Caravaggio and Bernini reinterpreted by Formafantasma

The Rijks Museum of Amsterdam plays tribute to the emergence of the Baroque movement in Rome with masterpieces by Caravaggio and Bernini in an exhibition enriched by the set-up by Studio Formafantasma.

An examination of the emergence of the Baroque movement in Rome with the exhibition held at the Rijks Museum in Amsterdam entitled “Caravaggio/Bernini. Baroque in Rome”. It is an important tribute to the aesthetic revolution at the beginning of the Seventeenth century that saw Rome as its epicentre. The sculptor Gian Lorenzo Bernini and the painter Caravaggio/Michelangelo Merisi were the protagonists of an artistic revolution that quickly spread throughout Europe.

The exhibition covers an area of 1.000 square metres in which paintings and sculptures dialogue, generating an emotional environment divided by a series of large fabric panels. It is a movement of emotions, which the curator Frits Scholten has sought to highlight through the identification of eight sections: wonderment and stupor, horror and fearfulness, love, vision, passion and compassion, motion and action, vivacity, jest. These are emotions that represent the intense interaction between the paintings and sculptures. It is a spirit shared by the artists and sculptors whose objective was to provoke amazement, the final objective of Baroque Art. The success of Roman Baroque art was down to dialogue between the arts, which led painters to draw inspiration from sculptural forms, and sculptors to develop techniques that produced works in an almost pictorial manner.

The lively mix of reality and imagination and the highly emotive character of the works on show are the elements on which Andrea Trimarchi and Simone Farresin of Studio Formafantasma based the layout of the exhibition. Colour and light have been used to convey and exalt the aesthetic values of the exhibited paintings and sculptures. Chromatic highlights are used to emphasise the contemporary and radical qualities of the works. Caravaggio’s Narcissus is immersed in a pink that exalts the complexion of the figure, creating a dialogue with Bernini’s Medusa. The effect is that of a suspension that creates an environment far removed from the standard forms of exhibition, which usually favour dark spaces with dramatic lighting.

La Medusa, sculpture by Gian Lorenzo Bernini, 1640.

Formafantasma gives a nod to Ettore Spalletti’s studies into colour and environments, and to Carlo Scarpa’s skilful chiselling, in particular in his work for Palazzo Abatellis in Palermo. Fabric backdrops create islands of perception, in which it is possible to read fragments of a story that develops from emotion to emotion, finishing with the final jest. A series of earthy and nocturne colours underline the emotions evoked by 70 masterpieces by Caravaggio, Bernini and their peers: Ludovico and Annibale Carracci, Guido Reni, Stefano Maderno, Artemisia Gentileschi, Bartolomeo Manfredi and Guercino. “The aim of the poet is the marvellous;  I speak of the excellent, not of the inept, let him who cannot amaze work the stables”, states Giambattista Marino in one of the 81 sonnets from La Murtoleide, a definitive summary that captures the sense of Baroque art.

It is this timeless sentiment that the refined and precise work by Formafantasma appears to seek to set free. Each work leaves clues, details and traces that emerge and flow one after the other towards a climax that leads the visitor to discover a true form of poetry based on a wondrous multiplication of creativity. The boy bitten by a lizard by Caravaggio, and the intense and little-known David beheads Goliath by Orazio Brogianni, together with the sculpture by Bernini showing the Ecstasy of Saint Teresa are some of the most powerful moments in an exhibition that, with sensitivity and accuracy, creates interesting reflection on contemporary culture.

Caravaggio, Bernini. Baroque in Rome
Curated by:
Studio Formafantasma
Rijks Museum Amsterdam
Opening dates:
14 February – 7 June 2020
Museumstraat 1, Amsterdam

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