Decadent Seicento
The emergence of the Baroque in the Italian fin de siècle
in Baroquemania
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Chapter 1 studies how Italian novelists, critics, and art historians of the fin de siècle crucially shifted the assessment of the Baroque, especially that of its most iconic sculptor, Gianlorenzo Bernini. The chapter first examines how in Gabriele D’Annunzio’s circle (especially in the work of the literary critic Enrico Nencioni) the Baroque was celebrated as the period most attuned to fin de siècle mentality. Then, the chapter addresses the staging of lavish celebrations to commemorate the third centenary of Gianlorenzo Bernini’s birth in 1898, which hailed him as the paradigm of a multi-regional artist (with links to Naples, Rome, and Florence) expressing the essence of Italian artistic genius. In the aftermath of these celebrations, Italian photographers finally began intensive campaigns to record Baroque art and architecture, and a new generation of scholars began studying this period. An example of such a rediscovery was the publication of the first academic monograph on Bernini, written by the young art historian Stanislao Fraschetti in 1900 and richly illustrated by photographs of the sculptor’s most important works. The chapter examines this reassessment’s intellectual stakes by investigating how Italian art historians struggled to do justice to the Baroque’s formal innovations while still condemning the period as decadent.

Baroquemania

Italian visual culture and the construction of national identity, 1898–1945

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