Luca Giordano. Maestro barocco a Firenze focuses on the relationship between the Neapolitan painter, who spent periods of time in Florence between 1682 and 1686, and the most outstanding Florentine families, who were ready to welcome the novelties of his painting and commissioned him with important works. Besides the Medici Grand Dukes of Tuscany, we recall the Del Rosso, Corsini, Sanminiati, Andreini, Martelli, and Riccardi families, who enjoyed the legacy of his masterpieces on canvas and in fresco, which would mark the history of Florentine Baroque.
The vaulted ceiling of the Galleria degli Specchi presents itself as a true challenge to illusionism: it unfolds into an exuberant mythological narrative, punctuated by the Cardinal Virtues at the corners and aimed at celebrating the Medici in the centre as a testimony to the Riccardis’ enormous gratitude toward them. Complementing the Galleria is the vaulted ceiling of the Biblioteca Riccardiana with the Allegory of Divine Wisdom, which Luca Giordano would paint in only five days between 1685 and 1686. These precious artistic achievements, together with the decorations of the Corsini Chapel in Santa Maria del Carmine church and a series of paintings commissioned by other important Florentine families, including the Medici and the Del Rosso, silhouette the presence of the artist in Florence.
This exhibition is therefore devoted to highlight Luca Giordano’s activity in Florence in the years 1682-1683 and 1685-1686, with special attention paid to the vaulted ceiling of the Galleria degli Specchi inside Palazzo Medici Riccardi: the marvellous frescoes in the palace are in the spotlight together with other paintings that are closely connected therewith both for the iconography and period of execution, broadening the scope of the painter’s activity in Florence and refreshing the exhibition narration based on the latest research carried out on his oeuvre.
On display are approximately 50 works, some of which have never been exhibited so far in Florence and which are closely connected with the frescoes. First and foremost, a series of ten oil studies for the Galleria degli Specchi and the Biblioteca Riccardiana granted on loan by the National Gallery of London, which will be displayed in close dialogue with the vaulted ceiling. And then, paintings of the Virtues from various private European collections, and canvases from prestigious Italian museums, including the Uffizi Gallery, the Museo dell’Opera del Duomo of Siena, the Museo Stibbert of Florence, and the Museo di Palazzo Mansi of Lucca, besides works from private Italian and American collections. Complementing the paintings on display is an array of documents testifying to the Riccardis’ commissions, to the initial layout studies and actual creation of the frescoes, which are conserved in Florentine libraries and archives. The exhibition path will also explore other aspects of Luca Giordano’s activity in Florence and his relationships with his clients, by giving prominence to the works sharing similar subject, the most original works as to technique, and the most significant works in the painter’s production, weaving an utmost suggestive narrative.
The aim of the exhibition is primarily to highlight the frescoes in the Galleria and the Biblioteca, which will enjoy a new lighting system and are currently the object of investigation by the Opificio delle Pietre Dure to study Luca Giordano’s distinctive technique.
The exhibition opens with a Self-portrait from the Pio Monte della Misericordia of Naples, datable around 1680-92, and continues with some youthful sketches that draw on Pietro da Cortona’s frescoes in Palazzo Barberini, Rome. The paintings depicting San Sebastiano [Saint Sebastian], courtesy of Museo Nazionale di Palazzo Mansi, and Apollo e Marsia [Apollo and Marsyas], courtesy of Museo Stefano Bardini in Florence, presumably created in the 1660s and inspired by the dark style of Jusepe de Ribera and Mattia Preti, highly praised in Naples, lead us back to Florence, testifying to the recognition that Luca Giordano enjoyed among Florentine clients in this early period. The first painting was originally part of the collection of Cardinal Leopoldo de’ Medici, and the second of the collection of Abbot Pier Andrea Andreini.
The painting depicting the Trionfo di Galatea [Triumph of Galatea] (courtesy of the Uffizi Gallery) reflects the appreciation enjoyed by the painter in Florence: it was part of the collections owned by Grand Prince Ferdinando de’ Medici at the end of the 17th century and brings to mind other versions of the same subject commissioned to Luca Giordano by the Sanminiati and the Del Rosso families.
