Timeless Renaissance: Italian Drawings from the Alessandro Maggiori Collection

August 13 – November 6, 2011

Melvin Henderson-Rubio Gallery

The Hallie Ford Museum of Art brings together, for the first time outside of Italy, 75 drawings from the 16th and early 19th centuries collected by Count Alessandro Maggiori (1764-1834) in his villa near Monte San Giusto during the Napoleonic occupation of Italy.

The drawings were only recently rediscovered by the Monte San Giusto townspeople, who did not initially know their significance. Willamette University art history Professor Ricardo De Mambro Santos, with the help of his students, researched the drawings and discovered they were collected by Maggiori, who was attempting to preserve Italian culture by saving some of its Renaissance-style artworks.

Their initial research suggests that the collection served three purposes:

  • to display an aesthetically coherent set of Renaissance-oriented artworks
  • to offer models for developing artists
  • to illustrate exemplary Italian art, culturally and historically related to the Renaissance.

All of the works were clearly influenced by Raphael's 16th-century Renaissance ideals of beauty, which were further developed throughout the 17th century by Bolognese masters such as Annibale Carracci, Guido Reni and Domenichino. The Maggiori collection embraces this Neo-Renaissance, or "Timeless Renaissance.”

Renaissance work was often used to facilitate or reinforce the education of young artists during their initial training process, especially in artistic centers such as Rome and Bologna. By meticulously studying anatomical parts — such as heads, hands and legs — and carefully examining human expressions and bodily motions, young artists were expected to elaborate their own compositions. From this perspective, the Maggiori collection could be read as a portable museum filled with examples that stimulate the development of future generations of artists.

Mostly gathered in the years of the Napoleonic dominion over the Italian peninsula, the drawings selected by Maggiori subtly reveal the emergence of Italian collective identity and a new civic awareness before Italy became an autonomous state. Deeply indebted to the seats of Catholicism in Rome and Bologna, the works represent a tradition opposed to the ideals conveyed by post-revolutionary France. They are distinctly Italian.

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