In Piacenza, Antonello da Messina's Ecce Homo is in dialogue with Omar Galliani's unpublished Christ from behind

The Alberoni College and Gallery in Piacenza is hosting an exhibition from March 23 to May 26, 2024, that places Antonello da Messina's Ecce Homo in dialogue with Omar Galliani's never-before-seen Christ with His Back to Us.

From March 23 to May 26, 2024, the Alberoni College and Gallery in Piacenza will host Silence, the Enigma of the Verse. Omar Galliani’s Christ from Behind in Dialogue with Antonello da Messina’s Ecce Homo, a project promoted by Collegio Alberoni - Opera Pia Alberoni and Piccolo Museo della Poesia Chiesa di San Cristoforo under the curatorship of Massimo Silvotti, Umberto Fornasari and Father Erminio Antonello, from an original idea by Omar Galliani.

The artist was profoundly fascinated by Antonello da Messina’sEcce Homo, to the point that he approached the pictorial dialogue through a new painting, absolutely original in inventio: Sui tuoi passi (2024) in fact proposes theunprecedented iconography of Christ from behind. The new painting is made with a technique very similar to the one that tradition says was imported to Italy by Antonello da Messina himself, after having learned it from the works of the Flemish masters. Painted by Omar Galliani on a panel of the same dimensions as the one used by Antonello da Messina, the work will be displayed in the half-light of the room in theCardinal’s Apartment entirely dedicated to Antonello’sEcce Homo, whose lighting was designed by designer Davide Groppi. Galliani’s panel will be exceptionally displayed inside the wooden frame that held the 15th-century masterpiece in the 20th century. The exhibition will continue in the Alberoni Gallery exhibition hall with a selection of works by Omar Galliani all dedicated to the Passion of Christ, a theme the artist has dealt with throughout his career.

“I don’t know how many times Antonello must have caressed that humble antique wooden board,” Omar Galliani wrote, “before the plaster or the drawing... [...] I would like to experience the silence of his room interrupted by the lapping of Antonello’s sea on a rainy or sunny day when the glazes of cinnabar, lead white or yellowish slowly evaporate toward the sky.”

“Dialoguing with Antonello da Messina’s Alberoni College masterpiece, but radically detaching himself from it, Galliani paints a Christ with his back turned, or rather literally turning his back on humanity,” Elena Pontiggia wrote in the critical text in the catalog. “It is a shocking image, unprecedented in the millennial history of art. Of course, some artists painted the Redeemer with his back turned, but only because the scene was seen from the background of Herod’s palace, as in Ciseri’s Ecce Homo, or because the Tortured was tied to the column and offered his back to his torturers, as in Rubens’ Flagellation. No one, however, had ever imagined such a silent, yet so eloquent, detachment of the Creator from creatures.”

“Silence is the queen word of this exhibition,” concludes Massimo Silvotti, creator of the exhibition project with Galliani, “those who will witness it, in fact, will be implicated in a series of theological and philosophical questions from which it will be almost impossible to disentangle oneself rationally, which is why silence will act as a symbolic refuge. A place, that is, where one can set aside one’s conjectures in order to surrender oneself to a totally open visionaryness.”

The exhibition’s subtitle, The Enigma of the Verse, alludes to the two sides of a work: the painted and the merely imagined. The verse, unpainted side of Antonello’s panel thus ideally becomes the rough board on which Omar Galliani has rested his brushes to generate an absolutely new image, inviting each visitor to regenerate his or her gaze.

Produced in collaboration with the City of Piacenza and Fondazione Crocevia, the exhibition enjoys the patronage of the Emilia-Romagna Region, as a special event of the first Italian Biennial of Poetry among the Arts, and the Diocese of Piacenza-Bobbio. The project is realized with the support of Fondazione Donatella Ronconi and Enrica Prati and Steriltom srl and the support of Confindustria Piacenza, Sintic, Auxilium, Fondazione La Rocca; media partners Puntoacapo Editrice, Gruppo Libertà, Editoriale Libertà.

The exhibition is accompanied by a catalog published by puntoacapo Editrice that, in addition to documenting through images Antonello da Messina’sEcce Homo, Omar Galliani’s Sui tuoi passi, preparatory works and other works by the artist exhibited in Piacenza, is accompanied by numerous contributions with poetic, artistic, theological and scientific backgrounds, including texts by Massimo Silvotti, Elena Pontiggia, Giovanni Gazzaneo, Father Nicola Albanesi, Father Erminio Antonello and Francesca De Vita, a restorer who has delved into Antonello da Messina’s artistic technique thanks also to the scientific investigations conducted by the CNR on the Ecce Homo at the Alberoni College. The volume also features previously unpublished poems dedicated to Antonello’s Ecce Homo and Omar Galliani’s Christ on His Back by leading Italian poets, such as Edoardo Callegari, Roberto Chiapparoli, Sabrina De Canio, Domenico Ferrari Cesena, Antonio Laneve, Roberto Mussapi, Guido Oldani, Barbara Rabita, Davide Rondoni, Antje Stehn and Stefano Torre. These are joined by poetry and poetic prose by Omar Galliani.

The exhibition can be visited with the admission ticket to the Alberoni College and Gallery. Access to Alberoni College and the Cardinal’s Apartment, which houses Antonello da Messina’sEcce Homo and Omar Galliani’s Christ on His Back, is allowed only by guided tours.

For information: +39 0523 322635, +39 349 4575709;;

Numerous side events, such as concerts, lectures, poetry readings and guided tours, are planned during the exhibition. The full program is available at and

Image: Omar Galliani, Sui tuoi passi (2023-2024; tempera grassa on antique walnut panel, 48 x 38 cm). Photo by Luca Trascinelli
Image: Omar Galliani, Sui tuoi passi (2023-2024; tempera grassa on antique walnut panel, 48 x 38 cm). Photo by Luca Trascinelli

In Piacenza, Antonello da Messina's Ecce Homo is in dialogue with Omar Galliani's unpublished Christ from behind
In Piacenza, Antonello da Messina's Ecce Homo is in dialogue with Omar Galliani's unpublished Christ from behind

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