Hardcover(New Edition)


Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780789209368
Publisher: Abbeville Publishing Group
Publication date: 12/25/2007
Series: Italian Frescoes Series
Edition description: New Edition
Pages: 484
Product dimensions: 10.90(w) x 13.00(h) x (d)

About the Author

Steffi Roettgen studied at the universities of Munich, Erlangen, and Bonn and has taught at the Technical University of Berlin and the University of Munich. Currently she is associated with the Art History Institute in Florence. She is the author of Italian Frescoes: The Early Renaissance and Italian Frescoes: The Flowering of the Renaissance.

Antonio Quattrone is regarded as one of the leading photographers of works of art; his many books include other volumes in the Italian Frescoes series.

Ghigo Roli also specializes in fine art photography.

Read an Excerpt

Italian Frescoes

The Baroque Era, 1600-1800

By Steffi Roettgen, Antonio Quattrone, Ghigo Roli, Luciano Pedicini

Abbeville Press

Copyright © 2007 Steffi Roettgen
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-0-7892-0936-8

Excerpt from: Italian Frescoes

This survey spans a long period of time, from the arrival in Rome of the style brought by Annibale Carracci and his pupils up to the end of the eighteenth century, when after the long predominance of the various manifestations of the Baroque the pendulum swung back, bringing a brief revival of the forms of the High Renaissance. Along with the reminiscence referred to as Neoclassicism, which was intended as a reaction against the excesses of the Baroque and ultimately led to the close of the epoch, it was above all the trendsetting effect of Pietro da Cortona and Luca Giordano that justifies bridging between the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. If Cortona was the initiator, it was Giordano who perfected and propagated what came to be known in Europe as Baroque painting—a term coined in the late nineteenth century and one that does not have an altogether positive connotation with respect to the art of Italy. Instead of admiring the virtuosity of these painters, scholars tended to accord to Baroque monumental painting, with its playful incorporation of deception and “disillusionment” and its superb artistry and imaginativeness, the status of decoration at best. In Protestant northern Europe, especially, the great painters of the Italian Baroque were viewed with aesthetic and ideological reservations. A prime example was Jacob Burckhardt, whose harsh criticisms (Burkhart 1855) of Cortona, Giordano, Solimena, and Tiepolo followed in the tradition established by Winckelmann of rejecting the lively picture world of the Baroque. Critics not only objected to its formal complexity, which had first been attacked by Melchior Grimm in 1756 (see Fried 1980, p. 88), but also the Baroque fondness for complex content, its use of allegorical concetti drawn from a nearly inexhaustible reservoir of personifications and metaphors that—as Cesare Ripa put it—“mean something other…than what the eye sees” (see Büttner/Gottdang 2006, p. 151). It is true that classical fables, poems, and myths, to which painters and designers of programs ascribed all manner of personal and political meanings, played a central role in Baroque monumental painting. Allusions to the transience of life, admonitions to follow the path of virtue, and warnings against hubris were as important as theatrical splendor and the pretentious glorification of earthly life and its delights. Even the anticipations and visions of faith were staged with highly theatrical effects.

Of the twenty–two ensembles it seemed essential to include in this survey, two–thirds are from the secular sphere. This may tend to contradict the common notion that Baroque monumental painting is mainly found in sacred contexts. As it happens, the painting of palaces and villas, wholly secular in subject matter, is in no way inferior to religious works, and is certainly as plentiful. The abundance of personifications in both genres provides a link between them; one thinks of the repeated personifications of the four continents, or the virtues prevalent in both spheres. Secular wall and ceiling painting nevertheless obeyed different rules and had different expectations imposed on it; following The Counter–Reformation the painting of sacred spaces was subjected to considerable regulation. There was an attempt to control pictorial content, which explains the duplication and universal distribution of specific religious motifs and figures. Academic practices, which set great store by imitation, and a theoretical framework adapted to the need of the church also encouraged such proliferation. Secular patrons had their requirements as well; they expected from their decorators a repertoire of subjects, motifs, and modes of expression appropriate to their rank. However, and their choice of artists they were not required to pay any attention to their status or to official doctrine. Their decisions were generally based on such mundane criteria as cost, availability—if a wedding was looming, for example—and the practicability of combined solutions for entire suites. The higher the patron’s rank, the more a painter's reputation was an issue, for the latter was a direct reflection of the employer’s prestige. This connection can be seen most clearly in the careers of Guido Reni, Pietro da Cortona, Luca Giordano, Francesco Solimena, and Giovanni Battista Tiepolo, all of whom brought with them an aura of excellence and exclusivity, and were therefore hounded by requests from powerful patrons.

Baroque painting, including its characteristic subject matter, was rediscovered only during the last decades of the twentieth century, thanks largely to the researches of Hans Posse, Hermann Voss, Denis Mahon, Rudolph Wittkower, Ellis K. Waterhouse, and Francis Haskell. That its rehabilitation was for the most part ignored by lovers of Italian painting nevertheless was due to multiple factors, among them the purely physical difficulty of studying these monumental works and the intellectual effort required to decipher their complex contextual meanings. There is also the fact that in Baroque fresco painting, architecture acquired a second skin that obscured or even contradicted its structural features, leading Rudolf Wittkower to remark that it was only the most architecturally ambitious Baroque church structures that dispensed with fixed painted decoration. There is no blanket explanation for why patrons decided for or against painted pictorial programs. In Rome, certainly, it seems clear that competition between religious orders and ambitious donors was what led to the painting of important churches in total disregard of the Counter–Reformation’s ban on heavily ornamented church interiors, which had never been rescinded.

