Florence joins Caravaggio celebrations – Exhibit divided between Palazzo Pitti and Uffizi Gallery

(ANSA) – Florence, June 9 – The focus of Italian festivities marking 400 years since Caravaggio’s death has shifted from Rome to Florence, where a new exhibition features some of the master’s best-known works.  The exhibition, divided between two of the city’s most prestigious galleries, opened shortly before a hit four-month show in the Italian capital draws to an end. The new event brings together over 100 masterpieces by Caravaggio and other artists who followed in his footsteps. Pride of place goes to six celebrated paintings belonging to the two galleries’ own collections. Along with the exhibition’s poster image, Medusa, Caravaggio’s Bacchus (c.1595) is probably the best known of the works on display. Also from the Uffizi’s permanent collection are a grim 1607 work entitled The Tooth-Drawer, and one of two paintings Caravaggio completed devoted to the Sacrifice of Isaac (1603). Palazzo Pitti’s two chief contributions are Sleeping Cupid (1608) and a portrait of a Knight of Malta, Fra Antonio Martelli (c. 1607). Among the other works on display, two ‘new’ paintings appear to be drawing particular interest.
The first of these is a portrait usually kept in a private collection and rarely shown in public.  Completed in 1597, it depicts a youthful 30-year-old Maffeo Barberini, the future pope Urban VIII, who some years after sitting for his own portrait commissioned the Sacrifice of Isaac also on show. The other painting is a portrait of Cardinal Baronio, which for many years was mistakenly attributed to another artist and has only recently been categorized as a Caravaggio work. The exhibition also offers a range of paintings by artists influenced by Caravaggio’s groundbreaking style, with its focus on chiaroscuro and naturalism. Paintings by the leader of the ‘Caravaggisti’, Bartolomeo Manfredi, and Dutch artists Gerard van Honthorst and Theodore Rombouts are among those featured.  ‘Caravaggio e i Caravaggeschi’ runs at the Palazzo Pitti and the Uffizi Gallery until October 17 2010, with a combined ticket providing entrance to both venues. The exhibition, which opened three weeks before the Rome show ends on June 13, is part of a series of Caravaggio events planned for this year. Florence’s Villa Bardini is currently hosting an equally striking but much smaller exhibition of the master’s works collected by 20th-century art historian and top Caravaggio expert Roberto Longhi.  In October, Rimini’s Castel Sismondo will host ‘Caravaggio and other 17th-Century Painters’, with an array of masterpieces on loan from the Wadsworth Atheneum in Hartford, Connecticut. Several new Italian-language books are also set to hit the stands, including works on the master’s use of so-called “photographic” techniques and a new biography. A three-day conference exploring religion in connection with Caravaggio’s work was recently staged in Rome, while Milan will host an event focusing on the artist’s links to music in September.

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