Find Goya in Pavia
Ars Graphica interviews Laura Aldovini, curator at the Musei Civici in Pavia. She tells us about the ongoing exhibition: Goya. Follia e ragione all'alba della modernità, which is on display until June 24.
Hi Laura, can you tell us what is your role at the Musei Civici in Pavia?
I have been working as a curator at the Musei Civici in Pavia since November 2017. The museum’s collection spans from archaeology to contemporary art, including sculptures, paintings, jewellery, historical artefacts etc.: I am responsible for the Renaissance works of art but more specifically for the prints and drawings collection, because of my background and my studies focused on graphic art.
What is the connection between the Musei Civici and graphic art?
The museum owes its own existence to marquis Luigi Malaspina di Sannazzaro’s bequest. Sannazzaro cared very much for his graphic art collection and he published the catalogue of his prints, Catalogo di una raccolta di stampe antiche, in 1824. During his voluntary exile across Europe, and especially in Vienna, he had visited the main print collections of that time, and also got to know the most important connoisseurs and dealers, with whom he stayed in touch afterwards (his correspondence was published not long ago). He acquired Bartsch’ catalogues which were being published in those years, then also the ones by Zani and others. His letters make us understand how carefully he studied the prints he collected: he mounted them on cardboards with decorative frames, with brown ink and wash in green or blue, sometimes with golden edges, and kept them in Solander-type boxes. A real amateur.
What brought Goya's prints to Pavia? Which is the connection to this city?
Even though they lived in the same time, Sannazaro did not buy any print by Goya, nor he mentions the artist in his letters or in his catalogue: perhaps Goya was too “modern” to enter Malaspina’s collection. But thanks to Goya’s notes in his Cuaderno italiano, we know that during his Italian trip between 1770 and 1771 he stayed in Pavia and surroundings. To bring Goya’s exhibition to Pavia means not only to display masterpieces by a great artist such as Goya, but also to present artworks that are extremely high on the technical level: these pieces really deserve close attention. Moreover, the themes are extremely relevant today too (sadly).
Which is your favourite highlight on display, and why?
No doubts here: my favourite piece is Modo de volar (Way of flying), etching, acquatint and drypoint (mm 245x350), n. 13 from the Disparates series, made in 1816. I believe it to be still incredibily relevant today, but, as it often happens with Goya, its meaning is not so straightforward. The title (which is not the one given by the artist) speaks about man’s dream to fly as birds do. Goya might have referred to the mechanic device set up by Jacob Deghen in 1808, whose illustrations circulated Europe since 1810, after Leonardo’s models for a flying machine. The key to interpretation is not an easy one. Is Goya suggesting us to try the impossible? Is it therefore a way to praise reason and science? Or instead is this a reminder, that not everything is made to be reached and owned by men? The topic of flying, with its oniric and symbolic implications, can be found all across the artist’s work and can still be very relevant.
Which communication strategies are you using in this kind of exhibition?
Instead of the usual audioguide, visitors will have a “taccuino-guida”, a small notepad, where every artwork is presented by a short description. The feedback so far has been very positive, especially from kids! Moreover, we are organising printmaking workshops, both for adults and kids (entitled: Non solo capricci!), so that the general public can get in touch with an artistic process that is often not easy to understand.
Can you give us an anticipation of the next exhibition project that will involve graphic art at the Musei Civici?
We are working on the staging of a new room dedicated to marquis Malaspina di Sannazaro, to show how his passion for graphic art led him to collect drawings, paintings and jewellery pieces that he thought to be in connection to prints. I would like to put the rare niellis on display, but also boxes and mounts created on purpose for prints. This room will regularely host displays of prints from the museum’s collection, so that these masterpieces can become known. We will start with Dürer, but hopefully we will soon present Italian primitive prints too. 2020 is Raphael’s year: that is when we will show Raimondi’s prints. In the collection we also have one of the Strage degli Innocenti’s plates he engraved from Raphael…did you know that?