Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Seicento Fiorentino: Sacred and Profane Allegories

Seicento Fiorentino: Sacred and Profane Allegories
Moretti Fine Art

by Rena Silverman

On Monday April 30th, Moretti Fine Art Gallery held a private viewing for its remarkable new exhibition of 17th-century Italian paintings, "Seicento Fiorentino: Sacred and Profane Allegories."

Curated by Italian independent scholar Dr. Francesca Baldassari, the exhibition is the first in New York to celebrate 17th-century Florentine painters since 1969, when the Metropolitan Museum of Art staged its own groundbreaking "Florentine Baroque Art from American Collections."
Fabrizio Moretti (left) and his gallery director Gabriele Caioni (right) shortly before the exhibition opened.
Gallery owner Richard Feigen of Richard Feigen & Co.
Former Met chair of European paintings Everett Fahey (middle) was among the guests. In this photo, he stands in between gallery owner Gian Enzo Sperone of Sperone Westwater (left) and Moretti director Gabriele Caioni (right).
Many important guests came to the Moretti viewing, including former Met Museum chair of European paintings Everett Fahey, who helped organize the Met show in 1969, and Sotheby's co-chair of Old Master paintings George Wachtler along with his wife Fern Wachter.

Prominent New York art dealers were also present, many of whom along with Fabrizio Moretti, could be found at this year's European Fine Art Fair in Maastricht: Richard Feigen of Richard L. Feigen & Co., Gian Enzo Sperone of Sperone Westwater, Marco Grassi and his wife Cristina Grassi of Grassi Studio, to name a few.

Other guests included, Brook S. Mason of The Art Newspaper as well as writer Wendy Moonan.
Gallery owners Fabrizio Moretti and Adam Williams.
Gian Enzo Sperone of Sperone Westwater Gallery and Francesca Baldassari.  
Arts writer Wendy Moonan
Brook S. Mason of The Art Newspaper.
Unlike traditional painting exhibitions dedicated to Italian art, this one is not about big names from the Renaissance or Baroque periods like Leonardo da Vinci or Caravaggio. Instead, you'll find painters from a lesser-known school that emerged somewhat in between these periods.

Works by Ottavio Vannini (1585-1644), or Lorenzo Lippi (Florence, 1606-1656) illustrate an important time in Florentine history. It was the end of the Renaissance, but the beginning of Counter Reformation and of the Baroque era, a time of conflict, patronage, and cultural upheaval.
Ambrose Naumann of Otto Naumann Ltd. (left) stands with Chiara Federici of Cesare Lampronti gallery, and Fiona Römer of Zurich's Spiegelhofstrasse gallery.
Pastel artist Cristina Grassi.
In 1609, Galileo invented the telescope, challenging man's centrality against the larger, wider Universe, which sent artists on a quest to understand the human mind and its irregularities. In 1600, musicians in Florence invented a more expressive form that combined music and words, which today we call ... the Opera. Meanwhile, patrons supported and participated in the arts and architecture, while citizen-established Academies and courts promoted equal emphasis on the study of music, art, science, math, and theater.

The paintings at Moretti directly reflect this cultural context. Some show the intimate gaze of a musician surrounded by symbolic objects, others show huge theatrical scenes. All tell a different story, each with a beginning, middle, and end.

"These paintings seems like scenes from the theater because they are!" said Dr. Francesca Baldasssari. "The theater was a vibrant center of the city's life and it brings forward maximum expression and sentiment. Patrons and painters were actors and this exposure was transmitted into these allegorical scenes," she continued.
George Wachter, co-chair of Old Master paintings at Sotheby's (with the nice blue tie), was among the guests.
Joshua Glazer, Philip Moreman, and Tracy Xu.
Gian Enzo Sperone stands in front of Ecce Homo, while Francesca Baldassari greets Marco Grassi.
In Susanna at the Bath with Maids, by Ottavio Vannini (1585-1644), Susanna bathes at a well with the help of maidens, while two elders in the background plot to (falsely) accuse her of adultery. 

Apollo, a beautiful oval painting by Cesare Dandini (Florence 1596-1697), one that happens to be the logo for the UK's prestigious Apollo magazine, shows the god of harmony and proportion holding a laurel crown in one hand in support of poetry, and a lyre in the other as a symbol of his love and gift for music. The lyre, Apollo's favourite instrument, also brings to mind the many musical contests Apollo fought and won with these seven strings. In her catalogue, Dr. Baldassari cites Apollo's victory against the Phrygian satyr and flute player Marsyas, as an example. 
Ottavio Vannini
Susanna at the Bath with Maids
Oil on canvas
83¼ x 73½ in, 212 x 187 cm
Cesare Dandini
Oval Canvas
32 x 24 in, 82 x 63 cm
Allegory of Sculpture by Francesco Lupicini (Forence 1588-1591 - Saragozza after 1652).
The Prank of Piovano Arlotto ('La burla del porco') by Jacopo Vignali (Pratovecchio, Arezzo 1592 - Florence 1664).
Carlo Dolci's Guardian Angel.
The Judgement of Paris by Alessandro Rosi (Florence, 1627-1697).
Allegory of Astronomy, a portrait by Giovanni Martinelli (1600-1659), depicts a woman thinking upwards with her eyes as she holds a terrestrial globe. Dr. Baldassari described astronomy as "a science associated in antiquity with Urania, one of the nine Muses generated by the union of Zeus and Mnemosyne, whose task it was 'to measure the heavens and consider the measurements of their movements.'"

In that way, Martinelli's portrait shows the marriage between science and art so active in 17th Century Florence and perhaps missing in modern-day America.
Allegory of Astronomy, a portrait by Giovanni Martinelli (1600-1659).
Priced at $475,000, Susanna at the Bath with Maids by Ottavio Vannini (1585-1644) shows Susanna bathing at a well with the help of her maidens while two elders plot to falsely accuse her of adultery in the background. 
At one point in the evening, I asked the guests to stand in front of their favorite painting. The most popular choice was the largest, or Vannini's Susanna at the Bath with Maids.

Other guests chose Carlo Dolci's Guardian Angel, including the exhibition's curator Francesca Baldassari, who wrote a monograph on the painter's work. "This is an artist who I have been studying for 20 years," she said. "I intimately know every stroke on each of his paintings."

Mr. Moretti, however, did not hesitate to answer when asked the question. He chose, Orpheus (Allegory of Music as Orpheus) by Lorenzo Lippi (Florence 1606-1665).
Fabrizio Moretti with Fern Wachter and Patrick Williams.
This scholarly couple, who described themselves as collectors and curators, preferred to be anonymous, but still allowed me to take many photos of them by Susanna at the Bath.
Adam Williams with art consultant Kee Il Choi and his wife, the musician and flautist Svjetlana Kabalin.
When asked to stand in front of his favourite painting, Mr. Moretti had no problem deciding on Orpheus (Allegory of Music as Orpheus) by Lorenzo Lippi.
John McGill and Laura Mathis of Richard L. Feigen & Co. in front of their favorite, Alessandro Rosi's The Judgement of Paris.
If you plan a trip to the Met Museum in the next few weeks, don't leave the area without first stopping by this important nearby exhibition at Moretti Galleries on East 80th between 5th and Madison avenues.

"Seicento Fiorentine" runs through May 25th, 2012.