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FLORENCE FROM THE RENAISSANCE TO THE BAROQUE. Paintings from the Art Collections of the Fondazione Cassa di Risparmio di Firenze and the Banca CR Firenze

6 July–7 October 2018
Palace of the Grand Dukes of Lithuania

The international exhibition, Florence from the Renaissance to the Baroque: Paintings from the Art Collections of the Fondazione Cassa Di Risparmio Di Firenze and the Banca CR Firenze, being organised at the National Museum – Palace of the Grand Dukes of Lithuania will present unique European art heritage to the cultural community, young people and foreign guests – a collection of 15th–18th-century famous Florentine artists' paintings, enhanced with 19th-century images of the city. The exhibition is being opened at a special time – when Lithuania is celebrating the centenary of the restoration of its statehood, and to mark the opening of the reconstructed Palace of the Grand Dukes of Lithuania. This exhibition is being shown in a new space not yet seen by the public – in halls spread over 500m2 in the modern Exhibition Centre where important national and international exhibitions will now be held. This is the inaugural international exhibition at the Exhibition Centre.

At the exhibition opened on July 6, 2018, works of exclusive artistic value are being brought in from Florence – the home of the Renaissance. They remind us of the special significance of this Tuscan city on the evolution of culture and art not just in Italy but throughout the whole world. Works by these and other famous Renaissance and Baroque artists, the representatives of their schools and others in their circle were once a part of the collections of our rulers and magnates, alas, they were plundered and scattered around the world. The paintings and works represent a period when the Palace of the Grand Dukes of Lithuania located in Vilnius was a centre featuring a high level of culture and art in terms of the whole European region.

The collection of 44 exceptional works on display as part of this international exhibition has been assembled from as many as six different collections, belonging to the Cassa di Risparmio di Firenze Foundation, the CR Firenze Bank, the Venerable Archconfraternity of the Misericordia of Florence, the Archdiocese of Florence, the Grosseto City Council and the Maremma Museum of Archaeology and Art – the Grosetto Diocese Sacred Art Museum and the private collector, antique dealer and patron, Gianfranco Luzzetti. Many of the works displayed here from private collections have never been exhibited before even in Italy, making this international exhibition in Vilnius a public premiere for certain pieces, no doubt becoming a memorable event in the history of European museum culture.

Visitors to the exhibition will be able to admire works by world-famous artists, such as:

  •  Beato Angelico (Fra Angelico, real name Giovani de Fiesole, Guido di Pietro, ca 1395–1455), a follower of Masaccio;
  • an artist from the circle of Michelangelo's teacher (Michelangelo di Lodovico Buonarroti Simoni), Domenico Ghirlandaio (real name Domenico di Tommaso di Currado di Doffo Bigordi, 1449–1495);
  • Raffaello Sanzio's teacher Pietro Perugino (real name Pietro di Cristoforo Vannuci, ca 1450–1523), who himself studied under Andrea del Varrocchio, together with Sandro Botticelli, Leonardo da Vinci and Domenico Ghirlandaio;
  • a representative from the circle of Leonardo da Vinci, Giampietrino (most likely Giovanni Pietro Rizzoli, sometimes known as Ricci or Rizzi, 1495–1549);
  • the refined Mannerist, first art historian and critic, and author of the famous treatise Lives of the Most Excellent Painters, Sculptors and Architects, Giorgio Vasari (1511–1574);
  • the student of the inimitable Bronzino (Agnolo Bronzino), Alessandro Allori (1535–1607);
  • Santi di Tito (1536–1603), Cigoli (real name Lodovico Cardi, 1559–1613) and Francesco Furini (1600 or 1603–1646), who all had a distinct influence on the development of 17th-century Florentine Baroque painting;
  • the masterful Baroque sentimentalist, so admired by the Tuscan and Lithuanian aristocracy and author of the most popular painting of St Casimir (ca 1670), to date, kept at the Palazzo Pitti in Florence, Carlo Dolci (1616–1686);
  • the artist associated with the schools of Salvatore Rosa and Ambrogio Borgognone, Pandolfo Reschi (1643–1699), who was born in the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth;
  • the famous goldsmith who worked in the court of the Medicis, Massimiliano Soldani Benzi (1656–1740), and others.

