The Fortunes of the Primitives. Art treasures from Italian collections between the 18th and 19th centuries.
The Accademia Gallery
Until October 31, 2014
The exhibition at the Accademia Gallery is the first ever dedicated to the topic as a whole. It proposes to offer a critical-bibliographic picture of this very important cultural phenomenon concerning the history of taste and collecting in Italy between the late XVIII century and early XIX century. Among other things, this phenomenon exerted a considerable and direct influence on the formation of the major public art collections in the most important European countries.
The exhibition begins with the fundamental contribution of Giovanni Previtali (La fortuna dei primitivi. Dal Vasari ai Neoclassici, Turin, 1964), published exactly fifty years ago. With a scientific committee made up of art historians, historians of collecting and art critics, the exhibition intends to delve into this theme that to date has been relatively neglected. Significant progress has been made since the pioneering studies of Venturi, Previtali, Haskell and Pomian. The time is therefore ripe to reflect on this phenomenon and, especially, on the people who collected works by the primitives, to some extent systematically (and therefore not occasionally), and on those who strove to lay hands on these panel paintings with precious gold grounds (merchants, agents, procurers and restorers). Singling out Florence as the privileged site for an exhibition like this one is practically a foregone conclusion, given the wealth the Tuscan-Florentine area has had historically in the production of artworks in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries. Almost all the collections of primitives indeed boasted works from this geographic area. The exhibition will review the principal personalities who were in the forefront of this recovery, exponents of the church (from simple abbots to powerful cardinals), as well as noblemen and scholars who could not resist the attraction of these fragile and precious artistic representations.
Visitors will be encouraged to make quick visual comparisons aimed at grasping the taste, the eye and the aesthetic sensitivity of the various collectors whose collections will be compared for the first time. Alongside paintings that at that time constituted the principal interest of collectors, there are other, equally important sections tied to illuminations and sculpture.
The intention is to show the circularity of interests of collectors who with a pioneering approach sought to preserve these historical-scholarly representations, every day threatened by the risk of destruction or abandon.
The visitors of the Galleria dell’Accademia will thus be able to appreciate a selection of works of art of high and, in many cases, of the highest level, based on a serious scientific project, which will offer yet another confirmation of the heights of quality Italian art attained from the XIII to the XV century.