Masterpieces from the Kunsthistorisches Museum of Vienna
in dialogue with contemporary photography

A journey to discover still life, through 50 masterpieces - displayed for the first time in Italy - from the collection of the Kunsthistorisches Museum in Vienna. The exhibition, curated by Francesca Del Torre with Gerlinde Gruber and Sabine Pénot, documents how this subject developed between the end of the sixteenth and throughout the seventeenth century in Europe, inviting us to look at one of the most reminiscent genres of European painting.

The term Still life, born in France in the eighteenth century and then adopted also in Italy, implies an artistic genre where the subject varies from markets and cooking scenes, flower bouquets, fruits, musical instruments to hunting accessories. The 'Nordic' culture refers to this as still leffen or still leben as in English, still life, emphasising that the paintings portray inanimate objects. Whereas in Italian, for example, Natura Morta is translated to dead nature. The Northern European term highlights the contemplative dimension of these paintings, which invite the viewer to meditate on the transience of human-made objects. The wealth of new inventions, the variety of subjects, the creativity of the different artists and the precision inserted characterise these works of art which around 1600 a.c — gained autonomous representation in the Netherlands.

The exhibition follows both a thematic and chronological path, taking the first steps from the second half of the sixteenth century, with a final selection of market scenes and depictions of the seasons by Francesco Bassano and Lodovico Pozzoserrato, solidly relating to the theme in the Veneto geographical context. The comparison with the Flemish markets of Frederik van Valckenborch and Jan Baptist Saive the old leads the visitor beyond the Alps. It is here above all, in the geographical, cultural and political context of the Netherlands, that these creations specialise and are perfected, declining in different categories, such as scientific still lifes with bouquets, Vanitas or allegories of transience, laid tables, religious Still Life and hunting scenes.

Artists as Jan Brueghel, Pieter Claesz, Willem Claesz Heda, Jan Weenix, Gerard Dou create masterpieces which enchant due to magnificence, creativity and perfection by which executed. A group of Italian Still Life depicts, through the artworks of Evaristo Baschenis, Gasparo Lopez Dei Fiori, Elisabetta Marchioni, the diffusion of this genre in various artistic centres south of the alps.

The exhibition is completed by a selection, cured by Denis Curti, dedicated to contemporary photography which proves how the Still Life theme is currently present in the shots of some of the most prominent photographers at international level. The selection of these images starts from the idea that photographs are a result of a staging. Every shot is the culmination of conscious actions that want to decline on the need to penetrate the reality and go beyond appearances — consequently moving from Vanitas, capable of misleading by David LaChapelle, to raw and ironic reports by Martin Parr on mass consumption. From magnificent and sensual flowers by Robert Mapplethorpe to portraits of beautiful flowers by Araki, then to a series dedicated to soup bowls by Franco Vimercati ending with the idea of pictorial classicism by Hans Op De Beeck.

Still life with lobster
2nd half of the 17th century - Kunsthistorisches Museum
Francesco da Ponte, called Francesco Bassano
Summer (June, July, August)
around 1585/1590 - Kunsthistorisches Museum
Attributed to Jan van den Hecke
Still life with fruits
1650/1660 - Kunsthistoriches Museum
David LaChapelle
Earth Laughs in Flowers (The Lovers)
2008 - 2011
Willem Claesz Heda
Breakfast still life with lid cup
Dated 1634 - Kunsthistorisches Museum
Anonymous - Attributed to Jan Davidsz de Heem
Still life with sea snails and shells
Late 17th century - Kunsthistoriches Museum
Pieter Claesz
Dated 1656 - Kunsthistoriches Museum
Pittore della cerchia di Johannes Leemans
Natura morta con attrezzi da caccia
1660 - Kunsthistoriches Museum
Jan Anton van der Baren
Eucharist in the flower wreath
1635-1659 - Kunsthistoriches Museum

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