Hermitage Amsterdam’s new exhibition (through Jan. 18), Classic Beauties. Artists, Italy and the Esthetic Ideals of the 18th Century, is a summer art highlight on the Continent.
The show tells how artists and tourists flocked to Italy, and more especially Rome, in the second half of the eighteenth century. From all over Europe they travelled to the Eternal City in search of inspiration and to see for themselves the newly excavated classical Greco-Roman sculptures and buildings. Their experiences prompted a new and austere kind of fashionable architecture and, in the visual arts, an unprecedentedly sensual style that sent shock waves through society: a naked, superhuman beauty more daring than anything attempted by the Greeks and Romans. Neoclassicism was born.
The archaeological finds sparked a craze for travel among young aristocrats across the continent. Many spent months travelling to and sightseeing in Italy. Among them were Johann Wolfgang von Goethe and the ‘Count and Countess of the North’ (the later Russian Tsar Paul I and his wife Maria Fyodorovna). In the course of their ‘Grand Tour’ they encountered the greatest artists of the day.
With over sixty sculptures, paintings and drawings by 25 top names, the exhibition offers visitors their own Grand Tour of Italy. On the way, it introduces them to the artists of the period, including Pompeo Batoni, Anton Raphael Mengs, Angelica Kauffmann and – most celebrated of all – Antonio Canova. The show features no fewer than eight sculptures by the latter, including his iconic Three Graces, Cupid and Psycheand Hebe.
To create Classic Beauties, the Hermitage Amsterdam has had exclusive access to the collection of the State Hermitage Museum in St Petersburg. The displays are further enriched with loans from other private and public collections, including Paul and Maria’s Pavlovsk Palace in Russia and the Teylers Museum in Haarlem (The Netherlands).
Classical music DJ Von Rosenthal, made a soundtrack for Classic Beauties, which is available as a music tour within the exhibition. Expect a romantic atmosphere with music that supplies a deeply sensual aspect to the spectacular works of Canova, Mengs and Kauffmann, among others. In the past, Von Rosenthal has provided a very well reviewed soundtrack for the exhibition Spanish Masters from the Hermitage in 2016.