Bononi, 17th-century art star in Ferrara
Show at Palazzo Diamanti from October 14
The masterpieces of 17th-century painter Carlo Bononi – described as having Madonnas who cry real tears and “colors mixed from liquified hearts” – are being brought together for the first time in a large show from October 14 through January 7 in the exhibition spaces of the Palazzo Diamanti in Ferrara.
The show, titled “Carlo Bononi: The Last Dreamer of the Ferrarese School”, is a celebration by Bononi’s own city of the painter of emotions and feelings, who was also an extraordinary naturalist, a Mannerist in the mind, and among the precursors of the Baroque in his style.
A recent critical study has brought Bononi and his work to the level of other masters such as Guercino, Carracci and Guido Reni.
Organized by the Ferrara Art Foundation and the Ferrara Modern and Contemporary Art Galleries in collaboration with the Ferrara Museums of Ancient Art, the exhibition has two 17th-century art experts as its curators: Giovanni Sassu and Francesca Cappelletti.
They chose works that testify to the depth of an undisputed master, who suddenly fell into the shadows and was forgotten.
The slow but determined critical review progressively brought back to light the unique artist’s ability to use painting as a language where emotion and the intimate relationship between the painted figures and their observers were made the focus. In the dramatic years of religious conflicts, earthquakes and plagues, Bonini used light and theatricality to become one of the first Italian Baroque painters, as shown by the decoration in Ferrara’s Santa Maria in Vado Church.
Bononi’s naturalist side is shown in works such as “Miracle of Soriano” or “Guardian Angel”, where it becomes evident that the artist needed to bring religion into everyday life, placing the figures of saints and madonnas in real and concretely recognisable people. Guido Reni, a few months after Bononi’s death in 1632, praised him as an “unordinary painter” with “great wisdom in design and in the strength of colour”.
One century later, Bononi attracted the attention of travellers on the Grand Tour, from Charles Nicolas Cochin to Goethe, who described Ferrara as “beautiful, large, but flat and unpopulated” and appreciated Bononi’s naturalist paintings.