Evening and Nocturnals – Tutankhamon, Caravaggio, Van Gogh

Caravaggio Marta e Maria Maddalena

García López Window

Going to see such an exhibition on a very, very sunny day sounds almost like a paradox. But the exhibition at the Basilica Palladiana in Vicenza is totally worth it, regardless of the discordance between the weather outside and the subject matter inside.

The exhibition starts off with a wonderful room entirely devoted to Egyptian artefacts; absolute perfection though is reached by the ceiling, where a starry night introduces the visitor to the theme. We then move on to nights in the Renaissance and Modern period, where they become metaphors for a number of things: interiority, scenography, maryrdom, unconscious, depression, shared humanity. Alongside remarkable masterpieces by Caravaggio, Tiziano, Van Gogh, Monet, and others, the exhibition draws bold connections with much more contemporary works, for instance by Bacon, Wyeth, and López García. And here is undoubtedly the most stimulating part of the whole, even though not always of immediate comprehension. But it is always interesting to face two paintings which apparently have nothing in common, and be gently invited to see what the two may share, even just to disagree. For example, I loved the way the treatment of light in ‘Marta e Maria Maddalena’ by Caravaggio was similar to that of a window interior by García López, while I was less impressed by the juxtaposition of crucifixions by Poussin and Bacon. But then again, that might simply be me and what I tend to be stuck by, in this case light more than suffering.

The subject matter was certainly very broad, and at times I had the impression it was almost too broad, including anything from portraits to sacred art, from landscapes to abstract works. And yet the will to keep the whole tight and together does shine through, and it brilliantly incapsulated in the last room, where the whole exibition is retraced in a handful of paintings – and indeed, the gems of it all. It is amazing how the night, such a simple, common, and everyday phenomenon can become bearer of so many meanings and excite, thrill, relax, and prompt us to think. Amazing to see how night lends itself to art so easily.

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