Bellezza & Bizzarria

Antiques from Around the World

24 September – 2 October 2022

Cortona Fine Art, Milan Italy

Exhibited Art

Edited by Luca Giunta Baroni

‘Eclectic, multifaceted, multifaceted’. The description of the temper of the Emperor Hadrian, traced in the Epitome de Caesaribus and taken up in a famous book by Marguerite Yourcenar, seems to be the ideal introduction to the works collected in this third catalogue published by the Cortona Fine Arts Gallery.

Compared to the previous catalogue, The Seduction of Drawings (2021), the selection of fine art is not limited to works on paper. That said, a stimulating number of old master drawings from the 16th to the 19th century are on display; among which, sheets by Tanzio da Varallo, Pier Francesco Mola and Giovanni Battista Tiepolo stand out for their rarity and peculiarity.

There is a monumental old master drawing by Michele Sangiorgi representing the Celebration of Antonio Canova. It is accompanied by a moving biography of the great sculptor; a fitting homage to the bicentenary of the sculptor's death.

The works on paper are followed by a group of paintings which are united by their small size. They are beautifully executed depictions of children or female figures. A brilliant Holy Family by Antonio Viviani, possibly Federico Barocci’s most important pupil, is followed by a group of putti portrayed on a dreamy blue background by Giovanni Battista Salvi, the Sassoferrato.

Moving to the 19th century, there is a superb quartet of neoclassical paintings by Felice Giani, Pelagio Palagi and Giuseppe Bernardino Bison, together with an enchanting Psyche executed by a still unidentified, but extremely gifted artist. The selection of paintings is topped by a large and vibrating Magdalene by Giulio Cesare Procaccini. The flowing brushstrokes recall Roberto Longhi’s famous definition of Procaccini's “autonomous sketch”.

After the paintings, an exceptional engraving by the Milanese Giuseppe Arcimboldo is on display. It is a lost 16th century, early print and echoes the Lombard roots of the Cortona Gallery and its historical interest in printmaking.

Perhaps, the most eclectic section of the catalogue and potentially the most relevant for the history of studies consists of a superb trio of mid-sized sculptures. They date from the end of the 17th to the 18th century and are by three of the greatest virtuosos of carving and modelling: Giacomo Piazzetta, Giovanni Bonazza and Andrea Brustolon. These three sculptors were protagonists of the Venetian and European Baroque. They are gathered here in a dialogue which, overcoming technical differences, evokes the continuity and strength of Venetian sculpture during an era which is still little known to the general public.

The multiplicity of shapes, subjects and uses is finally reflected in three objects that complete the contents of this ideal wunderkammer: a Venetian plate, a Franco-Flemish travel writing box made with precious woods and a South-East Asian armchair decorated with dragons.

Compared to previous Cortona Fine Art Gallery catalogues, this publication includes contributions by some of the leading experts in their relative fields of study who have been granted full creative freedom in the form and length of the writing. The traditional instrument of the gallery catalogue thus ushers a more eclectic form, in which the different voices mirror that of the subjects. Hopefully this will make it a pleasant and stimulating read for art lovers, collectors and scholars.