Within the early seventeenth century, the Italian artist Annibale Carracci (1560-1609) was commissioned by the rich Spanish banker, Juan Enríquez de Herrera, to embellish his household chapel in Rome. The artist fell gravely sick shortly after and entrusted his assistants, beneath the supervision of Francesco Albani, with finishing the mission. The outcome was a lavish cycle of frescoes to match the gorgeous masterpieces Carracci had created for the Palazzo Farnese in Rome just some years earlier.
Till just lately, trendy viewers have been pressured to think about what the assemblage—which is devoted to Saint Didacus of Alcalá and depicts biblical topics in addition to on a regular basis scenes—seemed like in its entirety. The Herrera Chapel within the Church of San Giacomo degli Spagnoli was dismantled 200 years in the past, and Carracci’s works have been eliminated from the partitions and shipped off to Spain to be saved within the deposits of two completely different museums.
Now, the frescoes have been reunited for what its organisers have known as a “momentous” trio of exhibitions. Following shows on the Museo Nacional del Prado in Madrid and the Museu Nacional d’Artwork de Catalunya (MNAC) in Barcelona earlier this 12 months, the works are being proven at Rome’s Palazzo Barberini this month. The exhibition marks their grand return to the town wherein they have been conceived.
“We had been contemplating bringing collectively the frescoes for this exhibition for over 20 years,” says the Prado’s Andrés Úbeda, who has curated the exhibition. “That is the good unknown work in Carracci’s oeuvre. Seeing it intact means it will possibly now be studied, researched and reassessed.”
The frescoes and Saint Didacus of Alcalá Presenting Juan de Herrera’s Son to Christ (round 1606), a powerful altarpiece Carracci created for a similar church, remained of their authentic setting till 1830. That 12 months, the chapel was destroyed and the works moved to the church of Santa Maria in Monserrato degli Spagnoli. The Didacus altarpiece remained on the church, whereas seven of the frescoes have been moved to the Prado and 9 to MNAC. An additional three fragments are lacking.
The frescoes saved on the Prado needed to be restored earlier than all of the works could possibly be reunited. (These in Barcelona and Rome had been restored some years earlier.) The Prado procrastinated for years as a result of it lacked the sources and experience, Úbeda says. In 2012 it lastly appointed an exterior skilled for the three 12 months restoration mission.
Whereas organising the present with three artwork establishments in two completely different nations was “terribly tough”, the rewards have been nice, in accordance with Úbeda. Every of the venues has displayed the 16 frescoes in another way, permitting guests to view them from a wide range of views. In Madrid, the works have been proven sequentially alongside the partitions, that means museum-goers may stand up shut. They have been organized extra abstractly in Barcelona, on a steel grid that seemed they have been floating in mid-air.
The Palazzo Barberini has opted to distribute the works within the huge Sala dei Marmi—an area with 16m-tall partitions—in efforts to evoke the scale and format of the Herrera Chapel. “We’re aiming to re-create the unique relationship between the viewers and the works,” says Flaminia Gennari Santori, the director of the Galleria Nazionale di Arte Antica, which contains each the Palazzo Barberini and the Palazzo Corsini. “This is without doubt one of the few museums the place it’s doable to placed on an exhibition like this.”
Even after the restoration, the frescoes are in a “combined situation”, Úbeda says. One depicting San Diego saving a baby who has fallen asleep in an oven, for instance, was broken when the curved fragment was faraway from the wall and flattened out. Even so, the exhibition has proved incorrect students who had written off the works, Úbeda says. “They aren’t in the perfect form, however they’re removed from destroyed.”
In response to Gennari Santori, the present additionally sheds gentle on the workings of Carracci and his assistants—“the best workshop in Rome”—and particularly Albani’s central position inside it. As soon as Carracci had withdrawn from the mission, his assistants achieved a “extremely unitary fashion”: a sworn statement to their autonomy, talent and mastery. “After his unbelievable frescoes on the Palazzo Farnese, Carracci’s assistants managed to quickly produce one thing equally grandiose,” Gennari Santori says. “That’s no small feat.”
• Carracci: the Herrera Chapel, Palazzo Barberini, Rome, 17 November-5 February 2023