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Rembrandt through Morandi’s eyes
Morandi made me a present of the print with the spindle shell flecked with black.
The shadows are the opaque, cottony black of Rembrandt’s blacks.
A bruised and crushed black, obtained by the combustion, the destruction of matter.
The gloomy black of a night spent staring into the dark.
Looking at Rembrandt with the eyes of Morandi in an attempt to grasp the secret of their distant closeness: this is the idea behind the forthcoming exhibition in the Prints and Drawings Department of the Uffizi, where the viewing of the works will be enhanced by the new lighting system.
It is a well-known fact that Morandi was interested in Rembrandt, right from the start of his self-taught training. His library contained publications about the Dutch artist, and his collection included at least five engravings. Consequently, Morandi was able to gaze at length at these genuine masterpieces of technical expertise, focused on the description of the rich complexity of phenomenological reality. However, when he then set about engraving, he seems to have shrugged off their lessons with a stroke of genius: to Rembrandt’s technical and descriptive opulence he opposed the extreme rarefaction of “his” nature. Following his technical experiments between 1921 and 1923, he then gave up on all complicated mingling of etching, drypoint and burin to concentrate almost exclusively on etchings.
Lamberto Vitali, who in 1957 wrote what is still a seminal monograph on Morandi’s graphic works, in effect speaks of a Rembrandt period, belonging to which are above all prints of the early 1920s. However, Giorgio Morandi’s approach to Rembrandt follows the more concealed and impervious paths of emulation rather than the more flagrant and obvious route of imitation. In some ways, it even recalls the path masterfully adopted by the Dutch master himself, when he moved in the direction of the engravings of Lucas van Leyden and of Dürer.
Indeed Morandi’s closest point of encounter with Rembrandt can be discerned above all in terms of the verity of the touch, which does not signify the quest for an iconographic, stylistic or moral closeness, but rather an emulation of the expressive potential of the engraved line.
The only time that he took inspiration from Rembrandt in iconographic terms – in his Shell of 1921 – Morandi did so emulating (not copying) the only still life by the hand of the Dutchman, the conus marmoreus of 1650 which, through the artist’s skilful “recreation” appears to change its skin, migrating from the world of naturalia to that of artificialia.
Morandi himself, in the famous interview with Professor Peppino Mangravite broadcast by the “Voice of America” station on 25 April 1957, asserted: “For me there is nothing, that is, I am firmly convinced that there is nothing more surreal and nothing more abstract than the real.”
Soprintendenza Speciale per il Patrimonio Storico, Artistico ed Etnoantropologico e per il Polo Museale della città di Firenze
Gabinetto Disegni e Stampe degli Uffizi
Curated byMarzia Faietti and Giorgio Marini
SecretaryMaria Elena De Luca
Sala Espositiva Edoardo Detti
Admission free with the Uffizi Gallery ticket
Rembrandt and Morandi: mutevoli danze di segni incisi, catalogue of the exhibition (Bologna, Museo Morandi, 4.2006) curated by Marzia Faietti, Ferrara, Edisai, 2006
Per Rembrandt, cartella a cura di Marzia Faietti e Giorgio Marini, Firenze, Edizioni Polistampa, 2006