 

Besides the works by famous Florentine Renaissance and Baroque painters, visitors can also take in the most wonderful veduti over the city of Florence created by masters from Italy and other nations in the 17th–20th centuries.

As part of the organisation of this exhibition, works were selected that would remind visitors of the historic art collections of the Lithuanian rulers and magnates, while the exhibition itself would at least for a brief time help us image the richness of the European heritage that was once in Lithuania, if only to at least minimally compensate for the merciless losses. 

It is known that the Lithuanian grand dukes and kings of Poland Sigismund the Old (1506–1548) and Sigismund Augustus (1544/1548–1572) had works by famous Italian masters, that were mentioned by the first art historian and critic, Giorgio Vasari. The rulers Sigismund Vasa (1588–1632) and Ladislaus Vasa (1632–1648) also acquired a number of paintings for their collections in Italy, some in Florence itself.

At one time, Raffaello Sanzio's work Christ and the Pharisee belonged to Grand Duke of Lithuania and King of Poland John Sobieski (1674–1696), whereas the last ruler of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth (the joint state of the Kingdom of Poland and Grand Duchy of Lithuania) Stanislaus August Poniatowski (1764–1795) also had works by Raphael, Leonardo da Vinci and Guido Reni (1575–1642), not to mention other artists, in his collections. Incidentally, the professionally executed contemporaneous replica of the latter artist's painting, St Sebastian, considered the original by its earlier owner, found its way into the collections of the Lithuanian Art Museum along with its originality attribute. Now it is on temporary loan at the National Museum – Palace of the Grand Dukes of Lithuania from the Lithuanian Art Museum. There is also a painting in Krakow by Leonardo da Vinci, Dame with an ermine, that was part of the collections of the originally Lithuanian Czartoriszki princely family.

Works by the painters of the Florentine school were collected not only by rulers, but by magnates and Church heirarchs as well. This demonstrated their aesthetic sensibilities and erudition in the art of painting, but also reflected the family's prestige and exclusive status. Historical facts tell us that whilst in London, the magnate of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, Egyptologist and Europe-wide collector, Count Michał Tyszkiewicz, acquired a number of paintings by Raphael, Beato Angelico, Pietro Perugino and other artists to enhance his own collection. They were meant to form the basis of the Art Gallery the Tyszkiewicz family was planning to open in Vilnius, however, due to political events under the conditions of the Russian occupation, the idea was doomed to fail. Other members of the Tyszkiewicz family, as well as the Kossakowski magnates, had works by Carlo Dolci, who is also featured in this international exhibition.

In those times, many of the more famous painting collections in Lithuania could not be without works by famous Italian artists, Florentine artists being among them. Today, our country's culture and heritage collections also include several valuable paintings from Florence. For example, the painting by Carlo Dolci kept at the Lithuanian Art Museum, Mother of Sorrows. At this museum's initiative, at the end of 2004, this artist's painting St Casimir was brought from the Palazzo Pitti to Vilnius, where it was exhibited. The patron saint of Lithuania is most recognisable across the world from precisely this painting.

The international exhibition being organised at the National Museum – Palace of the Grand Dukes of Lithuania begins with a painting depicting the patron saint of Florence, St John the Baptist, as well as ten veduti of Florence from the 17th–19th centuries, including among them Pandolfo Reschi's View of Florence looking towards the Cascine from the Arno, Luigi Garibbo's (1782–1869) View of Florence from Monte alle Croci, View of Piazza di Mercato Vecchio in Florence by an anonymous painter, and Vincenzo Torreggiani's (1704–1782) View of the Church of San Pier Maggiore in Florence. Incidentally, one of these works was painted by an artist originally from the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth. Besides the panoramas over the city of Florence and other images, there are also information stands presenting and illustrating the collections being shown, the city's history, the special development of art and artistic links between Lithuania and the residence of the Lithuanian grand dukes. This first part of the exhibition is an introduction to Florence and its wonderful sights, its most important architectural monuments, as well as its lost heritage. The exhibition is set out across several halls. Works by artists from different epochs – from the Late Gothic to the Baroque – are presented in chronological order. The whole collection of paintings for this exhibition is arranged so as to reveal the value of the most significant pieces, and to accentuate the prevailing thematic lines.

