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"The Triumph of the Baroque: Architecture in Europe 1600-1750"
2000-05-21 until 2000-10-09
National Gallery of Art
Washington, DC, USA United States of America

Following the National Gallery's highly successful Italian Renaissance Architecture of 1994-1995, this awe-inspiring exhibition presents twenty-seven original architectural models and forty related paintings, drawings, prints, and medals. Emerging in the early seventeenth century, the baroque inspired European architecture for the next one hundred and fifty years. The movement, drama, and grandeur of the baroque is dramatically illustrated by the architectural models, which played significant roles in the practice of architecture during this period.

The exhibition begins in the central galleries on the ground floor of the West Building with the baroque in Rome. It will continue along the spine of the building, then upstairs to the West Garden Court and along the West Sculpture Hall, featuring in order, churches, public buildings, military architecture, and residential architecture, and culminating with the extraordinary models for the Great Kremlin Palace, Moscow; the Royal Palace, Caserta, Italy; and the Smol'ny Convent in St. Petersburg. Models, paintings, drawings, prints, and medals will present significant examples of baroque architecture in Italy, Germany, Austria, Switzerland, France, the Netherlands, England, and Russia.

Among the most appealing works are several of Rome's celebrated baroque fountains, famed for their ambitious designs and rushing waters. Gian Lorenzo Bernini's project for the Four Rivers Fountain (c. 1650) in the Piazza Navona is represented by an original architectural model in wood and terracotta as well as a painting of the completed monument. Four water deities symbolize the Danube, Ganges, Nile, and Rio della Plata, while water cascades from their rocky perches. Another painting of Pope Innocent X visiting the fountain and a silver medal struck to commemorate its completion underscore the importance of Bernini's spectacular masterpiece. Of particular interest to many will be Nicola Salvi's 1733 wood and plaster model for the imposing Trevi Fountain in Rome and Giovanni Paolo Pannini's oil sketch, Fountain of Trevi, Rome (1750-1755). Models, paintings, drawings, prints, and a commemorative medal document the complex process by which Jacob van Campen designed Amsterdam's enormous Town Hall, hailed as the Eighth Wonder of the World when completed around 1665. Examples of English baroque architecture include Sir Christopher Wren's models for the Royal Navy Hospital in Greenwich, with its reserved classicism, and James Gibbs' 1721 wooden model for St.-Martin-in-the-Fields, London, whose design greatly influenced churches built in the United States.

Varying ways in which the baroque style was adapted in Russia are reflected in several structures. One of the most dazzling works in the exhibition, reflecting the flamboyant style of Russian baroque master Francesco Bartolomeo Rastrelli, is his model for the Smol'ny Convent in St. Petersburg, replete with innumerable colorful and gilt-laden details on a luxuriant, grandiose complex. A series of models and drawings illuminates plans developed by Vasily Ivanovich Bazhenov in the late 1760s, under the aegis of Catherine the Great, to encircle the massive, relatively plain Kremlin in Moscow. The ambitious proposal was never realized. Italian architect Antonio Rinaldi's model for St. Isaac's Cathedral in St. Petersburg is interesting for its mixture of elements of the Italian baroque, and Russian Orthodox traditions.

Highlights among paintings in the exhibition that help place buildings in the context of their time and place are two canvases by the great Italian topographical artist Canaletto depicting the Arch of Septimius Severus and the Church of Santi Luca e Martina in Rome (c. 1742) and the Royal Navy Hospital in Greenwich (c. 1750-1752), and the two spectacular galleries of painted views of ancient and baroque Rome (1757) by Giovanni Paolo Pannini.


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