The exhibition – curated by Maria Cristina Bandera – presents a new comparison between Caravaggio and Piero della Francesca. At a first glance this comparison might seem risky. But the reasons are easy to understand looking at the two artists, so far and so different from each other, under the spotlight of Roberto Longhi; both were studied and "rediscovered" by the great art historian during his educational years.
Roberto Longhi (1890-1970) was one of the most fascinating characters of the XX century art history. He carried out pivotal studies about Caravaggio, Piero della Francesca and other artists, in an essay he called "Officina Ferrarese".
Longhi was a modern discoverer, a sharp scholar and a collector of Caravaggio. Around 1928 he acquired for his own collection The boy bitten by a lizard. The canvas, painted around 1595, is certainly one of the most significant early masterpieces by Caravaggio that, with its beautiful still life details and extraordinary light effects, is able to capture, like a sort of snapshot, the moment when the young boy suddenly retracts after the bite of a green lizard.
Longhi wrote a fundamental monograph about Piero della Francesca. This essay was crucial for a new interpretation of the painter born in Borgo Santo Sepolcro. The exhibition opens with the magnificent Polyptych of the Misericordia, recently exhibited with a great success at Palazzo Marino in Milan, and then brought back to its original place in the Sansepolcro Civic Museum.
Ercole de' Roberti’s Portrait of a young man and, on its back side, his Portrait of a young woman - belonging to a private collection – is exhibited as a testimony of the“progeny, though evolved and mixed with venetian elements” of the young man's "sharp" profile from Piero della Francesca’s profiles, as Longhi wrote in the 1934 essay "Officina ferrarese".
Moreover, next to Caravaggio, to Ercole de' Roberti’s panel and to Piero della Francesca’s polyptych, the exhibition displays documents from the archives, the library and the photographic archives of the Foundation Roberto Longhi for Art History Studies.
The exhibition catalogue, published by Marsilio, includes essays by Maria Cristina Bandera and Mina Gregori and an anthology of Roberto Longhi's texts about the exposed works. An effective set up, designed by Corrado Anselmi, enhances the richness of the works exhibited in the museum.
The next exhibition, dedicated to Luca Pacioli tra Piero della Francesca e Leonardo, which will be opened to the public from June, 10th to November, 5th, will celebrate the 500th anniversary of the death of the great mathematician. Among other masterpieces, a drawing by Leonardo da Vinci - normally hosted in the Castello Sforzesco in Milan - will be exposed, near a painting of his pupil, Giampietrino, granted by the Poldi Pezzoli Museum.
The museum was established as an art gallery in the 1920s, but the development of its rich art collection, which can also be retraced from a documentary point of view, had begun many centuries before. The city government, indeed, was involved in the enrichment of its artistic collection since the XVI century, when works were commissioned to famous artists, with the aim to decorate and improve the importance to the Town Hall.
The starting point, of course, was Piero della Francesca's "Resurrection", icon and symbol of Sansepolcro, that since 1460 ca. frescoes the Conservatori hall of Palazzo della Residenza, a work described by the English writer Aldous Huxley as "the most beautiful painting in the world". Thanks to this illustrious precedent, the government triggered an innovative collecting phenomenon open to the public.
In the second half of the XVI century, in order to make the Palace's symbolic value more and more clear, the City asked the Bassanos, famous Venetian painters actively working in Sansepolcro, to decorate the Chapel of the Residenza, and acquired works by Raffaellino del Colle and Leonardo Cungi.
In the XVII century, during a visit of Leopold II, the earlier collection was increased with the transfer of Cherubino Alberti’s famous engravings from the nearby Praetorian Palace. In the wake of these prestigious precedents, in 1846 the City decided to place in the same spaces the St. Louis fresco, detached from the Praetorian Palace's walls.
Following the Leopoldine and Napoleonic suppression of religious orders, between the late XVIII and the first decade of the XIX centuries, the museum collection became a sort of experimental and rough art gallery. The growing desire to preserve and protect the city's artistic heritage pushed the transfer to the rooms of Palazzo della Residenza of works that were risking "the danger of decay". This was especially meant for the paintings in the churches of St. Chiara and St. Augustine and the polyptych "Our Lady of Mercy", which became part of the Municipal Art Gallery in 1901.
In the course of the new century, a deep culture of conservation spread through Sansepolcro, so effective that the art gallery team decided to call experts who, together with the literary fortune of Piero (Roberto Longhi, Mario Salmi, Kenneth Clark and Rudolf Wittkower), proved a growing interest in the Valtiberina area. Over the years, the general enthusiasm was validated by the discovery, and the later transfer to the museum's rooms, of the "St. Julian".
Then, in 1975, thank to the co-operation between the City of Sansepolcro, the Superintendence of Arezzo and the Regione Toscana, a new museum was inaugurated, with larger exhibition spaces due to the restoration of rooms on the top floor and in the basement.
Piero della Francesca - San Giuliano - 1455 circa
Nel segno di Roberto Longhi. PIERO DELLA FRANCESCA E CARAVAGGIO
Museo Civico Sansepolcro, Via Niccolò Aggiunti, 65
February 12th – June 4th, 2017
February 12th - June 9th: from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. and from 2.30 p.m. to 6 p.m.
June 10th - September 17th: from 10 am.. to 1.30 p.m. and from 2.30 p.m. to 7 p.m.September 18th - November 5th: from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. and from 2.30 p.m. to 6 p.m.
Full € 10,00
Reduced € 8,50 for groups of at least 10 people, visitors from 19 to 25 years of age, visitors with special agreements
Extra reduced € 4,00 for visitors from 11 to 18 years of age
Free for children below 10 years of age, disabled visitors, credited journalists
Information: Tel. 199 15 11 21
Ercole de’ Roberti - Ritratto di giovane donna (verso) - 1480-1490 circa
Tel. +39 0243353527
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Tel. +39 06692050220-258