The most important works which illustrate the earliest 15th–early 16th-century Florentine painting tradition, balancing between the Late Gothic and Early Renaissance, are as follows: the Tuscan Late Gothic masterpiece, never exhibited before now, by Bicci di Lorenzo (1373–1452) Coronation of the Virgin with angels and saints, the valuable painting that so eloquently reflects the deep piety of its subject, Beato Angelico's Beato Domenicano, or The Dominican Blessed and Pietro Perugino's fresco, removed from the external wall of the Albizi Chapel of Florence's Church of San Pier Maggiore before demolition, Pieta, or lamentation over the dead Christ with Martha, Mary Magdalen and Nicodemus. The story behind this latter work is worthy of a detective novel: in the late 18th century, the Tuscan grand duke, who later went on to become Emperor of the Holy Roman Empire, Leopold II, ordered the demolition of this church. The fresco was removed from the wall and was lost. It was only returned to its place of origin and the cultural field in 1990 when the Fondazione Cassa di Risparmio di Firenze acquired it in London. The work by Giampietrino – Ecce Homo, or Christ crowned with thorns – executed in a masterful manner and reminiscent of Leonardo da Vinci's works, is also a definite must-see.

The next part of the exhibition, which reflects the development of art in Florence and Tuscany in the 16th century, gives us the opportunity to see other famous Florentine artists' paintings. They include works by the student of Andrea del Sarto and Pontormo, Pier Francesco Foschi (1502–1567), the Medici court painter Alessandro Allori, Santi di Tito, Cigolo, Michelangelo Vestrucci (1569–1634), Giovanni Sogliani (1492–1544), noted for his masterful mannerism, and other artists' works. The main highlight in this part of the exhibition are the four works by Giorgio Vasari. Two of them – St Donatus and St Dominic, were created as side panels for the altar painting, The Annunciation (1563–1564), that is today kept at the Louvre in Paris. In addition to the original parts of the painting that have come from Florence, on display here is a copy of the painting exhibited in Paris. The other two works by Vasari – Fortuna and Honour (1569–572) – depict allegorical figures. It is believed that these works could have adorned the home of the artist himself in Florence.

The exhibition concludes with paintings by Baroque artists who had a major influence on the further evolution of art in Florence, among which there are several pieces by Francesco Furini, the masterpiece by Carlo Dolci's teacher, Mario Balassi, 1604–1667) Noli me tangere, or Don't touch me, the work expressing a lively artistic dialogue by Giovanni Martinelli (1600–1659) Lamentation over the dead Christ, and others. In this hall visitors may also see a work crafted by the famous Medici palace goldsmith who created the reliquary of St Casimir kept at the Medici Chapel in Florence (which is now also on display at the Church Heritage Museum), Massimiliano Soldani Benzi (1656–1740) – a bronze relief from the late 17th–early 18th centuries, The Vision of the Blessed Caterina de' Ricci – the three crosses on Golgotha.

Thus, the international exhibition, Florence from the Renaissance to the Baroque: Paintings from the Art Collections of the Fondazione Cassa Di Risparmio Di Firenze and the Banca CR Firenze, is important in several ways:

  • it is a special event in the history of Lithuanian museum life when such a valuable exhibition presenting famous artists and their works makes it to Vilnius, giving the public a wonderful opportunity to discover and appreciate such a distinctive part of European art heritage created in Florence, the home of the Renaissance, yet just as famous for its Mannerist and Baroque art;
  •  the exhibition makes it possible to imagine how the historic art collections of the Palace of the Grand Dukes of Lithuania might have looked before they were eventually destroyed and scattered – the current exhibition offers at least virtual compensation for the losses that were experienced;
  • the link between some of the authors and their works presented at this exhibition with Lithuania and its heritage is an important highlight; the historic interaction between the capital of the Grand Duchy of Tuscany, Florence, and the capital of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, Vilnius, which reflect aspects bearing a relation to Lithuania are indeed significant;
  • a number of the works are being presented at a public exhibition for the first time ever, while others were restored especially for this demonstration; during the course of preparing for this exhibition, some discoveries were made, the attribution of some works was corrected, and their actual authors were determined;
  • the exhibition and the accompanying comprehensive catalogue in three languages for which over 20 well-known Florentine art specialists wrote articles is of great scientific and educational value in itself;
  • the exhibition is testimony of the current active and close cooperation between cultural workers, heritage institutions and other organisations in Lithuania and Florence that allow such grand-scale projects to be brought to successful fruition;
  • the exhibition's historic significance, relevance and meaning is also expressed in the fact that the leaders of Lithuania and Italy – Dalia Grybauskaitė and Sergio Mattarella – agreed to offer their high patronage. The President of Italy organised his official visit to Lithuania especially so as to coincide with the exhibition's opening.

