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Indepth Arts News:

"Earth and Fire: Italian Terracotta Sculpture From Donatello To Canova"
2002-03-14 until 2002-07-07
Victoria and Albert Museum
London, , UK

A selection of terracotta sculptures by an outstanding range of Italian masters will be on display in the V&A’s spring exhibition Earth and Fire. Documenting for the first time terracotta’s importance across the glory years of the Renaissance to the age of Neoclassicism, Earth and Fire focuses attention on terracotta works in ways which have never before been possible.

A masterful control of material and a superb sense of artistry make Italian terracotta one of the most alluring and expressive art forms in history. The exhibition's great attraction lies in comparing models with finished works, demonstrating that the modelling of clay is at the heart of the creative processes of sculpture. The exhibition will break new ground in several important respects: Examining the full range of Italian terracotta sculpture between 1400 and 1800, no other exhibition to date has presented such a panorama of works by sculptors including Ghiberti, Giambologna, Donatello, Verrocchio, Bernini and Canova. It will offer a unique opportunity to juxtapose terracotta models with finished works. This will allow people to compare for example, a clay portrait by Benedetto da Maiano from Berlin with the marble version from the Louvre. Together, they illustrate the changes between a sculptor’s initial concept and the final work.

Among the highlights of the exhibition will be an important sequence of drawings and bozzetti by Bernini, focusing upon his Angels for the Ponte Sant’Angelo in Rome. Audiences will be able to compare six of these studies, brought together here for the first time. The exhibition also documents the development of one of Canova's most admired works, the Penitent Magdalen. In this case, the artistic process is traced from first thoughts on paper to clay models and the finished marble, which was one of Canova's most contested works when exhibited in Paris in 1809. Terracottas will in certain cases be linked to related drawings. Many are preliminary sketches and these will be used, as in the case of Canova's Mourning Figure from the Tomb of Maria Christine, to demonstrate the significance of the practice of copying and replication. Earth and Fire also features works expressly restored for the exhibition and will highlight the strengths of the VandA's Renaissance sculpture collections, the most extensive outside of Italy. More than ninety items come from thirty eight lenders in eight countries, including the Hermitage, the Louvre, the Museo di Palazzo Venezia in Rome, the Thyssen Collection of Lugano, the Skulpturensammlung in Berlin and the British Museum. This unparalleled collection of objects makes Earth and Fire a landmark event. The Italian group Pirelli SpA is to support the conservation of eight objects from the VandA's world-famous collection of Italian terracotta sculptures. A number of these sculptures will be on display as part of the exhibition Earth and Fire.

Giovanni Bologna
River God (ca.1575), (c) Victoria and Albert Museum

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