The spectacle of wood sculpture: at the Royal Palace of Genoa, the major exhibition on Anton Maria Maragliano

In Genoa from November 10, 2018 to March 10, 2019, the first monographic exhibition dedicated to the great Anton Maria Maragliano is being held at the Royal Palace.

From November 10, 2018 to March 10, 2019, Palazzo Reale in Genoa hosts the exhibition Maragliano 1664 - 1739. The Spectacle of Wood Sculpture in Genoa, the first-ever monographic exhibition dedicated to Anton Maria Maragliano (Genoa, 1664 - 1739), an extraordinary interpreter of wood sculpture. Best known for his figure sculptures, Maragliano was active between the end of the 17th century and the first four decades of the following century, particularly in Genoa where he kept a renowned workshop. He renewed in a Baroque and pre-rococo key the art of wood, operating a “reform” linked to the poetics of great decoration simultaneously carried out by Filippo Parodi in marble and Domenico Piola in painting and implementing an effective compromise between courtly inspiration and popular taste. For the first time, the master’s masterpieces, witnessing the persuasive power of painted and gilded wood to personify the protagonists of Paradise: from the elegant Marian statues to the graceful Crucifixes to the grandiose processional machines with the martyrdoms of the saints, will be on view in comparison with each other. The exhibition, curated by Daniele Sanguineti, represents the first exhibition event useful in accounting for the artist’s monographic profile, which has been specifically and thoroughly addressed over the past two decades by Sanguineti himself, who has made a capillary archival and philological contribution, greatly increasing the catalog of works.

The ability to correspond to the needs of patrons through beautiful images with a strong emotional impact made it possible, starting in the early eighteenth century, to obtain a true monopoly that forced the sculptor to the endowment of an articulated entrepreneurial structure. As many as two generations of pupils were welcomed into the rooms of Strada Giulia, in the heart of Genoa, where Maragliano had his workshop, giving rise to that phenomenon of popularization of the master’s language that represents the most fascinating, albeit problematic, aspect of the approach to the sculptor: and the pupils of the pupils pursued this popularization beyond the end of the century.

The exhibition, set up in the rooms of the Teatro del Falcone, will propose an exhibition itinerary with a dual approach: on the one hand, the chronological iter, with the cultural models of reference, the beginnings, the workshop and the progressive intervention of the pupils; on the other hand, a series of thematic sections, articulated in suggestive aggregations of works by iconography or scenographic impact. The exhibition will open with a section devoted to precedents with works by the artists on whom the young Maragliano trained, from Giuseppe Arata and Giovanni Battista Agnesi to Giovanni Battista Bissoni and Marco Antonio Poggio. This will be followed by Maragliano’s places evoked through a series of documents, engravings and watercolors useful in recounting the stages of his apprenticeship and the environments that housed the master’s workspace over the years.

The magnificent Saint Michael Archangel of Celle Ligure, requested from Maragliano in 1694, and the Saint Sebastian for the Disciplinants of Rapallo, commissioned in 1700, testify, in a special section, to the role of models in tune with the most up-to-date figurative culture rooted in Genoa thanks to the painter Domenico Piola and the French sculptor Pierre Puget. These sculptures, capable of translating into the three-dimensionality of the artifact the engaging grace proper to coeval painting and Bernini sculpture, reveal the new, delicate dynamism of Baroque culture. The working practice, from the manipulation of clay models to the collaboration with the painters-especially those of Casa Piola-will constitute an in-depth study of particular interest that will make the ideational project comprehensible in the entirety of its process. The progressive juxtaposition of a number of Crucifixes, large or small, chapel, high altar or processional, shows the substantial renewal conferred by Maragliano on iconography to the point of obtaining a replicable cliché by his pupils.

A series of spectacular Madonnas, seated on thrones, and an extraordinary processional case (the St. Anthony Abbot contemplating the death of St. Paul the Hermit, now pertaining to the confraternity of the same name in Mele), restore the theatrical values of Maragliano’s compositions, for which the biographer Ratti, reporting the judgment of the people, wrote: “...they have all the air of Paradise.” Penitential themes, from Holy Week, will be illustrated in the engaging section La passione secondo Maragliano (The Passion according to Maragliano): alongside small-format works, including nativity statues, which will allow visitors to fully appreciate the master’s technical expertise, there will also be a display of highly refined objects, both sacred and profane, commissioned by noble families for their private collections. The itinerary concludes with an allusion to the complex management of Maraglianesque legacy, thanks to the presence of some pieces made by his main pupils.

Given the rich presence of Maragliano’s works in the city’s fabric, the exhibition will continue in the city where sculptures and processional cases still kept in their places of origin, such as the Pietà of St. Matthew, the Dolenti of the Squarciafico chapel in Santa Maria delle Vigne, and the San Pasquale of the Santissima Annunziata, which could not be moved because of their complexity, will be appropriately pointed out. The different sites will thus be involved in the exhibition itinerary, creating facilitated access for visitors, also in collaboration with the Sacred Art Office of the Archbishop’s Curia of Genoa. A further connection to the exhibition will concern the Pinacoteca dell’Accademia Ligustica where a nativity scene will be set up with statues pertaining to the civic collections (Luxoro Museum), to give an account of theMaraglianesque imprint on the production of nativity statuary in the second half of the 18th century.

The important exhibition event, supported by the valuable and substantial support of the Compagnia di San Paolo, will be accompanied by a scholarly catalog, published by Sagep Editore, with essays and descriptions of the works on display. An additional aspect, which is absolutely essential, is that many of the sculptures on display were restored in 2015 thanks to funding allocated on the occasion of the San Paolo Bando “La grande Scuola di Anton Maria Maragliano,” dedicated to the works of Maragliano and the Maraglianeschi in the area. The occasion will therefore be valuable to be able to present the outcomes of these important conservation interventions and fully rediscover the talent and prerogatives of the famous artist.

The exhibition opens daily (except Mondays, which are closed) from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., Saturdays and Sundays from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m. The exhibition can be accessed with the Palazzo Reale museum ticket: 10 euros full price, 5 reduced for EU citizens between 18 and 25 years of age and groups, free for under 18. For more info, see the Royal Palace website.

The spectacle of wood sculpture: at the Royal Palace of Genoa, the major exhibition on Anton Maria Maragliano
The spectacle of wood sculpture: at the Royal Palace of Genoa, the major exhibition on Anton Maria Maragliano

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