The National Gallery of Modern and Contemporary Art in Rome is the largest collection of Italian contemporary art. Located in Rome, it has over 4 400 works of painting and sculpture and about 13 000 drawings and prints of artists – mostly Italian – of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. In its 55 rooms you can see the masterpieces of the collection, about 1 100 works. It is the only national museum dedicated entirely to modern art; in fact, in many regional capital cities there are modern art galleries but they are municipal.
History of the gallery
The gallery was founded in 1883, a few years after the establishment of the young Italian unitary state (Rome had become the capital of Italy in 1871), as it felt the need for a museum dedicated to contemporary artists living or missing recently. The first seat of the Gallery was the Palazzo delle Esposizioni in Via Nazionale, its institution is due to the work of the minister Guido Baccelli.
Soon, however, the Palazzo delle Esposizioni proved to be insufficient to accommodate paintings and sculptures that had increased in number over time. Then there was another drawback: each time a temporary exhibition was held, the exhibited works had to be removed.
The occasion of the 1911 International Exposition of Rome (50th anniversary of the Unification of Italy) was taken to construct the current building in Valle Giulia as the permanent site of the Gallery. The palace of fine arts was designed by the Roman architect and engineer Cesare Bazzani (the same author of the Ministry of Education in viale Trastevere in Rome and of the Fatebenefratelli hospital in the Tiberina Island).
In 1933 this building also became insufficient to accommodate all the works that had come to the gallery for purchase or donation. Also by Cesare Bazzani, an extension was planned and inaugurated that year, which doubled the exhibition space (this corresponds to the rooms currently occupied by the twentieth century).
These new rooms did not come into the possession of the Gallery because they were occupied by an “Exhibition of the Fascist Revolution”, which with tables, graphics, photos and artistic works wanted to “glorify” the main achievements of the regime.
In 1941 (then in the middle of World War II) he became superintendent of the Galleria Palma Bucarelli not yet thirty years old, remained in this office for over 30 years until 1975. She owes an important work of rejuvenation of Italian culture and openness towards more modern international experiments. He endeavored to equip the Gallery with all those structures that are considered indispensable today to a modern museum: teaching service, library, cafeteria, bookstore, book presentation, meetings with artists. There was no shortage of worldly meetings such as fashion shows. In this work he made use of first-class collaborators such as Nello Ponente, Giovanni Carandente, Corrado Maltese,Maurizio Calvesi, Giorgio de Marchis.
But before doing all this you had to save the works of art from the dangers of war, he took them secretly in the Farnese palace of Caprarola (in the province of Viterbo, on the lake of Vico), then in Castel Sant’Angelo.
After the liberation of Rome (June 4, 1944) it was possible to proceed with the reopening of the Gallery among many difficulties. There followed years of great exhibitions that allowed Italians to know artists that the regime had tried not to make known. In 1953 a great exhibition was held on Picasso, in 1956 on Mondrian, in 1958 on Pollock, in 1959 there was the exhibition of the great sack of Burri which aroused scandal, in 1971 with the exhibition by Piero Manzoni the superintendent Palma Bucarelli risked the his place. In this work of cultural innovation he had at his side the critics and art historians Giulio Carlo Argan (Turin 1909 – Rome 1992) and Cesare Brandi (Siena 1906 – Vignano SI 1988).
In 1973, state funding was received for a further expansion of the gallery based on a project by Luigi Cosenza. The inauguration took place in 1988.
