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ARTEFIERA 2022 what to see in the city. Antonio Canova and Bologna. At the origins of the Pinacoteca

The Pinacoteca Nazionale of Bologna, a few months after its reopening to the public, presents the exhibition Antonio Canova and Bologna. Alle origini della Pinacoteca, curated by Alessio Costarelli.

The relationship between Antonio Canova (1757-1822) and the city of Bologna, its institutions and its artists is the theme of the exhibition held from 4 December 2021 to 20 February 2022 in the Salone degli Incamminati of the state museum in Via delle Belle Arti. The role that the sculptor played in the history of the Pinacoteca's collection will also be highlighted; not many people know, indeed, the important diplomatic operations that he carried out for the artistic heritage of the city of Bologna, which led to the recovery, in 1815, of a good number of works previously transferred to France during the Napoleonic requisitions and which today constitute the substantial nucleus of the Pinacoteca's collection.

Antonio Canova, Autoritratto, Gesso, Bassano del Grappa, Museo Civico
Antonio Canova, Autoritratto, Gesso, Bassano del Grappa, Museo Civico

Paintings, sculptures, manuscripts and documents from various museum institutions are displayed alongside works from the museum's permanent collection, which are also an integral part of the project. The exhibition, which is also an opportunity to recall the origins of the Pinacoteca, is a pilot project in a series of initiatives through which the Pinacoteca Nazionale di Bologna intends to renew its presence in the city's cultural fabric.

Three sections make the exhibition, whose story begins from the artist's point of view, with accounts of the relationships he made in the city and the works of art he most appreciated during his stay in the autumn of 1779. Among the works mentioned in the master's diary is Annibale Carracci's Madonna and Child with Saints, 1590-92, which is now in the Pinacoteca but which the sculptor had the opportunity to admire in its original location in the church of Saints Ludovico and Alessio.

Annibale Carracci, Madonna con Bambino e Santi, Olio su tela, Bologna, Pinacoteca Nazionale
Annibale Carracci, Madonna con Bambino e Santi, Olio su tela, Bologna, Pinacoteca Nazionale

The second section is dedicated to the relationship between Canova and the Academy of Fine Arts in Bologna, which developed over the course of more than twenty years, between the beginning of the 19th century and the artist's death. This relationship is represented by the plaster casts donated by the sculptor to the Academy, including the Head of Pope Clement XIII Rezzonico and the Penitent Magdalene. Finally, the third section presents to the public a selection of the works that Canova himself recovered and returned to the city. Among these masterpieces are paintings by Perugino, Ludovico Carracci, Giacomo Cavedone, the Pala di Santa Margherita by Parmigianino, as well as two extraordinary works by Guercino that passed through Bologna on their return from France, before being returned to the city of Cento.

“Il Perugino”, Madonna col Bambino in gloria e Santi (Pala Scarani), Olio su tavola, Bologna, Pinacoteca Nazionale

The exhibition concludes with a re-enactment of the historic exhibition held in the Church of the Spirito Santo from January 1816, comprising 18 of the returned masterpieces, which we can also remember as the first major exhibition of ancient art organized by local institutions in Bologna, a very important moment for the city and its people. A moment that the current exhibition not only recalls but also brings back to life through the projection of its digital reconstruction on an environmental scale, a work made possible by a research group of the Department of Architecture of the University of Bologna, which has carried out photogrammetric surveys of the rooms of the church, now deconsecrated but still existing, producing a life-size 3D virtual model, within which the 18 paintings have been placed in a manner faithful to the description received from the sources.


Antonio Canova e Bologna. Alle origini della Pinacoteca.

Bologna, Pinacoteca Nazionale Via delle Belle Arti, 56

4 December 2021 – 20 Febrary 2022

Curated by Alessio Costarelli

- Editorial


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