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Where there is no law, but every man does what is right in his own eyes, there is the least of real liberty
Henry M. Robert

Elegant lines

The Museum of the Book and Book Printing of Ukraine has launched exhibition “The 16th-18th-Century Italian Masters’ Drawings from the Sheptytsky Lviv National Museum’s Collection”
21 May, 2014 - 17:41
FRANCESCO SOLIMENA (1657-1747), HOLY FAMILY WITH SAINT ANNE AND JOHN THE BAPTIST / Photo illustration courtesy of the Italian Institute of Culture in Ukraine

It is a joint project of the Sheptytsky Lviv National Museum (LNM) and the Museum of the Book and Book Printing of Ukraine, supported by the Italian Institute of Culture and the Embassy of Italy in Ukraine. The exhibition allows citizens and guests of the capital to assess works by Italian master draftsmen as it displays a collection of original works that have only rarely been shown to mass audiences.

“It was the first director of our museum Hilarion Swiecicki who started studying the LNM’s Western drawings and exhibiting them,” Olena Kis-Fedoruk, head of the LNM’s drawings department reminded us. “Swiecicki initiated an exhibition of 15th-18th-century drawings, held in 1932, which was the first to put on display original drawings from the collection of famous German historian and renowned collector Karl Adolf Menzel that Metropolitan Andrei Sheptytsky acquired during his Italian journey of 1908-09.”

At the heart of the collection is a rich collection of drawings by Italian masters of the 17th and 18th centuries, representing mostly the Venetian school. Drawings in pencil, sanguine, charcoal and mixed techniques, created by such masters as Giovanni Battista Piazzetta (the Venetian school), Andrea Schiavone (the Venetian school), Salvator Rosa (the Neapolitan school), Francesco Solimena (the Neapolitan school), Guido Reni (the Bolognese school), Giovanni Battista Crosato (the Venetian school), and Giovanni Battista Pittoni (the Venetian school), and also a large number of highly artistic works by unknown authors, all provide invaluable material for anyone wishing to get an idea of creative styles of individual artists and overall stylistics of the Renaissance, Baroque, and Rococo.

Drawing is a special form of fine art. It is interesting that even in the early stages this form was showing trends and changes in artistic styles and directions, revealing secrets of the author’s sequential search of style. It is a kind of creative laboratory revealing the secrets of art. The 16th-18th-Century Italian Masters’ Drawings exhibition allows one to get a deeper and more insightful understanding of the nature of European artistic atmosphere in an era of major cultural shifts. The Renaissance evolved in Italy, which was the defining center of the new cultural and philosophical tradition for all of Europe. The Baroque, which replaced the Renaissance, has also arisen and reached the highest peak in the works by Italian masters.

Creative manner of Giovanni Battista (Gianbattista) Tiepolo (1696, Venice – 1770, Madrid) is characterized by bold perspectives, moving shapes, rich coloristics, and contrasts of light and shade, which to some extent are present in drawings on display, too.

Tiepolo’s frescoes exemplify the final stage in the development of the 16th-18th-century Italian monumental and decorative painting. The artist was also a brilliant portraitist and master of elegant, grotesque etchings. Tiepolo’s legacy belongs to the heights of world art.

Particularly interesting is his drawing Bronze Serpent, which had been listed in the inventory of the museum as Furies. Stylistically, it is a typical early work by the artist associated with the theme of the bronze serpent on which he worked in the mid-1720s. The painting on the subject has not survived, but we have an idea of its probable appearance from another of his works, called Alexander the Great and Campaspe in the Studio of Apelles, in which the artist portrayed himself with the bronze serpent in the background.

Works by Lodovico Gallino (1752, Brescia – 1787, Venice) are also highly important for the history of Italian art. Many pieces from our collection belong to this artist and other artists of his circle. The style of his paintings is clearly Baroque. His drawings feature elegant lines and precise forms.

The centerpieces of the collection are works by internationally recognized artists, representatives of the High and Late Renaissance in Italy – Saint Peter Enthroned with Saints by Tiziano Vecellio, which has the original contour drawing preserved, while shading and painting were done at a later time; Michelangelo Buonarroti’s The Apostle and Jacopo Robusti’s Hagar in the Wilderness, which are the oldest examples of Italian drawing art in the collection. However, their attribution is somewhat dubious still.

The exhibited drawings display diversity of subjects and techniques. They differ in style, character and age, but importantly, they all share a high level of professionalism of their authors! Let us recall that all the drawings have been restored in the LNM’s drawing art workshop, which celebrated its 40th anniversary last year.

“Italy is known worldwide as an ‘open air museum,’ and it is the largest treasure trove of artistic achievements of humankind, especially in the field of fine arts. The 16th-18th-Century Italian Masters’ Drawings exhibition offers visitors a chance to see some 60 works by more than 20 famous artists, including Gianbattista Tiepolo, Giandomenico Tiepolo, Francesco Solimena, Lodovico Gallino and other representatives of the Venetian, Neapolitan and Bolognese schools of painting,” director of the Italian Institute of Culture in Ukraine Nicola Franco Balloni told The Day. “Presentation in Ukraine of the works by the great masters of classical art in Italy, considered the standard of artistic excellence, is one of the priorities of our institute. I recall that we hosted an exhibition of works by Tiziano, Raphael and Reni with great success in Kyiv last year, and now we are working on an agreement for a joint exhibition with the world-famous Uffizi Gallery of Florence. However, because of the political situation in Ukraine I am unable to tell the specific date when it will be held just yet. Still, I want to emphasize that despite the various negative factors, the activities of the Italian Institute of Culture in Ukraine are going as strong as ever. We have a number of great creative projects in the pipeline, and we are sure that we will hold every last of them. The peak activity will occur in the second semester, when Italy will chair the EU. We will mark this event by a gala concert at the National Opera of Ukraine on July 1, featuring Italian and Ukrainian music stars.”

By Tetiana POLISHCHUK, The Day
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