In 1689, the pictorial collection of the Florentine brothers Andrea, Ottaviano, and Lorenzo Del Rosso included over forty paintings by Luca Giordano. The richness and variety of the acquisitions of the Del Rosso family are testified to in this exhibit by paintings representing scenes of the Passione di Cristo [The Passion of Christ]: today, two of these paintings are conserved in Siena and one in the Uffizi Gallery. They are displayed next to a valuable fresco on wicker support depicting the Samaritana al pozzo [Samaritan Woman at the Well] (private collection): an example of the painter’s technical virtuosity. The Gloria di Sant’Andrea Corsini [Glory of Saint Andrea Corsini] fresco in the dome, developed in an airy and shining allure, is recalled in this exhibit thanks to precious preliminary sketches from the Uffizi Gallery, which are displayed next to two magnificent heroic theme paintings that also belonged to the Corsini Collection and that are exhibited together here for the first time. In the juxtaposition of these two large paintings next to the sketches for the Corsini Chapel fresco, we can appreciate Luca Giordano’s versatility. Luca Giordano’s intense production for churches and convents was equalled by his expertise in historical subjects, exemplified by the paintings devoted to two legendary figures of ancient Rome: Marco Curzio [Marcus Curtius] (private collection) and Lucio Giunio Bruto [Lucius Junius Brutus] (courtesy of Museo di Casa Martelli in Florence).
Testifying to the appreciation expressed by the Medici family is the commission of two works by Vittoria Della Rovere, wife of Grand Duke Ferdinando II: the intimate and devout Fuga in Egitto [Flight into Egypt] (courtesy of the Uffizi Gallery), and the intense allegory of the theological virtue of Speranza [Hope] (private collection). The Giudizio di Paride [Judgement of Paris] (courtesy of the Museo Civico di Palazzo Chiericati in Vicenza), likewise datable to Luca Giordano’s first period of residency in Florence, is further testimony to his masterful interpretation of Pietro da Cortona’s signature style, while the scene of Atalanta e Ippomene [Atalanta and Hippomenes] (private collection) stands as the virtuoso achievement of his technique: this painting on a wicker support, featuring a bright and luminous palette, was present in the 1715 inventory of the Riccardi Collection.
The Biblioteca Riccardiana, which houses one of the two frescoes commissioned to Luca Giordano by the Riccardi family, will concomitantly hold a separate exhibition entitled Dai libri alla pittura. Viaggio tra le fonti iconografiche di Luca Giordano a palazzo Medici Riccardi [From Books to Painting. A Journey Across Luca Giordano’s Iconographic Sources in Palazzo Medici Riccardi], curated by Francesca Gallori in collaboration with Rossella Giovannetti, Letizia Paolettoni, and Giovanna Lazzi. This second exhibition is meant to complete the exhibition sponsored by the Metropolitan City of Florence and MUS.E with literary and iconographic testimonies.
The exhibition unfolds through a display of books, manuscripts, and drawings conserved in the Biblioteca Riccardiana, offering insight into the mythological narratives depicted in the frescoes through images taken from various literary sources that the painter might have consulted as models: Tabula Cebetis, Sfera del Dati, several versions of Ovid’s Metamorphoses, engravings by Stefano della Bella, representations of Medici festivals, the figurative repertoires owned by Ripa, Cartari, and Alciati, the treaty on Flora by Giovan Battista Ferrari featuring marvellous engravings drawn from sketches by Piero da Cortona, Guido Reni, and Andrea Sacchi. Completing the exhibition are three studies by Giovanni Battista Foggini for the stuccos, and the drawing for a mirror of the salon by Anton Domenico Gabbiani, which all belong to the fine collection of drawings conserved in Palazzo Medici Riccardi.
The Biblioteca Moreniana, a jewel of the Metropolitan City of Florence housed in Palazzo Medici Riccardi, also contributed with a selection of 17th and 18th-century texts that can be consulted in the reading room and that testify to the success enjoyed by Luca Giordano in Florence.
The exhibition held at Palazzo Medici Riccardi is also meant as an invitation to visit the places in the city that house works created by Luca Giordano during his residency in Florence, as a sort of “outside the exhibition” tour that includes the Uffizi Gallery, Palazzo Pitti, Galleria Corsini, Santa Maria del Carmine church, Santa Maria Maddalena dei Pazzi church, and Museo di Casa Martelli.