In 1975, with the institution of the Ministry for Cultural Heritage, the Gallery acquired the title of Special Superintendency. In the same year the retirement of superintendent Palma Bucarelli marks a new phase, in which the “avant-garde museum”, conceived and developed by her, does not keep the role of openness towards contemporary art at the same level. Under the direction of Italo Faldi, from 1975 to 1978, the Gallery reinforces the tasks of conservation and enhancement through a structured program of exhibitions on Italian art in the Nineteenth and Twentieth century and on European and American art, in a framework of international collaboration.. Between 1978 and 1982 the new superintendent Giorgio de Marchistakes up the essential lines of the Bucarelli addresses, calming them in the new social and cultural situation of the late seventies. The Gallery is in its conception a dynamic museum in step with the times, it is a center of studies, a producer of culture and public service. As a center of study, the museum promotes, in addition to knowledge of the collections and exhibition activities, the use of teaching, information and documentation facilities (library, archive, projection room, conferences). As a museum of modern art it is necessarily a place of “trespassing” that welcomes and promotes cultural activities of various disciplines from theater, music, cinema and dance. The program of the organized exhibitions corresponds to precise lines of study of Italian and foreign art of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, consistent with the collections and history of the museum. When the phenomenon of mass exhibition consumption begins to manifest itself, de Marchis places the emphasis on exhibiting museum activities as cultural production. The numerous exhibitions organized in this period concern contributions, often still of considerable vitality, on the history of twentieth century art (De Chirico, Abstract Art, Leoncillo), on the history of the museum and collections, investigated in the broad perspective of the history of culture (Rome 1911), on the contemporary situation (Art and Criticism, 1980 and 1981), also with regard to the recent minimal art through the sculptures of the Panza collection by Biumo (1980).
Since the seventies some important donations have been given which, due to their vastness, were located in buildings detached from the Gallery, so as to form a series of satellite museums. In 1979, the Manzù di Ardea donation was opened and opened to the public in 1981. In 1986, the Mario Praz gallery was donated (opened in 1995 in the Palazzo Primoli in via Zanardelli). In 1995 he opened the Boncompagni Ludovisi museum for decorative arts, fashion and costume in via Boncompagni (the 1972 donation had been hampered by his heirs).
Between 1995 and 1999 the whole building underwent major restoration work and the collections were reorganized. These works used the funds allocated for the 2000 Jubilee, under the aegis of superintendent Sandra Pinto.
In 1997 the Gallery received the Schwarz donation of surrealist art and Dada, thus filling an important gap.
In January 2000 work began on the construction of the MAXXI – National Museum of the XXI Century Arts in the place of the barracks in via Guido Reni (Flaminio district) on the project of the Anglo-Iraqi architect Zaha Hadid. This is the natural continuation of the Modern Art Gallery.
From 1 July 2004 is Maria Vittoria Marini Clarelli the superintendent of the Gallery. In 2011 a re-arrangement and reorganization of the Gallery’s works was carried out, which gave it a look characterized by a strong visual and aesthetic impact thanks to the original project by the architect. Federico Lardera.
In October 2016, the new gallery set-up was inaugurated, based on an original project that, by reducing the number of works on display, introduces the non-chronological reading key to the base of the main exhibition ” Time is out of joint.” In addition to the new set-up of the rooms, the access area for services is redefined, called the “welcome area,” the bookshop and the Sala delle Colonne. While retaining the institutional name of the National Gallery of Modern and Contemporary Art, in its communication the gallery takes on a new name, “La Galleria Nazionale.”
Sale 19th century
The following description refers to the preparation of the rooms prior to the reorganization of 2012. In 2016 the spaces were also re-upholstered.
Salone dell’Ercole (1)
The exhibition is dedicated to the period of transition between Neoclassicism and Romanticism, between the end of the eighteenth and the beginning of the nineteenth century.
An important example of neoclassical sculpture is:
Antonio Canova: Hercules and Lica 1815. Marble 350x152x212. The sculpture is accompanied by the statues of the twelve gods of Olympus who, as originally, made him wing in the demolished Palazzo Torlonia in Piazza Venezia. Canova was inspired by the Ercole Farnese today at the National Archaeological Museum of Naples. The carved episode is among the most terrible in Greek mythology: Hercules, maddened by grief at the death of the centaur Nessus, kills the messenger of this news. Lica is about to be thrown and in vain holds back to the mane and the altar. Note the circularity of the opposing effort. The statue must be seen from behind, to understand Lica’s desperate resistance. Until a few years ago the statue was moved at fixed times. In the room there are works by Francesco Podesti, the painter who had frescoed the hall of Palazzo Torlonia from which the Hercules and Lica come.
