Florence and Caravaggio: sound like a gamble? Did Caravaggio actually come through Florence? Did he see, as some would claim, the wonderful botanical watercolours by Jacopo Ligozzi in the Medici collection?
It is certain that he frequented the Palazzo Firenze in Rome whence ambassador Cardinal Del Monte kept on good terms with grand duke Ferdinando I de' Medici. While the other interrogatives remain without answers for the moment, we know that splendid paintings by Caravaggio - theBacchus and the Medusa - reached the Uffizi already towards the end of the XVI century. Others (two or three) were in time purchased by the Grand Dukes who thus proved to be early and staunch admirers - especially Cosimo II - of the controversial Lombard painter and of his followers and imitators. The presence of important artists in the city such as Artemisia Gentileschi, Battistello Caracciolo and Theodoor Rombouts, and the direct dealings with artists like Gerrit Honthorst, Bartolomeo Manfredi and Jusepe Ribera gave rise to an intense Caravaggesque "season" which left an extraordinary number of paintings at the court and in the city that after Rome still today boasts the largest collection of Caravaggesque paintings in the world. Gerrit Honthorst (who authored theAdoration of the Shepherds, today in the Uffizi Gallery, though heavily damaged by the Via dei Georgofili bombing of 1993) was the protagonist of one of the most important episodes of the fortune of Caravaggesque painting outside of Rome. This was the never completed decoration of the Guicciardini Chapel in the church of Santa Felicita which he was to execute with Cecco del Caravaggio (the Resurrection of Christ, Art Institute of Chicago) and Spadarino and of which, for the first time, the exhibition proposes a virtual reconstruction.
Thanks to the outstanding Florentine legacy of works by Caravaggio, a nucleus of Caravaggesque paintings, and numerous loans, two of the most important state museums of Florence - the Uffizi Gallery and the Palatine Gallery - will host the Caravaggio and Caravaggesque exhibition in Florence, on the occasion of the IV centennial of Caravaggio's death. Forty years after the pioneering exhibition curated by Evelina Borea, the event will be the occasion to present more than one hundred paintings, both famous and less famous, in the light of research, documents and new attributions that have modified the critical panorama and the taste of the public.
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