edited by Pierluigi Carofano
PALP Palazzo Pretorio Pontedera

June 15 | August 10th 2017

Three extraordinary paintings will be on display this summer in Pontedera, two by Francisco Goya and one by Guido Reni. From 15 June to 10 August 2017, the PALP – Palazzo Pretorio hosts the Goya and Guido Reni exhibitions with evening hours (17-23 hours). Art treasures at the Palp, curated by Pierluigi Carofano and promoted by the Foundation for Culture Pontedera and by the Municipality of Pontedera, with the contribution of the Pisa Foundation, in collaboration with the Free Academy of Caravaggeschi Studies “Francesco Maria Cardinal del Monte” – National Research, Friends of Museums and Monuments of Pisa and under the patronage of the Tuscany Region.

The works of Francisco Goya, one of the greatest European artists of his time, are two self-portraits, made by the Spanish master about ten years later. Two masterpieces that after Pontedera will go to the Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg, in spring 2018, for the exhibition Goya, the maturation of a genius. The self-portrait chronologically ‘oldest’, of 1771, is the youthful self-portrait, probably performed by the painter while still in Italy. The features of the portrait are the beard of a young twenty-five, dressed in a travel jacket, as if to prove that, even if at his own expense, in Italy he had managed to get there. The painting seems to summarize all the experiences that the young Goya had learned during his stay in Rome (1669-1771) and in particular the teachings that in the genre portraiture he had been able to suggest the frequentation of Pompeo Batoni. It is interesting to note how, since his first trial, he has been able to detach himself clearly from the emphatic and always “posing” manner of encomiastic portraiture to offer us a very natural and lively image of himself. The painting (oil on canvas, 62×42 cm), already at the City Art Museum in St. Louis, had remained in the shadows for many years, compared to its later replication of the Goya Museum in Zaragoza, as it was heavily reworked in the nineteenth century. restorer Marcellino de Unceta. Freed from repainting, he exhibited all of his very high pictorial quality.

The second self-portrait on show, about 1782 (oil on canvas, 52.5 x 43.4 cm), was recently rediscovered in a prestigious private collection. Dirt prevented any critical reading. Once cleaned by the old paints and repainting, the painting showed its true face of exceptional beauty, also detecting in the lower left corner a striking red “Goya” signature that, for its proven authenticity, makes it unmistakable, if the high quality of the painting was not enough, its attribution to the great Aragonese painter. The expressive power of the face is accompanied by an unprecedented pictorial power: due to the thickness of the mixture and the treatment of the pictorial material, the more painted face seems to be sculpted. Because of its setting with the bust in profile, the face turned to the viewer and its particular somatic features, this portrait is directly related to two other works by the artist who repeat such a typology and with which one naturally has to compare: Self-portrait of the Museum of Agen and his portrait inserted in the large altarpiece of the church of San Francisco el Grande, in Madrid.

The third painting is a Susanna and the Elders (oil on canvas, 100×146 cm), an extraordinary novel by the Bolognese master Guido Reni. The canvas belongs to the category of ‘unfinished’ works, left by Reni himself in the draft stage, as a deliberate choice that systematically returns to the forward phase of the painter’s career in relation to a precise expressive research, aimed at pursuing a more and more dematerialized painting and idealized.

In this case the composition repeats an invention already known through the painting of the same subject of the National Gallery in London, executed on the beginning of the seventeenth century of the ‘600, against which the canvas in question is a real exercise of rewriting and of planned expressive revisitation. In the painting proposed to Pontedera, the brushstroke exhibits a rather compact weave, allowing the free movement of the brush to emerge in a game of studied counterpoints between solids and voids, in which the color of the preparation also takes on a leading role. Because of these characteristics, the painting should belong to the last phase of the artist, bearing in mind that the practice of the ‘unfinished’, as indicated by the choice of the monochrome programmed from the beginning, does not belong only to his last years and that , the absence of a picture of this subject from the list of paintings left unfinished at his death, forces us to think that on that date the painting had already left the atelier, as a work perfectly approved by him.

In the scientific care of the exhibition and drafting of catalog cards, as well as in the preparation of teaching, Professor Pierluigi Carofano, professor of Theory and History of Restoration at the School of Specialization in Artistic Heritage of the University of Siena, has availed of the collaboration of Paolo Erasmo Mangiante, a scholar of Francisco Goya, of Marco Ciampolini, professor of Art History at the Academy of Fine Arts of Carrara and of Enrico Lucchese, professor of History of modern art at the IULM University of Milan . A technological set of videos, films, will finally make this exhibition an extraordinary event of communication and cultural dissemination, reaching the general public with the new methods of experiential fruition applied to cultural heritage.