An "epoch-making event", defines Sylvain Bellenger, director of the Capodimonte Museum and Royal Woods, and, with Sébastien Allard, director of the Louvre's Painting department, among the general curators of 'Naples in Paris: the Louvre invites the Capodimonte Museum'.
Until 8 January 2024, the French capital hosts an unmissable opportunity to see the two collections that symbolise the links between France and Italy in a spectacular and unique dialogue that has never happened before and is difficult to replicate.
Nor have two such important cultural sites ever given rise to such an exhibition. The exhibition, which has received the High Patronage of the Italian Republic and the French Republic, is the truly great cultural event of 2023.
The Louvre and Capodimonte, in fact, are both royal palaces turned into museums, custodians of the collections inherited from Europe's greatest sovereigns. The aim of the two museums is to see how masterpieces from Naples mingle with those from the Louvre, to offer visitors an overview of Italian painting from the 15th to the 17th century, to recount pieces of European history and to strengthen relations between two countries that share much in various fields, including culture.
The exhibition, which received the High Patronage of the Italian Republic and the French Republic, is the real big cultural event of 2023
For six months, the masterpieces of the Bourbon palace will dialogue with those of the Parisian palace, in three different iconic spaces of the Louvre: the Denon Wing (Salon Carrè, Grande Galerie and Salle Rosa), the Sully Wing (Salle de la Capelle) on level 1, and the Sully Wing (Salle de l'Horloge) on level 2. Over 60 Capodimonte masterpieces migrated under the skies of Paris.
Masterpieces, including identity masterpieces of the former Neapolitan palace such as Parmigianino's Antea (or rather, the Portrait of a Young Woman, 1524-27), which will be in dialogue with contemporaries already housed in the former French palace. Works that have been cleaned up for the occasion, perhaps fitted with a new frame, strictly period, purchased thanks to the patrons of the Capodimonte Advisory Board led by Giovanni Lombardi.
The French, but not only, will be able to discover the Crucifixion by Masaccio, one of the greatest artists of the Florentine Renaissance, an artist absent from the Louvre's collections; or paintings such as Giovanni Bellini's The Transfiguration, for which the Louvre has no equivalent. The comparison of these works with Raphael's paintings held in the Parisian museum promises to be one of the highlights of the meeting.
The Capodimonte collection is the fruit of a unique history in Italy, which largely explains the diversity of the works on display. Prior to the Unification of Italy (the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies was annexed in 1861), three dynasties played an essential role in the constitution of this impressive ensemble: the Farnese, Bourbon and Bonaparte-Murat.
Bringing together important paintings such as the Portrait of Pope Paul III Farnese with his nephews by Titian and the Portrait of Julius Clovius by Greco, spectacular sculptures and artefacts, all exceptional loans, such as the Cassetta Farnese, the most precious and refined of Renaissance gold works together with Benvenuto Cellini's Saliera, or Filippo Tagliolini's extraordinary biscuit, La Caduta dei Giganti, it will be possible to discover the richness of this collection, a reflection and testimony of the different ages of the Kingdom of Naples.
But also to bring it into dialogue with an equally prestigious one put together by the French royals with equal passion. Among the treasures on display are four cartoons from the collection of Fulvio Orsini, a humanist, great scholar and librarian, first of Cardinal Alessandro Farnese and later of Cardinal Odoardo Farnese. Two cartoons have been definitively attributed to Raphael and Michelangelo as autograph works.
Raphael's Moses before the burning bush and Michelangelo's Group of armourers are preparatory to the decorations of the Vatican. The cartoon of the Madonna of Divine Love and that of Venus and Cupid are considered to have been executed by pupils of the two masters. Rare masterpieces that will be presented in dialogue with famous drawings preserved in the Drawings Cabinet of the Louvre, such as Raphael's Saint Catherine or the recently restored cartoon of The Moderation by Giulio Romano, Raphael's closest pupil and his close collaborator.
An exhibition therefore that is unprecedented for the quantity and quality of the works on loan, for the organisational effort, and for the objectives that the two museums have set themselves as the crowning glory of a show that will be the focus of months of events in the French capital, including a performance by the San Carlo theatre and one by Peppe Barra.
"For us, it is also a moment of reflection on the way we present Italian painting. In 2024 we will completely redo the Grande Galerie, where it is exhibited, and the comparison of works will give us suggestions in this respect. We present it in a very French way, i.e. the Roman, the Bolognese, the Florentine, because the kings of France bought works according to French taste, which is very classicist and not very prone to the dramatic light and shade effect of many Neapolitan and Spanish masterpieces,' Allard had explained to Neapolitan journalists during a visit to the capital of Campania in preparation for the exhibition.
The Louvre and Capodimonte have much to share and much to tell
And now in Paris, alongside works by Titian, Caravaggio, Carracci and Guido Reni, to name but a few, comes the unique Neapolitan School, with artists of dramatic and expressive power such as Jusepe de Ribera, Francesco Guarino and Mattia Preti.
"The Louvre and Capodimonte have much to share and much to tell. I would like to sincerely thank Sylvain Bellenger, director of the Museo e Real Bosco di Capodimonte who, in friendship, did us the great honour of accepting our invitation. This exceptional and exclusive collaboration perfectly illustrates the European and international link that I hope for the museum,' explains Laurence des Cars, director of the Louvre. "The history of Capodimonte is as inextricably linked to the Kingdom of Naples as the history of the Louvre Museum is to the French Revolution," recalls Bellenger.
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