From among the several temporary exhibitions on display at Museu Nacional de Arte Antiga I sellected the one covering paintings and sculptures from Ricci's private Art collection for mere curiosity, taking into account the little I had read about the personal characteristics of Ricci, considered one of the most brilliant Italian graphic designers, amidst various other remarkable "accomplishments".
As I walked into the first gallery two of three paintings on the right hand side caught my attention, maybe because that was not exactly what I had been expecting. I soon fount out they were Antonio Ligabue's (1899-1965). His oil on hardboard self portrait was really impressive not only because of reminding me of the famous self-portrait by Van Gogh but because the stripped shirt framing the painter's face highlights his profound expression. Ligabue's is said to have had a rather distressing life spent between psychiatric clinics and the Lombardy forest with practices of self-mutilation (of which we can see a wound marked on his self-portrait painting) until his final success and recognition.
I enjoyed quite a few religious oriented paintings dating from the 15th and 16th centuries, though most of the pictures I have taken are from sculptures for obvious photographic reasons but also for the variety of styles.
I couldn't help taking several pictures of a gallery dedicated to several artists' obssession with death in the form of either sculptures and paintings.
"Vanitas" - linden wood - first half of the 18th century. The quality of the material used for this sculpture and its accentuated chiaroescuro effect, albeit the macabre austerity that typically characterises so many compositions of this genre suggest that the piece can be attributed to the artist of Dutch origin and later naturalised English, Grinling Gibbons because of his recognised technical virtuosity.
"Allegory of Death" - oil on canvas - late 17th century - circle of Juan de Valdés Leal (right). Linked to various Spanish examples dating from the late 17th century this painting represents the ephemeral condition of all men; the papal tiara, the bishops's mitre, the sceptre and the crown are all symbols of the disillusion of earthly glory. Believed to originate from a Cistercian Monastery.
"Dead Christ" - terracota with patina - early 18th century. This sculpture forms part of the almost serial tradition of representing the body of the dead Christ in the tomb with his shroud open.
Gian Lorenzo Bernini (1598 - 1680) - "Portrait of Pope Clement X Altieri" - marble - c. 1675 (left). The sculpting of this bust may have sealed the reconciliation between the most famous Roman Baroque sculptor and the pope after a serious misunderstanding that had occurred between the two of them. Lorenzo Merlini (1666 - 1745) - "Portrait of Cardinal Paluzzo Paluzzi degli Albertoni Altieri" (right) - marble. The hunched back, fallen chin, short sightedness and roguish expression reveal a caricatural force in the tradition of Bernini.
Francesco Orso (1745 - 1820) - "Portraits of Victor Amadeus III of Savoy and Maria Antonia Fernanda of Bourbon" - polychrome wax. Having trained at a workshop that produced religious pieces Orso later settled in Paris where his first steps on working with wax led to success once he was taken by the soon famous to be Madame Tussaud.
Giovanni Battista Bernero (1736 - 1796) - "Victor Amadeus III and Maria Antonia Fernanda of Bourbon (pair)" - plaster of Paris and stucco - 1774. The profiles of the King of Sardinia and his consort made in oval frames belong to what is considered a more mature period of the sculptor.
Marie-Anne Collot (1748 - 1821) - "Portrait of young woman" (left) - terracota with patina - 1765. This is one of the scuptress's first works, made when she was sixteen. Considered to be one of the greatest French portrait artists of the 18th century, she left an important group of busts she produced of famous personalities of the time. Giovan Battista Nini (1717 - 1786) - "Mademoiselle Jeannette Nini" (right) - terracota - 1762. Giovan Nini was famous in France for having produced portrait medallions in terracota, in which he immortalised many of the European sovereigns, aristocrats, courtiers and artists.
Jean-Antoine Houdon (1741 -1828) - "Portrait of Marie-Ange-Cécile Langlois, the sculptor's wife"- plaster of Paris. It was the art of portraiture that gave Houdon his fame. Throughout his career he sculpted the effigies of leading figures from the Parisian artistic and intellectual life of the time.
A. Riffard. "Bust of a woman" - terracota - late 18th century. This bust forms a pair with a male portrait (not in display) both of them said to express a new aesthetic that was typical of the revolutionary period.
Lorenzo Bartolini (1777 - 1850) - "Bust of Paris after Antonio Canova" (left) - marble - 1823. Based on the famous statue of Paris made by Canova for the Empress Josephine Bartolini sculpted at least two versions of the Greek hero. Tito Angelini (1806 - 1878) - "Bust of Venus after Antonio Canova" (right) - marble.After his aprenticeship with his father at the Naples Academy of Fine Arts Tito perfected his art in Rome, where he adopted a form of dogmatic neoclassicism.
Adolfo Wildt (1888 -1931) - "Mother" - fragment from The family -marble - 1922. A stylistic abstraction.
Giandante X (1900 -1984) - "Man's head or Head of Benito Mussolini" - bronze. Its author is said to have been a multifaceted figure . architect, painter, sculptor, ceramist and poet who defined himself as "extra expressionist-constructivist".
Giuseppe Baldrighi (1723 -1803) - "Old lady with small dog" - oil on canvas. Having returned to Parma in the mid- 18th century following a period of training in Paris Baldrighi dedicated himself almost exclusively to painting portraits of the Duke's family and local personalities from the Court circles.
Pietro Melchiorre Ferrari (1734 -1787) -"Portrait of Antonio Ghidini with his family" - oil on canvas. A masterpiece of Italian portraiture from the second half of the 18th century.
Francesco Hayez (1791 -1882) - "Portrait of Francesca Madjnoni d'Intignano dell'Acquafreda"- oil on canvas - 1829. This portrait with its extraordinary introspective force was directly commissioned by the widow of a senior Milanese official and advisor to the emperor Francis I of Habsburg. Hayez is said to have been able to interpret the strong character of Francesca, who did not hesitate to sell her husband's precious collections to sustain her numerous offspring.
Placido Fabris (1802 - 1859) - "Count Giambattista Serbelloni Sfrondati" (detail) - oil on canvas - 1847. In the portrait of one of the most illustrious members of a Milanese family the light-filled backdrop enriched it by having it turned into a well established compositional scheme oriented portrait.
Joseph Ritter (1800 - 1861) - "Portrait of a man" (detail) - oil on canvas - 1832. A rare work by a still little known artist, which has a certain rustic force ennobled by the artistic reference.
The exhibition ended on a gallery in the opposite side of the main entrance hall, where not only a replica of Ricci's library had been put up but a film based on the idea behind the construction of his labyrinth surrounded Museum, as well as interesting details of his life was running. He is definitely a very unique person and from what I was able to see he has undoubtedly already made an aesthetic and cultural difference.
The two hours I spent admiring the artistic pieces of this collection were well worth it and I do believe I might go back sometime to further look at details. Clearly one of the best Sundays in recent months.