Baroque Architecture Triumphs – Brief Article
At The National Gallery of Art, a major exhibition examining two centuries of European architectural history and the most famous architects of the baroque era, is on view until Oct. 9. It travels next to the Musee des Beaux-Arts in Marseille, France, from Nov. 17-March 4, 2001.
Entitled “The Triumph of the Baroque,” the exhibit features 27 original architectural models made between 1600 and 1750, along with 40 related paintings, drawings, prints and medals. The models, which were usually made of wood, and often decorated with paint or plaster, serve as valuable records of an architect’s original vision. They were often submitted to competitions for architectural commissions, or they acted as a three-dimensional guide while construction workers were building the structure. Because they are extremely fragile, very few have survived.
Among the highlights in the show are models of Rome’s celebrated baroque fountains, famed for their ambitious designs and rushing waters. Gian Lorenzo Bernini’s project for the Four Rivers Fountain (c. 1650) in the Piazza Navona is represented by an original architectural model in wood and terracotta as well as a painting of the completed monument. Also on view are examples of English and Russian baroque architecture, including Sir Christopher Wrens models for the Royal Naval Hospital in Greenwich; James Gibbs’ 1721 wooden model for St.-Martin-in-the-Fields in London; and Francesco Bartolomeo Rastrelli’s flamboyant Smol’ny Convent in St. Petersburg, Russia, replete with colorful and gilt-laden details.
A major inspiration for the exhibit, according to Earl A. Powell III, director of the museum, came from the desire to recognize “the achievements of baroque architecture, which was disdained for years as excessively exuberant: The emergence of the new architecture coincided with the rise in absolute authority of leaders and the renewed strength of the popes in Rome. These changes were reflected in the architecture with a new sense of grandeur and dynamism, aimed to overwhelm the senses and emotions. Baroque architects also mastered the unification of the visual arts into their designs, incorporating painting, sculpture, architecture, garden design and urban planning.
The exhibition is coordinated by Henry A. Millon, dean of the Center for Advanced Study in the Visual Arts at the National Gallery, and is sponsored by EduCap Inc. A 621-page catalogue is available.
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