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ยป Neapolitan and Spanish Drawings from the Baroque

Neapolitan and Spanish Drawings from the Baroque

19th February - 15th May 2011



Jusepe de Ribera (1591-1652)
'Saint Irene', Red chalk heightened with white on buff paper.
Guise Bequest 1765



This exhibition gave an exciting introduction to the variety and vibrancy of Spanish and Neapolitan draughtsmanship. The show comprised of 29 drawings - all from Christ Church’s own collection - spanning the 17th century and beyond. It included works by artists such as Jusepe da Ribera, Salvator Rosa, Mattia Preti and Luca Giordano.

The art of both these regional schools is much understudied and it has only been in the last years that scholarship and exhibitions have focused on the subject. The reason for this ‘neglect’ lies mainly in the rarity of the objects, a fact that is explained by a different approach to art in which drawing was not essential to express artistic ideas.

During the 16th and 17th centuries Naples and Spain had close political, religious and cultural links enabling an active artistic exchange notwithstanding the impact of the traditional schools such as Florence, Venice and Rome. The meeting of these various currents forged what is now perceived as Spanish and Neapolitan art. The exhibition provided a rare opportunity to explore similarities between these schools and offered a chance to study the outcome of these cultural exchanges.

Nevertheless, the variety of approaches to drawing were boldly apparent in this exhibition. The striking works provided bold contrasts to one another as they illustrated the intensity of Neapolitan and Spanish artists' engagement with the representation of classical and Christian subject matter. Jusepe da Ribera’s drawing of Saint Irene in this exhibition displayed a rigorous observation of nature combined with subtle theatricality making it one of the most celebrated drawings by the master. A generation later Neapolitan drawing underwent a significant transformation, represented in this exhibition with works by the three leading artists of the city - Luca Giordano, Mattia Preti and Salvator Rosa. Luca Giordano’s little known studies in pen and ink embrace the drama of Hercules' labours; Preti's bold use of chalk and Rosa's rapid pen and ink lines express the fervour of religious themes.

In this way the exhibition provided valuable insight into a still little-known corpus of drawings. It offered a fascinating encounter with 17th century art in Naples and Spain which encompasses the theatricality of the Baroque and the artists’ reflections on nature.







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