Gentile da Fabriano, a wonderful exhibition

July 31, 2006

gentile1.jpgNot long ago I wrote a post on two great art exhibitions I saw in Rome. I concluded the post wishing to be able to see other important events.
Well, I missed Modigliani and Vermeer, but I managed to go to Fabriano to witness the exhibition on Gentile da Fabriano.

Fabriano is a city of the Marche region full of history (the first papermaking centre in Italy and probably in Europe, at the beginning of the XIII century) and today noted for its industries (the famous papermill, household appliances). In spite of this, Fabriano is set in beautiful hills, an area where agriculture is of great relevance.
Having said that, it is true that until last year life in Fabriano was not particularly lively. If I can have my saying, Fabriano used to be a bit boring…
This year Fabriano has made a quantum leap in its offer to visitors thanks to the Gentile’s exhibition. Perfectly organised, with plenty of side events in restored historical locations, the exhibition is really of high international level.
Unfortunately I should say “was”, as the exhibition closed on July 23… My fault, I didn’t find the time to write this.

Gentile da Fabriano is the highest (and probably last) expression of the style called “International Gothic”, a style that spans the late XIV and the early XV centuries in Italy, France, England and north Europe: a courtly art, rich, fairy-like, preciously refined, exquisite, but that is at the same time very careful in the exact representation of the beauty of Nature: Gentile is probably the first painter in the history of art to have painted a nocturnal scene.

Gentile was very famous in his time: he was used to obtain the richest commissions in Lombardia, Venezia, Firenze and Roma.


He was a painter and a goldsmith: his use of the gold leaf, where he would grain ethereal angels, is unrivalled; the richness of his painted jewellery and draperies surpasses any imagination. At the same time, he showed an excellent spirit of observation in the representation of animals, flowers, boughs and trees.
His sacred characters showed calm and serene expressions, and the infant Jesus’ are cheerful in their sweetness.

An ideal world, symbolic and realistic at the same time, cherished and supported by the nobles and the richest, at its peak, and beginning to fade. Meanwhile, in Firenze a group of artists were starting to study the perspective, the body in its space as expression of ethic principles.
Brunelleschi, Donatello, Masaccio, Piero della Francesca are opening the way to the Renaissance.

As usual, the exhibition covers other artists of the time in connection with Gentile. The catalogue, rich and well printed, is available from Electa.

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