The Renaissance Dream

The Renaissance Dream

The exhibition The Renaissance Dream at the Pitti Palace until Sep 15, shows a selection of works, among which the highest place is reserved for paintings, which present all the facets and meanings that the Renaissance attributed to the dream.

‘El volgo volle notte chiamar quel sol che nol comprende’ (Michelangelo Buonarroti).

...Yes, another exhibition dedicated to the Renaissance!

In Florence this not certainly something new, but the special event is that this year we have three exhibitions at the same time to go into the subject from three different viewpoints.

The exhibition The Renaissance Dream comes from the collaboration of the Soprintendenza per il Polo Museale di Firenze and the Réunion Musées Nationaux / Grand Palais of Paris.

This show will actually be held at the Pitti Palace until September 15, while from October onward it will be hosted in the French capital, at the Musée du Luxembourg.

A careful selection of works, among which the highest place is reserved for paintings, presents all the facets and meanings that the Renaissance attributed to the dream and dreams. The intention, one assumes, of the curators was to have didactics in mind but in the end, without appropriate guidance, the visitor could be left with only vague impressions and suggestions.

The exhibit, situated on the second floor, opens in the Sala Bianca and one’s full attention is drawn to two large panels, which also function as dividers, covered by a midnight blue silk-like fabric – and a better color choice could not have been made. On these, gold letters stand out with two quotations by Virgil and Homer, on the right and left sides respectively, which refer to the description of the Gates of Sleep. Of course, the visitor will not find here (though one is reminded of them) doors of ivory or of horn, but the idea of portals to access the world of dreams is cleverly suggested by tall blue temporary structures introducing the first section; like French doors, when viewing these structures from the entrance, one can only glance through the crevice.

Each area of the exhibition corresponds more or less to a section of the show, which already declares its theme in the title space. These areas are bordered by nice panels that rise from the floor and run along the walls, at times, further subdividing the parts of the rooms. Apparently, it seems that one area is dedicated to a single section and a specific theme but, in reality, there are almost always two themes, which face one another on opposing or adjacent sides. The explanatory panels, almost always hung next to the first work of a new section, will provide a foothold. These texts are in three languages – Italian, French, and English – and are not too long, but very profound and meaningful.

Coming then to the works displayed, their great variety is surely striking: a variety of size, quality, style, but also provenance. In fact, numerous pieces have been borrowed from Italian or foreign museums, to create a dialogue of similarities and differences with works from Florentine institutions or their storerooms. One example is in the Sala di Bona, where the theme of nightmares is expressed well with Bosch paintings facing the portraits of Francesco I de’ Medici and his lover, Bianca Cappello. Next to their likenesses, manuscripts, letters, and paintings are presented to remind one how, while the prince was alive, Medici commissions leaned toward the theme of the dream. Another dialogue that can’t be ignored takes place right in the center of the Sala Bianca, where, in two display cases, distinct yet juxtaposed, one finds the small painting by Raphael titled Vision of a Knight and, below, the book of Silius Italicus, the Punica, opened to the page in Latin that shows the written source of the most famous painting in the exhibit.

The unusual (in Italian exhibitions) iconographic and iconological approach will enable the public to see from a fresh perspective such a famous work.

Surely, many other works will stand out in the visitor’s memory: Venus and Cupid with a Satyr by Correggio; The Dream of St. Catherine of Alexandria by Ludovico Carracci; the beautiful tapestry with the biblical episode of Joseph interpreting the Pharaoh’s dreams, created on the model by Francesco Salviati; or perhaps the minute paintings by Lorenzo Lotto. But the display choices may be as equally memorable. In addition to the already mentioned midnight blue color of the temporary structures (which leave the monochrome ceiling of the Sala Bianca free to be admired), another element worthy of praise is the blue cylindrical fabric surrounding the grand, lit chandeliers, creating another filter for immersion into the dream-like ambiance. But it is in one of the small adjacent rooms that one can access the most intimate moment in dreams, that in which mystical visions can appear, as seen in the religious paintings on display. This intimacy is conveyed well by the absence of diffused light and by the decision to only illuminate, with spotlights, each work with its label, thus surrounding one in darkness. It was not likely a coincidence that the curator, Prof. Antonio Cecchi, chose to gradually fade the tone of blue in the panels along the walls, as one continues on. The section in which the Medici – or their memory – are mentioned is a lapis lazuli color, which eventually becomes a light blue in the last little room, in which Dawn appears with the chariot of the Sun, and Venus finally opens her eyes.

So, perhaps, light and color take center stage in the exhibit, inviting the viewer to become emotionally invested in the visions: in the end, what remains when we wake up every morning, if not a vague recollection of hazy images and, often, disjointed visions?

If in Florence, this is an exhibition not be missed, leaving us meditating on the famous verses We are such stuff as dreams are made on, rounded with a little sleep.

You can visit The Dream of the Renaissance with us, during the tour dedicated to Pitti Palace: A Royal Residence and its District.