Home Entertainment Rubens and his masterpieces on display in Genoa

Rubens and his masterpieces on display in Genoa

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When he arrived in Genoa in 1604 he was already an established artist, court painter of Vincenzo I Gonzaga, Duke of Mantua. Genoa the Superb, the rich, the beautiful was then the economic and financial capital of Europe. His bankers lent money to kings and princes, his ships traveled to the main ports of the Mediterranean, from Northern Europe to the Americas, his merchants trafficked in all kinds of trades. The city, with the painted facades of its buildings, overflowed with beauty and culture. For Pieter Paul Rubens about love at first sight. Sentiment reciprocated by the rich mercantile aristocracy who commissioned him to paint his sumptuous power.

The genius of the Baroque is preparing to return to the Ligurian capital. To him is dedicated “Rubens and the Palaces of Genoa”, an international exhibition curated by Nils Buttner, the greatest expert and scholar of the painter, art historian, member of the Centrum Rubenianum and of the editorial board of the Corpus Rubenianum Ludwig Burchard, and by Anna Orlando, appreciated historian of Genoese art, which will be held in Palazzo Ducale and in some Genoese palaces from 6 October 2022 to 22 January 2023.

Some of Rubens’ most important canvases such as his youthful “Self-portrait”, which never left Antwerp, the painter’s adopted city, or the “Portrait of a Lady”, the face of the Genoese Violante Maria Spinola Serra, owned by the Faringdon Collection Trust, exceptionally detached from the walls of the marvelous residence of Buscot Park in Oxfordshire in England, will arrive in Genoa to testify on the one hand the love of the great Flemish for the city, and on the other the apex of the splendor and baroque splendor of which the Superba was a proud protagonist. In all 153 works, of which 20 Rubens from European and Italian collections that add up to Rubensian works in the city such as the spectacular “Portrait of Gio. Carlo Doria on horseback” from the National Gallery of Palazzo Spinola. Or the two altarpieces of the Church of the Gesù – “The Circumcision” of 1605 and “The miracles of blessed Ignazio di Loyola” of 1621 – a few steps from Palazzo Ducale, still located on the original altars. The recently rediscovered “San Sebastiano”, formerly part of the collection of Carlo Filippo Antonio Spinola, Marquis de Los Balbases, will also return home momentarily.

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“We want to tell a love story – explains the curator Anna Orlando – that of Rubens and the Duke of Mantua for a city that at the beginning of the seventeenth century is wonderful and surprising, a real capital of Europe from the point of view not only financial and commercial, but also artistic. We know that the Duke fell in love with the women of Genoa, considered to be of rare beauty and elegance, and with the amenities of the beaches, villas and gardens overlooking the sea. The painter was struck by the masterpieces of churches and private residences and palaces, so much so that he proposed them as a new housing model for the other countries of the Old Continent. This is why we are not just presenting an exhibition, but we are revealing to visitors some of the wonders of our city that have been preserved for centuries ».

Rubens stayed in Genoa on several occasions between 1600 and 1607 and was able to entertain direct and in some cases very close relationships with the richest and most influential aristocrats of the city oligarchy. The exhibition was born not by chance on the occasion of the fourth centenary of the publication in Antwerp in 1622 of the famous volume by Rubens, “Palazzi di Genova”. An anthology of the sumptuous “reggie” of the rich Genoese elders, inserted in the Rolli system, to host popes, emperors and kings passing through the city. One of the very rare existing copies of the volume will be exhibited during the exhibitions.

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Starting from this Rubenian nucleus, the story of what was the cultural and artistic context of the city in the epoch of its greatest splendor is completed through the paintings of the authors that Rubens certainly saw and studied (Tintoretto and Luca Cambiaso); whom he met in Italy and in particular in Genoa during his stay (Frans Pourbus the Younger, Sofonisba Anguissola and Bernardo Castello), or with whom he collaborated (Jan Wildens and Frans Snyders).

Drawings, engravings, tapestries, furnishings, antique volumes, even clothes, women’s accessories and jewels will make it possible to celebrate the grandeur of an artistic capital visited by one of the greatest artists of all time. With Rubens, and through what he saw and knew, with exceptional witnesses such as the works of art and thanks to an evocative and engaging exhibition, the history of the Republic of Genoa will be told at the height of its power when, at the beginning of the seventeenth century, it experienced a period of singular vivacity not only economic and financial, but also cultural and artistic. That period, which goes from 1528 to the mid-1600s, was defined by the great French historian, Fernand Braudel, the “Century of the Genoese”.

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