This selection from the rich inventory of frescoes distributed across the entire peninsula was intended to illustrate, by examples, artistic developments in all of the major art centers. It documents, for instance, the progression in church painting from picture gallery to theatrum sacrum, and the increasing explosion of spatial boundaries by means of painted perspective. It also presents changes and regroupings within the thematic spectrum, factors that affected the pictorial glorification of saints as much as the apotheoses of secular heroes. Whereas these guidelines and characteristics apply to the entire territory of Italy in more or less pronounced form and with chronological discrepancies, certain centers clearly played a leading role, and their influence was enduring and far–reaching. Their palaces, churches, and monasteries served as the settings for competition between the most prominent representatives of the Italian painting schools, places where they learned from each other and were exposed to and incorporated outside stimuli. This process is most impressively documented by such important ensembles of work as those in the Certosa at Naples, in Rome's Palazzo Colonna, and in the Palazzo Reale in Turin, whose high–quality paintings have never before been presented adequately. Thanks to their intellectual, political, or artistic predominance, these sites functioned as magnets; they not only encouraged competition, they also fostered artistic exchange that generated changes in local tradition. Artists increasingly worked outside their native regions, initiating new developments as their works, in places beyond the reach of their own schools, both stimulated reorientations in style and—as in the case of the Palazzo Pitti—exercise influence far beyond Italy's borders.

The shift of innovative power in wall and ceiling painting from the center of the peninsula to the north, begun after 1650, is associated with certain northern Italian painters who worked mainly in Rome; Giovanni Battista Gaulli, Andrea Pozzo, and Domenico Maria Canuti. These artists were outshone by Giovanni Battista Tiepolo, who dominated the middle decades of the eighteenth century and in whose most beautiful and important cycles Venetian painting reached a last apogee. Behind the splendid colors of his picture world changes are already announced that would soon be translated by his son Giandomenico into a pictorial idiom representing a radical break with the conventions of Baroque iconography and rhetoric. The pictures the young Tiepolo painted on the walls of his villa in Zianigo alternate between satire, melancholy, and a fatalistic sense of the future, inspired by his own personal view of the everyday world around him.

No publication that hopes to point out the characteristics of a single artistic genre and its highlights on the basis of notable examples can claim to be comprehensive. And any such compendium would in any case only be a construct, one having little to do with the painting practices of the epoch. Most painters were just as skilled in oil painting as in fresco, which had long since lost the aura it had in Vasari’s time. In addition to innovations and stunning effects, search pragmatic qualities as punctuality and economy of execution were demanded. Painters therefore tended to compile a reservoir of motifs with the help of bozzetti or modelli created for workshop use that could be employed as needed. This leads to the fascinating question of whether pictorial programs were in truth as multilayered, coherent, and learned as scholars have long supposed. Today the prevailing view is that their ambiguity was calculated, leaving room for provocative detours, contrary associations, and witty enigmas.

In the past few years it has become considerably easier to reproduce Baroque frescoes, thanks to innovative new photographic techniques. Today it is possible to produce complete views of perspective constructions that impressively present to modern viewers the virtuosity of Baroque painters, and make clear how fully these creations participated in the much–vaunted Baroque Gesamtkunstwerk (or “total artwork”), a phenomenon Baldinucci chose to describe in 1682 as “un bel composto,” praising Bernini as its inventor. Masterpieces in the medium of wall and ceiling painting were based on the artificium and the professional secrets that allowed an artist to overcome the difficoltà of such a task. Accordingly, competition was intense, as was the desire to create new and enduring standards by means of spectacular innovations. This was as true of a master of perspective like Andrea Pozzo as it was of Pietro da Cortona, Giovanni Battista Gaulli, and Luca Giordano, all of whom did without painted architectural structures so that they could demonstrate the autonomy of painting vis–à–vis architecture. At times the sheer visual opulence of their works strains the viewer’s perceptive abilities, yet when translated into the mediums of photography and graphic reproduction it may be appreciated at leisure, easing our access to the world of Baroque pictures and their content. It is a world of many hidden and unknown treasures, the horizons of which the works collected in this volume are meant to reveal.

Florence, April 2007
Steffi Roettgen


Excerpted from Italian Frescoes by Steffi Roettgen, Antonio Quattrone, Ghigo Roli, Luciano Pedicini. Copyright © 2007 Steffi Roettgen. Excerpted by permission of Abbeville Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Table of Contents

Table of Contents from:
Italian Frescoes: The Baroque Era



Principles of Baroque Wall and Ceiling Painting
The Baroque Church as Theatrum Sacrum
Under the Auspices of Olympus—the Baroque Palace

The Cycles of Painting

Rome – Palazzo del Quirinale
Bassano Romano (Di Sutri) – Palazzo Odeschalchi Giustiniani
Grottaferrata – Abby of Santa Maria
Rome – Villa Boncompagni Ludovisi, Casino Dell'Aurora
Rome – San Andrea Della Valle
Rome – Palazzo Barberini
Florence – Palazzo Pitti
Naples – Former Charterhouse of San Martino
Bologna – Palazzo Pepoli Campogrande
Rome – Palazzo Colonna
Florence – Palazzo Medici Riccardi and Biblioteca Riccardiana
Rome – San Ignazio
Genoa – Palazzo Rosso (Brignole Sale)
Naples – San Paolo Maggiore
Turin – Palazzo Reale
Florence – Palazzo Marucelli–Fenzi
Udine – Palazzo Patriarcale
Naples – Nunziatella (Santa Maria Annunziata)
Venice – Palazzo Labia, Ballroom (Salone Da Ballo)
Florence – Villa Poggio Imperiale
San Bastiano, Near Vicenza – Villa Valmarana Ai Nani
Venice – Ca'Rezzonico

Map of Locations of the Fresco Cycles


Inscriptions and Legends


Illustration Credits

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