In 1913, while reviewing the First Exhibition of Futurist Painting in Rome, a young Italian art historian described the relationship between the two leading avant-gardes of the time by evoking the Seicento: ‘The problem of Futurism with respect to Cubism’, Roberto Longhi declared, ‘is that of the Baroque in relation to the Renaissance.’ 1 The Futurists are, of course, well known for their violent rejection of the history of art; they famously claimed, ‘We will destroy museums, libraries
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.
Matteo Marangoni, Il Caravaggio (Florence: Battistelli, 1922). 18 Ibid., 6. 19 Matteo Marangoni to Roberto Longhi, 5 October 1918, Fondo Roberto Longhi, Centro di ricerca sulla tradizione manoscritta – Università degli Studi di Pavia (Pavia
. Chapter 3 considers the Baroque's reassessment among a new generation of Italian art historians, focusing on a young academic and his relationship to the avant-garde: Roberto Longhi. One of the most important twentieth-century connoisseurs of Baroque art, in his youth Longhi was quite sympathetic to the Futurists. On the eve of the First World War he described Futurism's superiority to Cubism by comparing the former to the Baroque and the latter to the Renaissance – using the formal schema developed by Wölfflin in Renaissance and Baroque (1888). Such a comparison
(Venice), Fondazione Federico Zeri (Bologna), and Fondazione Roberto Longhi (Florence), to no avail. 114 Casa Anderson, Catalogo delle fotografie di Roma e suoi contorni di D. Anderson (Rome: Spithöver, 1891). 115 These views became canonical and were consistently included in art history monographs of
discuss Wildt's work in any of his writings. However, it is possible that Wildt became familiar with Simmel's thought through his contact with German artists and intellectuals. It does not seem coincidental that L’arte del marmo , like the writings of Wölfflin, Riegl, and Simmel, posits a fundamental dualism at the core of sculptural production and of the Baroque. This was a particularly German – rather than Italian – reading of the Baroque, which perhaps explains its notable absence from the theories of critics such as Lionello Venturi and Roberto Longhi, as well as