 

The National Museum – Palace of the Grand Dukes of Lithuania, along with its exhibition partners, presents a comprehensive catalogue of the exhibited works in Lithuanian, English and Italian. The exhibition is also accompanied by a cycle of scientific, cultural and educational events, various educational programs and thematic excursions are also available for visitors.

On behalf of the exhibition's visitors and itself, the community of the National Museum – Palace of the Grand Dukes of Lithuania offers its most sincere thanks to everyone who contributed to organisation of this exhibition for their friendly cooperation, collegiality, acceptance, support and understanding.

Under the high patronage of the
President of the Republic of Lithuania DALIA GRYBAUSKAITĖ
President of the Republic of Italy SERGIO MATTARELLA

Exhibits loaned by
Cassa di Risparmio di Firenze Foundation, Florence, Italy 
Fondazione Cassa di Risparmio di Firenze, Italia

CR Firenze SpA Bank, Florence, Italy                         
Banca CR Firenze SpA, Firenze, Italia

Archdiocese of Florence, Italy
Arcidiocesi di Firenze, Italia                                                                                 

Venerable Archconfraternity of the Misericordia of Florence, Italy
Venerabile Arciconfraternita della Misericordia  di Firenze, Italia

City of Grosseto, Maremma Museum of Archaeology and Art – Grosseto Diocese Sacred Art Museum, Italy 
Comune de Grosseto, Museo Archeologico e D‘Arte della Maremma – Museo D‘Arte  Sacra della Diocesi di Grosseto, Italia

Collector Gianfranco Luzzetti, Florence, Italy
Collezionista Gianfranco Luzzetti, Firenze, Italia

Exhibition organiser
National Museum – Palace of the Grand Dukes of Lithuania, Vilnius

Exhibition coordinator
Daiva MITRULEVIČIŪTĖ

Exhibition scientific coordinator
Dr Giovanni Matteo GUIDETTI

Exhibition concept authors and curators
Dr Giovanni Matteo GUIDETTI
Dr Emanuele BARLETTI
Daiva MITRULEVIČIŪTĖ

Exhibition exposition author
Dr Vydas DOLINSKAS

Exhibition administration
Simona MILIAUSKAITĖ
Paola PETROSINO

Exhibition publishing coordinator
Dr Živilė MIKAILIENĖ

Exhibition cultural program coordinators
Iveta JAUGAITĖ
Daiva MITRULEVIČIŪTĖ

Exhibition educational program coordinator
Vida KAUNIENĖ

Exhibition information coordinators
Ramunė VAIČIULYTĖ
Mindaugas PUIDOKAS
Monica BIFFONI
Sabina FERIOLI
Riccardo GALLI
Giuseppe ORFINO

Exhibit restoration preparation and care
Alberto DIMUCIIO
Julie GUILMETTE
Rossella LARI
Mantvidas MIELIAUSKAS
Gianmaria SCENINI
Medeina STEPONAVIČIŪTĖ
Algimantas VAINEIKIS
Muriel VERVAT

Exhibition installation coordinators
Eduardas KAUKLYS
Kęstutis KARLA

Exhibition installation technicians
Eugenijus ILIŠKA
Tomas KUBILIŪNAS
Aurimas RAMELIS
Ričardas SEREDIS
Gintaras ŠĖMYS
Vydmantas VALANTAVIČIUS
Tomas VALATKEVIČIUS
Česlavas VOITONIS

Last update
2018-07-30
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