On the walls the great historical and mythological painting. Romantic artists depict episodes of Italian history to incite people to rebel against the Austrian oppressor. In the years following the congress in Vienna, in fact, Italy was divided into many states, all forms of freedom were lacking and Austria dominated directly over the Lombardy region, while it influenced other states. Among the various paintings in the room we consider:
Francesco Hayez: Sicilian Vespers 1846. The work recalls an episode that actually occurred in 1282 during the Angevin domination of Sicily, the offense brought to a woman by a French soldier triggered the rebellion and the expulsion of the French. The woman is sustained by outrage immediately, and is supported by her family, while the groom with his clenched fists ponders revenge. The figure painted behind the soldier, in an attitude of prayer, is an exceptional portrait, a genre in which Hayez was particularly appreciated. Behind the group of main figures the beginning of the rebellion, the peasant collecting the stone, the other with the dagger invoking God. Mount Pellegrino in the background.
Other works in the room are:
Federico Faruffini, The Virgin at the Nile, 1865;
Quiet Cremona, Marco Polo, 1863.
There are also paintings by Vincenzo Camuccini, Bernardo Celentano and sculptures by Pelagio Palagi.
Psyche Room (2)
The room presents the composite and international panorama of Rome in the early nineteenth century (“Roman Internationalism”). It is so named for the presence, at the center of it, of the statue of:
Pietro Tenerani, Psiche fainted, 1822, marble. The statue represents the purist style, an Italian artistic movement born around 1833 in the wake of the Nazarenes. Referring to an ethical conception of art, Purism recognized the primitives from Cimabue to the first Raphael as models. Important exponents of the purism were besides Tenerani, the painter and writer Antonio Bianchini (who wrote the manifesto of purism in 1849), Friedrich Overbeck, Tommaso Minardi, Augusto Mussini and others.
The statue recalls one of the most famous myths of Greek and Roman antiquity, that of Psyche and Love, hence the term psychology. This statue is mentioned by Argan in his history of art. In the same room, again by Pietro Tenerani: Portrait of Princess Zenaide Wolkonsky, 1850 and Pellegrino Rossi.
Tommaso Minardi, The Madonna of the Rosary, 1840.
Tommaso Minardi, blind Homer in the house of Pastor Glauco, 1810.
Andrea Appiani, Portrait of Vincenzo Monti, 1809.
Marianna Candidi Dionigi, Landscape (L’Aniene near Tivoli), 1798.
Sala della Saffo (3)
TUSCAN SCHOOLS. The room is dedicated to the Tuscan painting of the first part of the nineteenth century, characterized by the presence of the Macchiaiolo movement, perhaps the most important and original Italian artistic movement of that century. The movement was based on the principle that the vision of reality is nothing more than a set of colored spots, more or less intense by the effect of light, and that the painter’s task was not to portray things as we know they are obligatory, but make the optical impression in the most direct way. The Michelangelo cafe (in Via Larga, today Cavour, a plaque commemorates it) in Florence was the meeting place of the Macchiaioli, while Pergentina (just outside Florence, along the torrent Affrico) and Castiglioncello (on the coast, not far from Livorno) were the favorite places for painting. The most important and justly famous painter was Giovanni Fattori (Livorno 1825 – Florence 1908), Telemaco Signorini was the brain of the movement, Adriano Cecioni and Nino Costa were the theoreticians. They were known at the 1861 National Exhibition in Florence. Their best time was from 1855 to 1865.
At the center of the room the sculpture of:
Giovanni Duprè, Saffo, 1857, which gives the hall its name.
Silvestro Lega, The Visit, 1868.
Giovanni Fattori, Portrait of the first wife, 1865.
Nino Costa, Women boarding wood in the port of Anzio, 1852.
Adriano Cecioni, Interior with figure, 1867.
Vincenzo Cabianca, Woman’s Study at Montemurlo, 1862. This painting can be taken as an example of the Macchiaioli style.
Giovanni Fattori, The Battle of Magenta. It is the sketch for a larger picture, to notice how anti-rhetorical it is.
Raffaello Sernesi, Cupolino at Cascine. Note the effect of sun spots in green
Odoardo Borrani, Mugnone.
Vincenzo Cabianca, Castiglioncello.
