From Ulysses to Garibaldi

25 January to 25 May 2008

Sicily, the largest region of Italy and the largest island in the Mediterranean, has been a cultural melting pot for millennia. The interaction and cross fertilisation between diverse cultures has left the island a rich and fascinating legacy. This exhibition presents Sicily’s cultural heritage in a selection of 300 top exhibits and traces the island’s chequered history from the earliest vestiges of human presence in the Palaeolithic era to Giuseppe Garibaldi’s arrival in 1860. Thus the chronological tour through the exhibition takes us from the indigenous Sicans and Sicels, the immigrant Phoenicians, Greeks, Romans, Byzantines and Arabs via the rule of the Normans and Hohenstaufens to the dynasties of the Aragonese, Habsburgs and Bourbons.

The exhibition begins with a display of ceramics from a range of indigenous and foreign cultures such as the Castelluccio, Thapsos and Pantalica cultures that succeeded each other in pre- and protohistoric times.
The island’s most famous works date from the period of Greek domination, to which the second section of the exhibition is dedicated. The spread and development of Greek culture was much affected by the encounter with the indigenous cultures and with the Carthaginian Punics in the west of the island. The desire to draw attention to the achievements and distinctiveness of the colonies led to the construction of ambitious architectural complexes. The exhibits in this section come from cult sites and temples, for example from Selinunte, and present some of the most recent archaeological findings.

The Roman section spans the era from the 3rd century BC to the end of the 3rd century AD, during which period the island became Rome’s first province outside mainland Italy. While the island was a rural backwater without political influence, its grain fields were a mainstay of the food supply of the city of Rome. This part of the exhibition presents a selection of marble pieces, Punic-Roman funerary objects and examples of silverware as well as epigraphic administrative records.
The Byzantine section documents the emergence of Christianity on the island. The objects displayed here document the research of recent years, for example at the Sofiana complex and the necropolis of Sant’Agata, and demonstrate the long duration of this period from its first beginnings in Roman times to the Middle Ages.

The section concentrating on the Middle Ages covers the time from the Arab conquest of Sicily to the Aragonese rise to power. A selection of exquisite objects ranging from metalwork and sculpture to architectural fragments provides an insight into the sumptuous culture at court and demonstrates the profound impact of Arab culture. Photographs of the most important architectural monuments of the period provide the setting for this presentation.
Famous artists such as Antonello da Messina and the sculptors Francesco Laurana, Domenico Gagini and his son Antonello shaped the Renaissance in Sicily, while the many facets of Sicilian Baroque are represented by paintings by Caravaggio and Pietro Novelli and stucco works by Giacomo Serpotta.

Plans, drawings and original furnishings such as altarpieces, inlaid marble decorations and altar hangings (palliotti) provide a glimpse of Sicily’s flamboyant Baroque architecture. Showing pieces made of coral, silver and coloured marble, this section is particularly rich in objects that illustrate the high quality of craftsmanship that characterized Sicilian art well into the 18th century.

The exhibition brings together research of the last twenty years, which has come to the conclusion that this diversity and flux has to be viewed against the background of cultural characteristics inherent to the island of Sicily and their continuous evolution. This groundbreaking exhibition project is so bold as to present the coexistence of different cultural strata as a model for the current cultural situation in Europe.

The objects shown in this exhibition – antique sculptures, paintings, architectural fragments and exquisite arts and crafts – paint a vivid picture of Sicilian art which has always been characterised by the irrepressible desire to embrace foreign elements and to transform them into something intrinsically Sicilian.


Von Odysseus bis Garibaldi
400 pages with 387 color illustrations
Format 24,5 x 28 cm
Museum edition: 29 EUR
Trade edition: Deutscher Kunstverlag
ISBN: 978-3-422-06746-2
Italian edition: Silvana Editore, Mailand

Cataloguecover: Sizilien
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  1. Foto: Peter Oszvald © Kunst- und Ausstellungshalle der Bundesrepublik Deutschland GmbH

Kunst- und Ausstellungshalle der Bundesrepublik Deutschland

Museumsmeile Bonn
Friedrich-Ebert-Allee 4
53113 Bonn
T +49 228 9171–200

Opening hours

Mondays closed
Tuesdays and Wednesdays, 10 a.m.–9 p.m.
Thursdays–Sundays, 10 a.m.–7 p.m.
(including public holidays even those which fall on Mondays)

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