Happy Anniversary, Geniuses

February 26, 2020
Italy celebrates its geniuses in a big way, and with no paucity of artistic talents who have left their creative mark on the world, the nation’s calendar of anniversaries of births or deaths to commemorate is almost always a busy one.

No sooner did than 2019’s abundance of exhibitions and other events to mark 500 years since Leonardo da Vinci’s passing wrap up, as followers of Destination Inspiration may recall, did 2020 bring datebooks filled with activities to toast another Renaissance master, Raphael, who died 500 years ago, on April 6. 1520, 37 years after his birth in the hill town of Urbino.

The unquestioned blockbuster event of this year in Italy is the exhibition simply titled “Raphael,” to be hosted for three months starting on March 5 at the Scuderie del Quirinale, an elegant gallery across the piazza from the presidential Quirinal Palace in the heart of Rome.

The show brings together some 100 of Raphael’s works, including 40 from Florence’s Uffizi Galleries, the proud home to the world’s largest collection of drawings and paintings by the artist. A visit to the exhibit offers a never-before had opportunity to see so many of Raphael’s works in one place.

Among the other lending museums for this bonanza of Raphael treasures are the Louvre, the British Museum, the Albertina in Vienna and London’s National Gallery, as well as several fine Italian museums and galleries which possess some of the works of the artist, whose legacy is prolific despite his brief life.

A sure star of the show will be “La Velata,” or “Woman with a Veil,” from the Pitti Palace collection in Florence. The portrait dazzlingly displays Raphael’s virtuosity in depicting details, in this case, the billowing folds of a gorgeous, creamy-colored silk outfit. Gazing upon the painting, admirers of Raphael might be reminded, because of the position of the sitter’s arms, of another portrait, “La Fornarina,’’ the artist’s tribute to the far less-veiled Rome baker’s daughter who was his muse and mistress, painted in the last year of Raphael.

It’s fitting that the tribute is held in Rome as Raphael’s art came to evolve and gloriously adorn the city’s prestigious palaces.

Recommendations always help in finding work, and architect Donato Bramante, a native of the east central region of Le Marche as Raphael was, suggested to Pope Julius II that he bring him to the Vatican. Raphael’s crowning achievement as a papal commission is his stunning wall paintings of the then papal apartments -- what is now known as the Raphael Rooms. Part of the Vatican Museums, the rooms are sometimes barely given a glance by tourists eagerly rushing to see the Sistine Chapel, which lies ahead. Among the personages depicted on the walls by Raphael are his patron, Julius, Dante wearing a poet’s laurel and himself -- yes, a self-portrait of Raphael, in a black hat, looks intently out at the viewer.

One’s tribute to Raphael can lead to the Pantheon. The artist was laid to rest in Rome’s remarkably preserved, imposing monument.

2020’s anniversary events pay tribute to a more modern creative genius, Federico Fellini. Italy is toasting the late film director who won multiple Oscars, to mark the 100 th anniversary of his birth. Gearing up excitedly is the Adriatic beach holiday town of Rimini, the place of Fellini’s childhood which inspired the magical, dreamy “Amarcord.” Strolling through Rimini’s streets in off-season, before crowds flock to vacation on the sandy beach, gives film-goers a sense of typical provincial Italian town life where Fellini’s vivid imagination was stoked. In fall of this year, Milan’s Palazzo Royal will host an exhibit about the director.