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Italian Art

From the outstanding Byzantine mosaics in the churches of Ravenna to the Greek temples of Sicily and Roman amphitheatres in a number of cities, Italian art in all its forms of expression magically spans the passing of the centuries, from the Roman Empire to the present day, in a continual succession of visual surprises for visitors to enjoy.Italy is the land of Donatello, Tintoretto, Titian and Giorgione, all painters of extraordinary calibre who produced vast quantities of works.

In the School of Cimabue trained the painter Giotto, the most important artist of the XIVth cent. whose works include the Bell Tower in Florence and the frescoes in the Upper Basilica of St. Francis in Assisi. Princes of the XVth and XVIth cents. commissioned painters, sculptors and architects to beautify their residences and towns. This practice was copied also by the Papal State where both Raphael and Michelangelo worked during the first half of the XVIth cent.. Michelangelo was a sculptor ( La Pietà, Basilica of St. Peter’s), an architect ( Dome of St. Peter’s) and a painter (the Sistine Chapel). Renaissance painting, just like the literature of the time, drew on themes from classical mythology: in the painting of The Birth of Venus ( c. 1485, The Uffizi Gallery, Florence), Botticelli portrays the Goddess of Love newly risen out of the sea.

Gian Lorenzo Bernini was the greatest interpreter of Baroque style. He was an architect, a painter, a stage designer and a comedy writer but above all he was a very great sculptor. His artistic training was completed in Rome, where he worked all his life as official artist of the Popes and for the most significant noble families in Rome. His artistic production was exceptionally immense and varied, the fruit of a theatrically oriented fusion of architecture, sculpture and painting. His most renowned sculptures include the Apollo and Daphne (1622-24) housed in the Gallery of the Villa Borghese in Rome, and the Ecstasy of St. Theresa (1644-51) in the Church of Santa Maria della Vittoria in Rome. For over fifty years Bernini was engaged in the task of enlarging and decorating the Basilica of St. Peter’s, for which he created the square with the colonnaded wings (1657-65), the Baldacchino, or Canopy, (1624-33), the Chair of St. Peter (1656-66) and the tombs of two different Popes. He adorned Rome’s most important squares with monumental fountains, including the very beautiful Fountain of the Four Rivers (1648-51) in Piazza Navona.

In the XVIIIth cent. Canaletto regaled posterity with his slendid views of Venice and scenes of Venetian life bathed in a light and true-to-life atmosphere. This century saw the return of classical idealsi, in literature and in art, stimulated also by the great many ongoing archaeological excavations, for example at Herculaneum and Pompei: Antonio Canova (Cupid and Psyche, 1787-93, Gipsoteca di Possagno, Treviso) was without a doubt the greatest interpreter of Neoclassicism in sculpture.
XXth cent. Italian art produced a number of highly original and diverse talents, for example from the Futurist School, Boccioni, Balla, Carrà, or later, Giorgio De Chirico, Renato Guttuso and Alberto Burri. The latter (1915-1995) used commonplace materials in his works, such as sacking, plastic and tar; the artist attacked his materials with fire burns and gaping lacerations. The material themselves are the content in their own right: they do not symbolise anything but rather are suggestive of the states of mind, suffering and torment that are deeply rooted in Man and his existence.



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