The Baroque in the Vatican

Art and Culture in Papal Rome II

25 November 2005 to 19 March 2006

Baroque in the Vatican is a continuation of its successful predecessor The High Renaissance in the Vatican.More than 350 objects will be on exhibit: Many of them will be on view for the first time outside of their institutions and on loan from the exhibition’s partners in the Vatican, the Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana, the Fabbrica di San Pietro and the Musei Vaticani; they will also be augmented by works of art from numerous European collections.

At the heart of the exhibition is the approx. 5 meters-high Wood Model of St. Peter’s Dome designed by Michelangelo and Giacomo della Porta. Michelangelo’s design of the dome not only became the emblem of Baroque Rome, but the cathedral with its dome and square, completed after one hundred years of building history, symbolizes like no other artwork the Counter-Reformation Church’s own claim to world influence: A claim that, faced by declining political importance, particularly became manifest the intellectual and artistic leadership maintained by Papal Rome, which radiated out across Europe. The history of St. Peter’s construction and of its interior, organized in specific sections, follows along this line accordingly. The most renowned artists of the time were involved in its history, such as Michelangelo Bernini, Borromini, Sacchi, Guercino and Reni.

In the late 16th and 17th centuries papal Rome became the focal point of all religious, artistic and scientific movements of the era. At this ‘emporium of the Universe’, art as well as all the novel intellectual and scientific achievements were enjoyed by the appropriate public. That is why the popes and their cardinals, the major religious orders, as well as the Roman nobility consistently and successfully used art and science to glorify a revived Catholic Church and as well as its worldly and other-worldly representatives.

Baroque art, in the interaction between architecture, painting and sculpture, represents a balanced interplay of light, material and color. The exhibition seeks to reflect this by including the various media, such as paintings, sculptures, tapestries, paraments, books, etchings and drawings. It will also address the major fields of Papal patronage, as well as the patron activities of the cardinals and religious orders by the example of the most important (and most beautiful) works. These include, for instance, the construction and furnishing of family palaces and villas, the building of a family chapel and, most important, the construction and furnishing of the major Churches commissioned by the religious orders.

Due not least to the global relationships of its missionary orders, Rome and the Vatican were not only known for art but also as a center of science. The Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana and the circle around Cardinal Caesar Baronius had a decisive impact on the establishment of the apologist ecclesiastical history and on the development of Christian archaeology. The Roman Accademia dei Lincei played a leading role in the establishment of our modern world view and became the model for all other modern academies of sciences. Named after the sharp-sighted lynx (ital. lince), the Accademia had no lesser goal than the study of the theatrum totius naturae, the creation of images of all the natural appearances. The ‘Lynx-eyes’ provided us with the first image created with the help of a microscope: typically, of bees, Pope Urban VIIIth’s heraldic animals.

In this context the exhibition section designed in cooperation with the Hermann von Helmholtz-Zentrum für Kulturtechnik at the Humboldt-Universität in Berlin will not only show contemporary documents, instruments and ‘machines of wonder’. Replicas of the most important instruments may be used under direction, and will thus provide an unusual and often astonishing view into the knowledge of culture of Baroque Rome, completely in the spirit of the time. True to the theory of art of the time, science and art have a similar impact: the viewer is to experience stupore, astonishment, and meraviglia, wonder. In this manner curiosity is roused, which initiates the process of gaining knowledge while preserving enjoyment: A goal that the Baroque in the Vatican exhibition has also placed itself.


Barock im Vatikan
Kunst und Kultur im Rom der Päpste II
534 pages with 550 color illustrations,
format 28 x 24,5 cm
Museum edition: 29 EUR
Trade edition: E.A.Seemann
ISBN 3-86502-125-5

Cataloguecover: Barock im Vatikan
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  1. Image from ExhibitionPhoto: Peter Oszvald © Kunst- und Ausstellungshalle der Bundesrepublik Deutschland GmbH

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