The Works of Art and our Cultural Memory: A Focus on some Hermitage Paintings

Project location: ITALY, Italy and Russia
Project start date: June 2012 - Project end date: April 2013
Project number: 2012-056


A considerable number of paintings at the Hermitage Museum are still waiting to be studied. There is no need to stress the importance of the Hermitage Collections, put together, for the greatest part of them, at the time of Peter the Great and Catherine the Great, in the second half of the XVIII century. They arrived to the Russian Court from the most celebrated galleries and Museums all over Europe; a huge part of them came from Italy.
The aim of this project, which received a grant from the Nando Peretti Foundation, is to focus on some masterpieces now at the Hermitage Museum and cast new light on them, studying them in a broad historical context, thanks to the efforts and skills of some very talented young scholars, who are already doing a lot of critical works on them.
For instance, the organization is planning a careful analysis of Giulio Romano's so-called Lovers, one of the most powerful representation of a love scene in a domestic interior all over the Italian Cinquecento. The painting is striking for various reasons: it is painted in an exquisite manner, has very large dimensions to be only a genre painting, is related to the production of erotic prints by Giulio, but at the same time is a painting full of quotations from classical culture. Both the subject and the style rise new questions, which need investigations in archives and libraries in Mantua, Florence, and St. Petersburg. Although a certain number of important studies on Renaissance in North Italy have been carried on in the last decades, we know very little about this crucial painting and some related works.
Another very important case study will be the collection of Pierre Crozat, the French banker whose incredibly huge collection was sold to Caterina by his heirs in 1779.
The recuperation of the story of these works can be of the greatest importance for the rediscovery of a very important moment in our history, and can give the opportunity to young and promising scholars to work on the topics, hopefully making discoveries and in any case adding new information to our knowledge.
Both these projects could become dossier exhibitions, e.g. small but very accurate e scientifically grounded exhibitions as these held at the Louvre, focusing on a single masterpiece, or on a small number of them, but with and emphasis on the scholars' research.
The Foundation will contribute substantially in helping young scholars pursuing their researches, and in setting the standard for a kind of cultural initiatives with a solid scientific background, and bringing to the public the beauty and historical importance of little-known masterpieces.

The project intends to give grants and scholarships to investigate selected paintings and their history to post-doctoral students and supervise them during their research activity. The first step will be the analysis of the paintings and of their historical context. The research will be carried on in archives, libraries and museums in Italy and in Russia. At the conclusion, the scholars will provide a research report that we will consider for publication or for the visualization through a small exhibition.

Anticipated achievements or outcomes of the Project
In these very difficult years for the preservation of cultural heritage, when culture has no more a prominent role in Italy, this initiative, supporting talented young scholars and fostering studies on visual culture of the past centuries, will improve the cultural production in Italy and establish a model of organizing cultural events on the basis of serious and original research.
It will encourage the engagement of young generations in research, their knowledge of the past and their inclination towards beauty and art.

think global, act local
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