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Indepth Arts News:

"Art of Rome in the 18th Century"
2000-06-25 until 2000-09-17
Museum of Fine Art Houston
Houston, TX, USA

Throughout the 18th century, the city of Rome -- with its antiquities, Renaissance and Baroque monuments, and cosmopolitan spirit -- was the artistic and cultural capital of Europe. This was the Rome of the Trevi Fountain and the Spanish Steps, the Rome of carnivals and papal ceremonies, the Rome that Giovanni Battista Piranesi captured in his celebrated prints -- and it was a mecca for artists from throughout the Western world. The Splendor of Rome: The 18th Century celebrates Rome's cultural vitality at a special moment in history; the city was still an independent papal state, and would not become the capital of a newly reunited Italy until 1871.

In the 18th century, Rome's civic and religious leaders commissioned exceptional artists from throughout Europe to construct and embellish churches, palaces, fountains, public piazzas, gardens, and galleries, and to adorn the city with an abundance of art. The grand scale and diversity of that artistic outpouring is captured in this colossal and lavish exhibition.

The spectacular array of more than 400 works encompasses galleries on the first floor and lower level of the Audrey Jones Beck Building and includes paintings, prints, drawings, sculpture, architectural models, and decorative arts by more than 160 artists, including the painters Pompeo Batoni and Giovanni Paolo Panini, the sculptor Antonio Canova, and the master printmaker Piranesi. Artists who studied or worked in Rome during this period comprised a diverse, international group, including Germany's Anton Raphael Mengs; the Frenchmen Jacques-Louis David, Jean-Honoré Fragonard, and Jean-Antoine Houdon; and Angelika Kauffmann of Switzerland.

The Splendor of Rome is divided into sections that illuminate the many facets of the Eternal City during this extraordinary era. One section highlights picturesque landscapes and cityscapes of Rome itself, as well as the many festivals presented in its public spaces. Architectural projects and designs, including the prints and drawings of the prodigiously talented Piranesi, are featured. Another section spotlights achievements by the city's artists in drawing, an essential component in the process of creating paintings, prints, architecture, and sculpture. Demonstrating the wide variety of uses for drawings are some 100 works, including preparatory studies, landscapes and city views, portraits and caricatures, fantasies, academic studies, and competition entries.

Strongly represented is the art of ecclesiastical Rome, including altarpieces, sacred images, and views of St. Peter's and the Vatican. Another section evokes the magnificence of Roman palaces, complete with exquisite sculpture and decorative arts, as well as paintings of a monumental scale. Finally, the exhibition explores Rome as a preeminent training ground for artists of many nationalities, who celebrated and immortalized the city's physical beauty and venerable history.

Virgin and Child in Glory,
1747, oil on canvas,
Toledo Museum of Art,
purchased with funds from the Libbey Endowment,
gift of Edward Drummond Libbey

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