The 1911 jubilee exhibitions and the search for an Italian style
Laura Moure Cecchini
Following Chapter 1’s discussion of professional art historians and their reconsideration of the Baroque, Chapter 2 studies its popularisation, analysing the neo-Baroque pavilions of the 1911 international exhibitions organised to celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of Italian unification or Cinquantenario. These pavilions were designed as tributes to local seventeenth-century architecture: in Turin with reference to Filippo Juvarra, in Rome to Bernini. The Baroque was regarded by the fair’s organising committee and by many observers as the first properly national, rather than regional, style to have appeared on the peninsula. Therefore, it was the most appropriate to display the young nation’s cultural assets and political importance. Whilst neo-Baroque architecture was also prominent in other European nations, especially in Germany, Austria, Britain, and France, in Italy it was deployed as proof of a genuine Italian identity that anticipated the country’s political unification. The style worked as a metaphor for the tensions between modern Italy’s nationalism and regionalism and its colonial aspirations. Before the fairs closed, Italy declared war to the Ottoman Empire and occupied Cyrenaica and Tripolitania. Thus, the fairs employed the Baroque to rehearse the role that Italy aspired to fulfil on the international arena.
Imagined Baroques offers a new account of Italian post-unification visual culture through its entanglement in the Baroque. The book argues that, by reinventing Baroque forms in their artistic and architectural practices, modern Italians confronted their fears about their nation’s past and imagined future. Although ignored by most scholarship, the Baroque was repeatedly evoked in modern Italian visual culture and intellectual history. This is so because, between the fin de siècle and the end of the Second World War, the reception, influence, and disavowal of the Baroque enabled Italians to probe the fraught experience of national unification, addressing their ambivalent relationship with modernity and tradition. The Baroque afterlives in modern Italy, and its temporal and conceptual destabilisation, allowed Italians to work through a crisis of modernity and develop a visual culture that was both distinctly Italian and modern. Imagined Baroques interrogates a diverse range of media: not only paintings, sculptures, and buildings, but also magazine illustrations, postcards, commercial posters, pageants, photographs, films, and exhibitions. The Baroque functioned in post-unification Italy as a legacy of potential annihilation but also of potential consolidation, and as a critique of modernity and a celebration of an intrinsically Italian road to modernity. Unearthing the protean and contradictory legacy of the Baroque in modern Italy shows that its revivals and appropriations were not repositories of exact facts about the seventeenth century but rather clues to how visions of modernity and tradition merged to form a distinct Italian identity.
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.
The book closes by reflecting on two questions: why was the Baroque so prominent in Italian Fascist high culture and intellectual discourse, and yet all but absent in the propaganda generated by the regime? Why could other pasts be mobilised to construct an Italian and Fascist identity, while the Baroque appeared to resist its circulation through mass technologies? Several answers are proposed: that the Baroque, despite all the reimaginations addressed so far in the book, was still too easily conflated with Catholicism; that it was too slippery and protean a concept to be easily marshalled in a propaganda system that required unequivocal signifiers; and that its discussion was very much a middle- or even high-brow topic and therefore not appropriate for a demagogic tool such as mass propaganda. The book concludes by suggesting that after the cataclysmic fall of Fascism, it was the common legacy of the Resistance against Nazi-Fascism – rather than any invented tradition linked to the distant past – that founded Italian identity.
The emergence of the Baroque in the Italian fin de siècle
Laura Moure Cecchini
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.
The reimagination of Baroque sculpture during Fascism
Laura Moure Cecchini
Chapter 6 compares the 1930s reception of Adolfo Wildt and Lucio Fontana’s sculptural work as examples of Baroqueness, studying how they reveal important shifts in Baroque sculpture’s reimagination in the interwar period. Wildt’s work – inspired by Michelangelo and Bernini, but also by German symbolism – was seen as Baroque in so far as seventeenth-century art was perceived as addressing the disciplining of matter through technical prowess. By contrast, in the reception of Fontana’s amorphous ceramic and maiolica sculptures of the interwar period the Baroque signified a clear-eyed engagement with materials and social reality, and a critique of Fascist-endorsed forms of art, although not of the Fascist regime itself. This chapter reveals how this shift is linked to new theories of the Baroque: young Italian philosophers challenged Benedetto Croce’s well-known disdain for the Baroque by adopting the more benign outlook on the style of the Catalan Fascist ideologue Eugeni d’Ors.
The introduction explores the Italians’ love–hate relationship with the idea of the Baroque, which evoked both a shameful past in which the peninsula was divided and occupied, and a style hailed as a precursor of modernism. Although many studies have analysed the Baroque revival in the German- and Spanish-speaking contexts, the introduction argues that it is urgent to do for Italy as well, as Italian theoretical and visual reinterpretations of this style were in conversation with canonical authors on this topic. The introduction also outlines some key moments in the Baroque reception: from its dismissal in the eighteenth century to its rediscovery in nineteenth-century France and Germany.
Poetic History (In memory of William Mark Ormrod,
David R. Carlson
The article presents a previously unpublished long version of an Anglo-Latin poem
on Henry IV’s executions of Archbishop Richard Scrope and others at York
in 1405. It is argued that the poem was not part of the well-known hagiography
of Scrope that grew quickly up for funding rebuilding programmes at York
Minster, also exemplified in the paper; rather, it is a poetic contribution to
the contemporary secular historiography of the York Rebellion against the
Lancastrian regime, implicating the archbishop in active leadership of it.
The Testimony of Late Seventeenth-Century Library Auction
In this article on book circulation, I survey twelve English library auction
catalogues from the period 1676–97, in order to show how interest in the
writings of the Amsterdam rabbi Menasseh ben Israel (1604–57) continued
after his death. I do this by identifying the circulation of his works in
Puritan personal libraries. I focus particularly on the library auction
catalogues of leading Puritans, notably Lazarus Seaman, Thomas Manton, Stephen
Charnock and John Owen. I also show that of all Menasseh’s books,
De resurrectione mortuorum libri III was the one most
frequently owned by Puritan divines. This article demonstrates how books helped
to catalyse the boundary-crossing nature of the Jewish–Christian
encounter in seventeenth-century England.
This article reconsiders the value of ‘shorter’ chronicles written
in fourteenth-century England through a case study of the most popular of these,
the Cronica bona et compendiosa, which survives in more
manuscripts than most of the chronicles frequently used in scholarship. It
examines the text’s authorship and narrative to show what it can reveal
about history writing and ideas of the past, especially as they relate to
medieval readers. It demonstrates the text’s influence on contemporary
writers by showing how it was slightly adapted by the important chronicler Henry
Knighton, which use has so far gone unnoticed. This article also includes an
appendix listing twenty-three ‘shorter’ histories and their
manuscripts, nearly all of which have not hitherto been identified.