Velázquez and Bernini:
selfportraits at the Nobile Collegio del Cambio.

Perugia, Nobile Collegio del Cambio, 22 June 2017 – 22 October 2017

Visiting hours: 10-19 everyday - Ticket price: € 4,50

The National Gallery of Umbria in Perugia holds a remarkable art collection that was donated to the city of Perugia in 1999 by Valentino Martinelli, the eminent scholar from Rome who held the chair of History of Medieval and Modern Art at the University of Perugia from 1962 to 1975. This collection, which is dedicated entirely to Baroque art (a field extensively studied by Martinelli), includes three portraits that are interesting interpretations of the Self-Portrait by Velázquez at the Capitoline Picture Gallery in Rome, but are also reproposals of the painting style of Bernini. In order to pay homage to Martinelli and to reopen for discussion one of the many problems that have excited (starting with Martinelli himself) and still excite Bernini scholars, the Collegio del Cambio will put together six or seven works connected with each other by a logical and consistent thread. Of the three works preserved in the National Gallery of Umbria, the first, considered by Martinelli to be by Carlo Pellegrini, a pupil of Gianlorenzo Bernini from Carrara who died in 1649, is of decidedly high quality and shows the great success that Velázquez’s Self-Portrait from the Capitoline Picture Gallery had amongst Bernini’s circles. The second, by an anonymous Roman painter from the mid-17th century, confirms the success and renown of the Velázquez original, here in an extremely faithful copy. The third, is a beautiful revisitation of the Capitoline painting done in 1876 by the Venetian painter Luigi Quarena. The three works from the Martinelli Collection will be displayed alongside Velázquez’s Self-Portrait from the Capitoline Picture Gallery.

This is a way to revive the debate about the relations and mutual influences occurring between Bernini and Velázquez, who may have met (and frequented) each other at the time of the Spanish master’s first trip to Italy in 1629-1630 (Velázquez made his second trip to Italy in 1650). Tomaso Montanari writes about this (2007): “It is not easy to establish which way the balance tips in the give and take of the relationship between these artists, who were the same age and equally great: it is indubitable that at this stage Velázquez still had something to learn stylistically from his Italian colleague. And it was probably his knowledge of Bernini’s portraits that guided the Spaniard towards a vital and present half-length style (a problem that Bernini had already brilliantly resolved in his marble busts). But at the same time, thanks to Velázquez, Bernini understood how to change the mood of his own Self-Portraits from an external representation of life and movement to a keen, melancholic meditation of his own inner nature. The Italian, who observed his model in motion and in action in order to capture his physical individuality, then found himself learning from the Spaniard, who forced his own into grueling hours posing so that he might fathom his psychological essence: it was a lesson that would change Bernini’s portraits forever, and soon the portraits of Urban VIII, like those of Philip IV, would be veiled by a shade of melancholy.” In order to evaluate in depth Velázquez’s influence on Bernini (it was Martinelli who wrote that “it is his knowledge of the Velázquez portraits that allowed Bernini to overcome the Venetian-like coloring of a Sacchi and the compromises of a Poussin, and to resolve those problems of volume and light that Lanfranco and Guercino had already proposed to him”), the Half-Length Self-Portrait by Bernini from the Uffizi Gallery and the Self-Portrait by Velázquez, also from the Uffizi, will be on exhibit along with the “Martinelli Triptych” and the Capitoline prototype. As evidence of the great fortune of the Bernini prototypes (inspired in turn by the dictates of Velázquez) the exhibition will also include the Self-Portrait from the Prado Museum (considered by Tomaso Montanari to be by an anonymous follower of Bernini – according to Martinelli an “unfinished work” by Bernini) and the Self-Portrait of the Musée Fabre of Montpellier (also considered by Montanari to be by an anonymous follower of Bernini – according to Martinelli “perhaps by Bernini”). The exhibition includes also the beautiful Self-Portrait of Gian Lorenzo Bernini While Drawing, from the Koelliker Collection in Milan.

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How to get the exhibition - by train