Rubens a Genova

From the 6th October 2022 to the 22nd January 2023, the Palazzo Ducale of Genoa will host a major exhibition, Rubens a Genova, dedicated to Peter Paul Rubens (1577-1640) and his relationship with the city.
The exhibition has been produced by the Comune of Genoa with the Palazzo Ducale Fondazione per la cultura and the publishing house Electa, with gratitude for the support and participation of the sole sponsor Rimorchiatori Riuniti S.p.A.

The exhibition is curated by Nils Büttner, professor at the Staatliche Akademie der Bildenden Künste Stuttgart as well as Chairman of the Centrum Rubenianum of Antwerp, and by Anna Orlando, an independent Genoese scholar, who co-curated the exhibition The Age of Rubens that was held at the Palazzo Ducale in 2004.

Sixteen sections of the exhibition have been created in the halls of the Doge’s Apartment on the piano nobile of the Palace. On display alongside paintings are drawings, tapestries, furnishings, luxury accessories and antique volumes. Over one hundred works reveal the grandeur of an artistic capital that hosted one of the greatest artists of all time, and affirm the historic epithet of Genoa, La Superba (The Proud), where Rubens stayed on several occasions between 1600 and 1607. It is a selection that, additionally, allows us to retrace and in many cases reconstruct the relationships he nurtured with the Genoese aristocracy, which endured even after the master returned to Antwerp.

Thirty of the works are directly attributable to the artistic world of Rubens: eighteen by the master’s own hand, along with paintings which undoubtedly emerged from his workshop under his supervision and with his direct interventions, as well as two valuable testimonies of works lost and known through later pieces. It is the most substantial collection to be hosted in Genoa since the 18th century, in a city that still today holds works by Rubens in her churches, museums and private collections.

In addition, an extraordinary selection of 80 works completes the story of the cultural and artistic context of the Ligurian city in the age of its greatest splendor. During his travels in Italy (1600-1608), Rubens certainly saw and studied the works of Tintoretto and Luca Cambiaso; particularly during his stay in Genoa, he met Sofonisba Anguissola, Giovanni Battista Paggi and Bernardo Castello; and he collaborated with Jan Wildens and Frans Snyders. All of these artists are represented in the exhibition.

Fifteen of the works by Rubens have never before been displayed in Genoa, and ten are exhibited for the first time in Italy. One such example among the latter is a Self Portrait of 1604-1605, from a private collection. Only recently rediscovered, it is an oil study created in preparation for a self-portrait which Rubens included in a Mantuan altarpiece which is now lost in its entirity. A second, also from a private collection, Saint Sebastian Treated by Angels, which dates to approximately 1615, has now been linked with a commission from the lauded general Ambrogio Spinola, thanks to a recent and important documentary rediscovery. On display for the first time ever, however, is The Risen Christ Appears to His Mother (with a figure from an underlying composition), dating to around 1612-1616. This painting, also from a private collection, depicts the risen Christ standing before two kneeling women. Both female figures represent the Mother of Jesus. A recent x-ray has revealed the presence, beneath the surface paint layer, of a second female image, similar in composition but ichnographically different. Both figures are currently visible. On this occasion the studies and comparisons with known Rubens’ iconography are presented.

Among the other newly displayed works are two splendid portraits: Violante Maria Spinola Serra, c. 1607, from Buscot Park (Oxfordshire – The Faringdon Trust) and Geronima Spinola Spinola with her granddaughter Maria Giovanna Serra, c. 1605-1606, from the Staatsgalerie of Stuttgart. As absolute masterpieces of European Baroque portraiture, they are both displayed for the first time alongside their rediscovered identities. International and Italian museums, as well as private collectors, have agreed to special loans, recognizing a project based on the outcome of a long process of study and scientific research conducted by the curators and motivated by the support of a prestigious international honorary scientific committee, composed of the foremost experts in the field.

Thanks to the research undertaken for the preparation of the exhibition, a painting by Rubens of which all traces had been lost for two centuries, but which was certainly present in Genoa in the 17th century, has been rediscovered. For this occasion, the work was submitted to the scrutiny of international experts who had never seen it before, in order to verify its attribution. It is a study for the altarpiece The Miracles of Saint Ignatius of Loyola, which is still in the Chiesa del Gesù in Genoa today. These and many other new works are presented to the public in an exhibition which marks the fourth centenary of the publication of the book Palazzi di Genova (‘The Palaces of Genoa’) by Peter Paul Rubens, printed in Antwerp in 1622. This anniversary is celebrated in the first room, where two original copies are displayed, including a rare example of the first edition, without later additions. Three volumes published by Electa to accompany the exhibition, edited by Anna Orlando, include: The catalogue, also edited by Nils Büttner, presents all of the insights that have arisen as a result of the new research, and the new information resulting from the preparation of the exhibition;

The guide to the exhibition, an accessible tool to accompany the visit; The guidebook A Genova con Rubens (In Genoa with Rubens), which leads the reader along a Rubens’ itinerary to discover the masterpieces in the Genoese palaces and churches which the Flemish master certainly visited.

Alongside these, Abscondita is publishing Palazzi di Genova (The Palaces of Genoa), edited by Anna Orlando. The volume reproduces the Press release architectural elevations, plans and sections of the buildings selected by Rubens – a substantial work which reflects the complexity but also the functionality and comfort of the Genoese residences.

The exhibition at the Palazzo Ducale has also provided the opportunity to launch a major project – Genoa for Rubens: A Network, created and curated by Anna Orlando; it is in fact the most important cultural network ever established in Genoa around a single artist. Under the banner of Rubens and his special relationship with the city, over sixty public and private institutions are involved. Together they constitute a dense network of collaborations that has made it possible to produce presentations, cultural events, special openings, accompanying events and further exhibition projects.


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