Classical Baroque
The Seicento and the return-to-order
in Baroquemania
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The Baroque was a style that German-speaking art historians had for decades interpreted as quintessentially Nordic. In the aftermath of the First World War, however, Italians deployed it as an anti-Germanic strategy. Chapter 4 studies one of these episodes, the 1922 organisation of a massive exhibition of Italian Baroque painting at the Palazzo Pitti in Florence. This exhibition marked one of the first times at which these paintings were described as ‘Italian’ rather than as Venetian, Florentine, or Roman. Vienna’s Baroque Museum would open a year later, in 1923. The Pitti show used the Baroque to attack Austrian culture, and its claims to the style, and to bolster Italy’s victory in the First World War in the artistic sphere. The Pitti show and other exhibitions and editorial initiatives of the 1920s popularised the Baroque, no longer seen as an aberration in the history of Italian art but instead as part of an uninterrupted homegrown tradition of Italian ‘classical’ painting that spanned from Giotto to the present. Conceptualising the Baroque as a form of classicism encouraged proponents of the return-to-order to promote the imitation of Seicento masters among young artists such as Baccio Maria Baccio, Carlo Socrate, and Armando Spadini, marshalling the Baroque against the alleged excesses and internationalism of the avant-garde.


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


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