Vincenzo Cabianca, Houses in Lerici.
Hall of the Jenner (4)
PIEDMONTESE AND LOMBARDO NORTHERN SCHOOLS – VENETA. The painting of northern Italy of those years is characterized by the presence of the Scapigliati that can be seen above all in Giovanni Carnovali, called the Piccio. Piccio is the author of a painting played on transparencies and veils. The Scapigliati are characterized by the dissolution of the shape in the color forcing the blurring of the contours and the use of discontinuous and luminous brushstrokes, to these Tranquillo Cremona gives a pathetic and sensual characterization.
Scapigliatura was a literary and artistic movement that developed in Lombardy between 1860 and 1900. Leading exponents were Emilio Praga and Arrigo Boito. From: Universal Garzanti.
Giulio Monteverde, Edoardo Jenner, 1873, bronze. The sculpture gives the name to the hall. “The work portrays the English doctor, discoverer of the smallpox vaccine (1796), which performs the experiment on the son”… sculpture in his day famous, even for the subject, but, certainly has all limits of historical sculpture – anecdotal ”
Domenico Induno, Bollettino di Villafranca, 1861. During the Second War of Independence the Piedmontese and French armies advance victorious over the retreating Austrians, the liberation of Venice also seems near when the news of peace between Austria and France arrives that Napoleon III signed without the Italians knowing. On the face of the patriots we read the disappointment for the arrival of the bulletin with the news. Note certain details that give a veristic tone like the Italian flag with the colors placed in a wrong order. “Induno gives the historical framework an accent of actuality, he translates it into scenes of an anecdotic verismo”. From: Bucarelli, The National Gallery of Modern Art, 1973, Istituto Poligrafico dello Stato.
Quiet Cremona, the two cousins.
Antonio Fontanesi, One October morning.
Antonio Fontanesi, At the source, 1865.
Antonio Fontanesi, At the fountain, 1869.
Giovanni Carnovali (called PICCIO), Portrait of a man in the act of writing, 1869.
Giovanni Carnovali, Portrait of the father of the bass Marini, 1843.
Vittorio Avondo, La valle del Pussino, 1874.
Ippolito Caffi, Rome seen from Monte Mario. A famous landscape painter, he died in the battle of Lissa during the third war of independence.
Sala Morelli (5)
The room is entirely dedicated to Domenico Morelli. In the seventies and eighties of the nineteenth century Domenico Morelli and Filippo Palizzi are the central figures of the Neapolitan and southern artistic panorama. Morelli (Naples 1826 – 1901) elaborated a veristic style founded on the pre-eminence of color with respect to the academic design, he tried to adapt his painting to still romantic, literary, religious, historical and symbolist contents. In 1905 the Gallery bought all that was left in the studio when the author died, paintings, sketches, watercolors and a large number of drawings. In the years when Palma Bucarelli was superintendent, two rooms were dedicated to the painter. From: Encyclopedia of the Art, 2002 Garzanti.
Domenico Morelli, Tasso reads the Gerusalemme Liberata in Eleonora d’Este, 1865. “One of the most famous paintings of nineteenth-century Italian painting is the scene of a melodrama, a similarity can be established with Verdi’s music”… intimate and silent is the painting of Toma, so much is flashy, magniloquent and sometimes rhetorical that of Domenico Morelli “From: Palma Bucarelli, The National Gallery of Modern Art, 1973 Institute of the State Poligrafico.
It is the main painting of the hall, which can be seen from the Hall of Hercules, thus placing itself in conversation with the great works of historical romanticism that characterize that salon. From: Colombo – Lafranconi, Guide to the National Gallery of Modern Art, 2004 Electa. It is said that Tasso was secretly in love with Eleonora d’Este and his two ladies in company who were called Eleonora too. From audioguide available in Galleria in 2008.
Domenico Morelli, The Temptations of St. Anthony, 1878.
Domenico Morelli, Portrait of Bernardo Celentano, 1859.
Mario Rutelli, Portrait of Domenico Morelli, c.1884. Rutelli (Palermo 1859 – 1941) is the academic taste sculptor who created the Najadi fountain in Piazza della Repubblica in Rome, his most important work. This is the great-grandfather of Francesco Rutelli, former mayor of Rome.
