of execution. Preparatory terracottas reveal the artists’ inventive process through the lasting imprint of fingers, chisels, and spatulas.
The exhibition also surveys the reception of bozzetti as unique artworks in the seventeenth and eighteenth century when artists employed them to train apprentices and collectors sought to enrich their private galleries with artworks by the period’s most significant innovators. The exhibition’s culminating installation investigates the history and politics of collecting these models throughout the Baroque age as patrons of major projects proudly exhibited bozzetti that affirmed their connection to the important artworks that were reshaping Rome.
Paola Nicita is a curator at the Gallerie Nazionali Barberini Corsini and the author of the monograph Musei e storia dell’arte a Roma. Palazzo Corsini, Palazzo Venezia, Castel Sant’Angelo e Palazzo Barberini tra XIX e XX secolo as well as several exhibition catalogues and scholarly articles. In her present role, she also oversees the Museo Laboratorio at the Palazzo Barberini.
Alessandro Cosma is a curator at the Gallerie Nazionali Barberini Corsini and the author of Storie di Palazzo Corsini. Protagonisti e vicende nell’Ottocento as well as numerous scholarly papers. He also serves as the editor of Imago Augustini: the corpus of the iconography of St. Augustine from the origin to the 18th century. He has organized and curated several exhibitions at both the Galleria Corsini and the Palazzo Barberini.
The exhibition will be accompanied by a fully illustrated catalogue.
Inventing the Baroque is co-organized by the American Federation of Arts and the Gallerie Nazionali Barberini Corsini in Rome, in collaboration with LoveItaly.
The exhibition is supported by a grant from the Samuel H. Kress Foundation.
For booking information please contact Michele Wije at firstname.lastname@example.org or 212.988.7700 ext. 219.