Sunday, January 25, 2015

The Underside of the Baroque

Roeland van Laer (1598 – after 1635)
Initiation of a member at the Schildersbent in Rome
Oil on canvas
88 x 147,5 cm 
Museo di Roma, Rome

This is a Burlesque painting about Dutch Artists in Rome in 1624-5, the middle of the Baroque era

The walls of the tavern are scrawled with grafitti lyrics recording what the painting records

The Schildersbent or The Bentvueghels (Dutch for Birds of a Feather)  was a fraternity of Dutch and Flemish artists in Rome. They were also known as the Bomboccianti

They dedicated themselves to Bacchus and had a raucous public persona

Van Laer`s initiation lasted 24 hours in  the tavern and was completed by a drunken procession to the Church of Santa Costanza, which reputedly contained the tomb of Bacchus There was a porphyry sarcophagus of Constantina (now in the Vatican Museums), which was stipulated by the fraternity to be his tomb because of its Bacchic motifs.

The artist scrawled their names on the walls of the church and thus contains a record of the composition of the fraternity

Gradually the fraternity became more established and wealthy and rather more self conscious as we can see from this anonymous work of 1660:

The inauguration of a new member of the Bentveughels Rome.
c. 1660
Oil on canvas
95.5 cm × 134 cm
Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam

The prostitutes are gone and the drinking is not so riotous

It lasted for a 100 years until 1720 when its activities were clamped down on by Pope Clement XI

Here we see a print of a work by Dominicus van Wijnen of an initiation ceremony in about 1690 - 1700 in the later stages of the fraternity and there is a sinister edge:

Dominicus van Wijnen (1661, Amsterdam – c.1695)
Print by Matthijs Pool (1676–1732)
Reception and dedication of a new member of the Bentvueghels, ca. 1700
1700 - 10
649 mm × 517 mm
Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam

The fraternity spanned and encompassed the Dutch Golden Age of Painting and a trip to Rome was an essential part of the curriculum for Dutch and Flemish artists of the time

The first painting and this painting:

Jan Dirksz Both (between 1610 and 1618 - August 9, 1652)
Feast and merrymaking near the Spanish Embassy in Rome in February 1637
Oil on Canvas
88 x 116 cm
Private Collection

were recently in an exhibition at the Villa Medici in Rome entitled: The Baroque Underworld: Vice and Destitution in Rome

Inspired by the Counter-Reformation, baroque used images, colours and shapes to attract the faithful 

The artists in question, who flocked to the Eternal City from across Europe to hone their skills and work on projects bankrolled by a succession of wealthy popes, cardinals, the aristocracy and nobility, were all men in their 20s 

The unusual exhibition revels in showing the underside of this gilded era: the murders and orgies, the lust and the binge drinking. It is a reminder of a neglected facet of artistic creation.

They spent their everyday lives in close proximity to the poor, the marginalised and the criminal, rubbing shoulders with them in cheap lodging-houses, taverns, dark drinking dives, gambling dens and prisons.

It was the age of Caravaggio and here we see a work by the French Caravaggesque , Valentin de Boulogne

Moise Valentin (also called Le Valentin and Valentin de Boulogne) (1591 - 1632)
The Concert
Oil on canvas
173 x 214 cm
Musée du Louvre, Paris

The exhibition is moving to Paris, to the Petit Palais, Musée des Beaux-Arts de la Ville de Paris, where it will be shown from 24 February to 24 May 2015. 

Friday, January 23, 2015


Giuseppe Pozzi 1697-1752
Disegno della seconda machina rappresentante una cuccagna a similitudine di quelle che si fanno nej felicissimi regni delle Due Sicilie
45.3 x 64.7 cm
Getty Research Institute, Los Angeles

Cuccagna monuments were built as the centrepiece for Italian festivals of the 17th and 18th centuries. 

A wood scaffolding base was covered with meat, sweets, bread and other food – forming a spectacular edible tower. 

When the order was given, the townspeople would storm the Cuccagna and grab what food they could.

This Cuccagna monument was erected for the celebrations in Rome on June 29, 1757, held after the presentation of the white "chinea" or ceremony of homage paid to Pope Benedict XIV

It was commissioned by Don Lorenzo Colonna, ambassador extraordinary of Carlo di Borbone, King of Naples and the Two Sicilies.

Cuccagna or Cockaigne  was a land of plenty in medieval myth, an imaginary place of extreme luxury and ease where physical comforts and pleasures were always immediately at hand and where the harshness of medieval peasant life did not exist. 

All the restrictions of society or morality  were defied

Different types of Cuccagna monuments are prevalent in modern conclaves

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

A Miniature Consistory

Appollonio de' Bonfratelli ( c. 1500–75)
The Creation of Cardinals by Pope  Paul IV
From a Missal of Pope Paul IV
c. 1555 - c. 1559
Illuminated manuscript
260 x 175 mm
The British Library, London

Apollonio de’ Bonfratelli has been described as  one of the master craftsmen in book illumination at the papal court in the sixteenth century,

He studied under Giulio Clovio (1498–1578) 

His career began in 1523, and continued to serve in all seven Popes 

He became papal miniaturist in 1556 in the pontificate of Paul IV

In this work cameos of the Virtues (Faith, Hope, Temperance, Truth, Prudence, Charity, Justice, Fortitude), surround  a miniature in a painted frame in colours and gold, of the papal ceremony of the creation of cardinals with Paul IV standing in front of the papal throne inscribed 'Paulus IIII / Pont Max', reading from a book that two cardinals hold open

During the French Revolutionary wars the French occupied Italy and looted many cultural treasures, including thousands of manuscripts from Italian churches and papal service books from the Sistine Chapel in the Vatican. This is part of a cutting which found its way to the British Library

There was an exhibition by the Meadows Museum in Dallas  on these lost manuscripts and miniatures entitled: The Lost Manuscripts from the Sistine Chapel: An Epic Journey from Rome to Toledo

Cardinal Francesco Antonio José de Lorenzana y Buitrón (1722- 1804), Archbishop of Toledo, Primate of Spain, and Ambassador of King Charles IV to the Holy See was one of the few who managed to save and salvage a great deal from the Vatican. History and the Church owes him and others like him a great deal