Cleopatra Hall (6)
This room is dedicated to artists who were born, trained and operated in Naples or in Southern Italy. It takes its name from the marble of:
Alfonso Balzico, Cleopatra. A subject often portrayed in the history of art for the charm that has always inspired the queen of Egypt. We are in the years of cutting the Isthmus of Suez (1869), then there was a revival of interest and studies on ancient Egypt. Note the fineness of the bracelet on the arm and the snake emerging from the fruit basket that will soon bring death to the young queen.
Gioacchino Toma, Luisa Sanfelice in prison, 1875. “This is his masterpiece, it does not take a dramatic action, rather a human condition”. One of the most famous paintings of the Italian nineteenth century, one of the most important exhibits in this gallery. Luisa Sanfelice, patriot of the Neapolitan republic, is in prison awaiting the death sentence desired by the Bourbons despite being pregnant. We see her preparing a dress for her son who will not be born. “The painting by Morelli is so excited and theatrical, as is that of Toma”, also by Bucarelli, cit.
Gioacchino Toma, The guard at the wheel of the foundling, 1887.
Gioacchino Toma, The Viaticum of the orphan, 1877.
Gioacchino Toma, Novel at the convent, 1877.
Michele Cammarano, Atrium of Santa Maria Maggiore, 1868.
Michele Cammarano, Chiacchiere in the square in Piscinula, 1865.
Michele Cammarano, Caffè in Piazza San Marco.
Vincenzo Gemito, Brutus, 1871.
Antonio Mancini, Carmiella, 1870.
Antonio Mancini, seller of cerini, 1878.
Antonio Mancini, Portrait of Baron Carlo Chiarandà, 1883.
Antonio Mancini, Nello Studio, 1875.
Antonio Mancini, Il malatino, 1878.
Sala Palizzi (7)
LANDSCAPES AND PAINTING PAINTING IN NAPLES.
Even this room, like the two previous ones, is dedicated to painting in Naples and in Southern Italy. It must be borne in mind that Naples was one of the largest European cities at the end of the eighteenth century. The hall also testifies to the presence of foreign painters in Naples and the possibility of international openness enjoyed by the painters who worked in that city.
The four Palizzi brothers came from Abruzzo to Naples to study at the Academy where they followed the courses held by Smargiassi, one of the painters of the school of Posillipo. With them Italian painting makes contact with the French and precisely with the school called Fontainebleau or Barbizon, from the place where they gathered to paint outside the academies. The merit is of the eldest Joseph who, who went to Paris in 1844, remained there all his life. Filippo, to whom almost all the paintings in the room belong, is by far the best known and most important, both for the quality of the work, and for the influence he had in affirming the realistic current. The work of Palizzi develops, in the Neapolitan environment, in antithesis to that of Morelli, author of a painting of history and supporter of an ideal that transcends reality. In 1892, the Gallery received the donation of 300 paintings and studies by Filippo Palizzi. It is the first important donation in its history.
Giuseppe Palizzi, La foresta di Fontenbleau, 1874. The most famous of the paintings by Giuseppe, a work cited by Argan in his manual, mentioned several times.
Anton Sminck Pitloo, Castel dell’Ovo in Naples, 1820. Example of international artistic presence in Naples. Around him, Dutch, the school of Posillipo was formed. From: Colombo – Lafranconi, Guide to the National Gallery of Modern Art, 2004 Electa.
Eduardo Dalbono, La terrazza, 1867. In which the perspective composition with light planes is typically macchiaiola.
Filippo Palizzi, Landscape after the rain, 1860. Quoted by Argan in his manual.
Filippo Palizzi, Viottolo with priest or Viottolo between two walls, figure of priest at the back (Cava).
Filippo Palizzi, Studies of Garibaldi and Soldiers, 1860.
Giacinto Gigante, Marina di Sorrento, 1840. Influenced by Turner.
Giacinto Gigante, Market on the port of Castellammare, 1859.
Giacinto Gigante, Marina di Posillipo, 1828 -30.