As part of the celebrations the Accademia delle Arti del Disegno has coordinated to commemorate the four-hundred and fiftieth anniversary of the death of Michelangelo Buonarroti, the Galleria dell’Accademia of Florence in collaboration with Fratelli Alinari I.D.E.A. S.p.A. present an exhibition that deals with the complex theme of the renewed interest and admiration for the artist from the XIX century until today. The means for handling the topic will be the work of sculptors, painters and photographers who have looked to the figure of Buonarroti and his work as the iconographic point of reference in their own work. Departing from the photographs produced by several of the best-known studios and professionals from the XIX and XX centuries, we have sought to highlight the decisive role photography has played in consolidating the critical and iconographic fortunes of Michelangelo and, as a consequence, the celebration of his myth. This will be a transverse reading that spans history and photography and will centre on the role photography has played, since its very origins, in celebrating one of the uttermost artists of the Italian Renaissance, selecting a restricted pantheon of images of his sculptures as monuments of the collective memory.
The exhibition itinerary starts out with representations in a historicist vein of Michelangelo’s physiognomy and personality, featuring works by Eugène Delacroix and Auguste Rodin, as well as by other authors who worked with the then-new photographic medium from its very birth, including the early work of Eugène Piot, Édouard-Denis Baldus, the Alinari brothers, and John Brampton Philpot, to name only a few.
The exhibition will be characterised by continuously cross-referencing the various modalities of translating and proposing Buonarroti’s sculpture anew: from the photograph as an object of documentation to its interpretative specificity in focusing on sculpture, up to the total autonomy of twentieth-century photographers in creating new points of view and analysis of the work of art. A new relationship is thus formed between art historians and photographers who are, in turn, entrusted with the responsibility to search out the forms and material of the work in support of historical-artistic studies. The cases proposed include Giuseppe Pagano’s photographs of the Palestrina Pietà, and the work of David Finn and Aurelio Amendola in collaboration with authoritative art historians who, from their work, have drawn important confirmations of their own theories and stylistic analyses.
As the myth grew stronger in the collective perception, Michelangelo’s presence was also recognised in the work of twentieth-century artists such as Medardo Rosso, Henri Matisse, and Carlo Mollino, as well as in the photographic studies of personalities such as Emmanuel Sougez, Herbert List and Horst P. Horst. His influence continued in the Seventies with the explorations of Tano Festa, Paolo Monti, Antonia Mulas, finally arriving at the expressions of contemporaneity with Helmut Newton and Gabriele Basilico. The exhibition itinerary ends with references to the theme of the copy and of the multiple in the epoch of reproducibility and massification, confronted in the work of Karen Knorr, Lisa Sarfati and Tim Parchikov. We recognise Michelangelo as the formal model of reference of the staged photography of Frank Horvat, Youssef Nabil, and Kim Ki duk, up to the point in which he becomes ‘absence’ in the images of Thomas Struth and Candida Höfer.