Volterra, two contemporary artists reinterpret Rosso Fiorentino's Deposition after 500 years

Five hundred years mark the completion of Rosso Fiorentino's Deposition from Volterra. Two contemporary artists reinterpret the masterpiece in a tribute exhibition.

This year marks the five hundredth anniversary of the creation of Rosso Fiorentino’s Deposition from the Cross, a masterpiece preserved in the Pinacoteca Comunale of Volterra. On this occasion, gallery owner Francesca Sacchi Tommasi has conceived and organized the exhibition Rubeus et alii, curated by Antonio Natali and Elisa Gradi, which can be visited from June 21 to August 31, 2021. Works by Ugo Riva and Elena Mutinelli will be on display at the Cloister of Palazzo Minucci Solaini, home to the Pinacoteca Comunale.

“When a work of art is a masterpiece, it can inspire artists for centuries,” says Alessandro Furiesi, director of the Volterra Civic Art Gallery. "This is why Rosso Fiorentino’s Deposition, painted in 1521, still continues to influence painters and sculptors after five centuries. This is the genesis of the exhibition that will take place in the Pinacoteca to pay homage to the painting preserved there, thanks to the works of Ugo Riva and Elena Mutinelli. An exhibition born from the collaboration between private and public, in fact it is thanks to the work of the Etra Studio Tommasi gallery, presented at the Pinacoteca now more than a year ago, that it was possible to work on this project. This is a significant operation, in the 500th year since Rosso Fiorentino’s painting was created. An exhibition that will accompany visitors to the museum for the summer of 2021 and characterize the restart of the Pinacoteca di Volterra with a wide-ranging cultural intervention."

Five works created especially for this exhibition-tribute by the two Lombard artists, Ugo Riva and Elena Mutinelli, who were both seduced by Rosso Fiorentino’s Mannerist masterpiece, will be on display. Both also chose to use materials typical of Tuscany: polychrome terracotta and Carrara marble.

Under the curatorship of Antonio Natali, Ugo Riva offers four terracotta works, the first of which (titled Solitude) was executed during the first lockdown. In the work, the different figures placed circularly on a dark terracotta base appear to be in the act of fleeing or despairing, and there are symbols and references to Florentine Renaissance painting. “I have always been in love with Rosso Fiorentino,” says the artist, "to such an extent that back in 1994 I dedicated a small sculpture to him entitled The Unquietudes of Rosso, where I emphasized the revolutionary changes in art in which he had been a protagonist. Then I made that sculpture again, a little larger, in 2010, for the Four Seasons in Florence, where it still stands today. So we arrive at this project, designed to be shown on the well in the cloister of Palazzo Minucci Solaini and made in terracotta, of which there is a great school in Tuscany, a material that gives me immense pleasure. Compared to the initial project, in the end it turned out to be a work of ’subtraction’: I eliminated the cross, which also seemed trivial to me, and the figures all appear as if they were fleeing from something terrible. But why? Because in between there was Covid. I spent a year alone in the studio, with my closest friends whom I was losing one by one to illness, experiencing tremendous loneliness, because in the moment of grief everyone is alone with himself. Hence the title of the work. In fact, in the work the figures do not touch each other, the table top is full of gashes and wounds, and even the Madonna has her arms raised. There is no gesture of sharing." The other three works in the exhibition are Sine pietas et amor Dei, a crude, violent image that looks like a quartered ox, with a deposed Christ underneath, and the whole set in a religious niche, and Stabat Mater, a call to hope: this is an altarpiece, really from Naples, in which Riva modeled a Deposition.

Finally, with Eros and Thanatos, the artist brings out the sensuality of Rosso Fiorentino, but without detaching himself too much from the theme of death. The first of the two figures is taken from a Christ by Rosso between two large nails, while the second depicts the sensual Cleopatra.

“Of Rosso, Riva celebrates linguistic excellence and revives the memory of a nonconformist painter,” writes Antonio Natali in the catalog. "Nonconformist and unprejudiced, yet faithful to the paths of tradition, especially Florentine, from antiquity to the more recent past. In his homage to Rosso’s Deposition, Riva follows up on the story of the Volterra panel, recounting now what happened after Jesus’ body was disemboweled from the wood on which that scandalous death had taken place. And he does so as if looking at the summit of Golgotha with the eyes of the Red, imagining the evolving gestures of the few who had remained at the foot of the cross. Looking at the conception of the reinterpretation of the altarpiece proposed by Riva, one realizes that the dismay of the women and the folded weeping of John, previously gathered in the shadow of martyrdom, have been shaken by a centrifugal impulse."

Curated by Elisa Gradi, Elena Mutinelli presents Manifesto Principio, a Carrara marble sculpture nearly 170 centimeters high, which took a long time to design and create. A dead Christ, but one that we know will rise again, is the figure that emerges from a block of marble arching backward, supported by two figures that can barely be perceived standing out from the raw material: in particular, one hand, which seems alive, holds the head of the Son of God and gives the image of death and at the same time of the life that will soon triumph.

“In this marble work of mine,” the sculptor declares, "I wanted to depict the theatrical cyclical nature between life and death. When I thought of Rosso Fiorentino’s Deposition, a still, almost hallucinatory image appeared in my mind, which led me to work quickly. I experienced then, well into my fifties, a new way of working. I did not think it could happen to me.... And that created in me a very strong suggestion. I was seduced by the idea, but especially by the immediacy of viewing the work in the marble block. I chose this material because, being an extremely theatrical conception, I wanted it to also turn out to be alive, palpitating and at the same time monumental. As only a marble sculpture can be, that seems to move, that allows very strong jolts of matter in the block, symbols of life."

"A theater, that of the Deposition, which in its most abstract plastic syntheses gives form, for Elena Mutinelli, to a magmatic labyrinth, genesis of Manifesto Principio, a sculptural group based on an articulated symbolic system,“ the curator writes in the catalog. ”A work linked to the geometry of the spaces, the openings and the valence of the gesture of the characters staged by Rosso in the Volterra altarpiece, penetrated by the artist’s gaze through a passage that implies a process of initiation, of initium. It is the auroral moment to which Elena Mutinelli entrusts a form in perpetual movement, and from which the central structure of the Christ is generated, supported by two figures that assist the fall of the body lying backwards; the limbs that are lost in the fluid stone and then up, toward the face that seems, once again, to be animated with a yearning for life, before abandoning itself again and re-entering the eternal belly of the marble block."

For info: www.etrastudiotommasi.it

Pictured is Elena Mutinelli, Manifesto Principle.

Volterra, two contemporary artists reinterpret Rosso Fiorentino's Deposition after 500 years
Volterra, two contemporary artists reinterpret Rosso Fiorentino's Deposition after 500 years

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