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pdf - Fondazione Internazionale Menarini
n° 377 - ottobre 2016
© Tutti i diritti sono riservati Fondazione Internazionale Menarini - è vietata la riproduzione anche parziale dei testi e delle fotografie
Direttore Responsabile Lorenzo Gualtieri - Redazione, corrispondenza: «Minuti» Edificio L - Strada 6 - Centro Direzionale Milanofiori
I-20089 Rozzano (Milan, Italy) www.fondazione-menarini.it
The Five Centuries
of Orlando’s ‘Fury
Oliphant known as ‘Roland’s Horn’
Toulouse, Musée Paul-Dupuy
Ferrara celebrates the 500th anniversary of the
publication of Ludovico Ariosto’s masterpiece
with a series of special events
Giorgione (attr.): Warrior with Equerry, also known
as ‘Il Gattamelata’
Florence, Galleria degli Uffizi
i
‘As to every poet what may chance —
Or fate allot as a private doom —
He travelled the roads of Ferrara
And, at the same time, walked the moon.’
(Jorge Luis Borges,
‘Ariosto and the Arabs’ from Dreamtigers)
On 22 April 1516, a workshop in Ferrara finished the print run of Orlando
Furioso, a work that has become a
symbol of the Italian Renaissance.
On the five-hundredth anniversary
of the poem’s publication, Ferrara is
celebrating with an original exhibition at Palazzo dei Diamanti from 24
September 2016 to 8 January 2017.
Orlando Furioso 500 Anni. Cosa vedeva Ariosto quando chiudeva gli occhi brings together paintings, sculptures, tapestries, books, illuminated
manuscripts, musical instruments,
glazed ceramics, weapons, and rare
artefacts to reconstruct the universe
of imagery that fuelled Ludovico Ariosto’s imagination as he penned the
episodes and brought to life the characters that compose that extraordinarily complex fresco that is Orlando
Furioso.
‘O happy town! . . . / Even to such
pitch thy glorious fame should rise,
/ Thou from all Italy wouldst bear the
prize.’ Thus, in the pages of Orlando
Furioso, does Ariosto – one of the
greatest interpreters of early 16thcentury courtly culture – speak of
Ferrara, where his family moved when
he was ten from his native Reggio
Emilia, and where he spent practically all of his life. After studying law,
young Ludovico obtained his father’s permission to foray into literature;
in a capital of Renaissance civilisa-
2
Andrea Mantegna: Minerva Expelling the Vices from the Garden of Virtue
Paris, Louvre
tion such as the Ferrara of the 15th
and 16th century, he received a solidly-grounded humanist education
– but after his father’s death he was
forced to abandon his studies. Following a stint as secretary to Cardinal
Ippolito d’Este, he entered the service of Duke Alfonso I, who entrusted him with writing for the court
theatre. This rather light work left
him the leisure to cultivate his vocation for poetry, and so was born
Orlando Furioso, one of the immortal masterpieces of world literature.
So what did the poet see, when he
closed his eyes, as he wet his pen to
scribe a narration of a battle, a duel
between knights, the effects of a magic spell? Which artworks inspired
the visions that found their way into
the poem? These are questions to
which the curators of the exhibition attempt to provide answers by
matching the major plotlines and the
iconographic sources that could have
inspired such an intricate narrative
abounding in events that interweave
and overlap as though threads in a
Renaissance tapestry. The exhibition
is a guided tour through Orlando’s
universe, its battles and tournaments,
knights and romances, dreams and
enchantments, along a path marked
out by the works of the greatest artists of Ariosto’s time who, from Paolo
Uccello to Andrea Mantegna, from
Dosso Dossi to Leonardo da Vinci,
from Michelangelo to Titian, bring
Titian: The Bacchanal of the Andrians
Madrid, Museo del Prado
back to life the fabulous chivalric
world of Orlando and its paladins
and offer a vision of the Italy of the
Renaissance courts in which the poem
was conceived.
The oliphant from Toulouse, rumoured by legend to be the horn blown
by Roland at Roncevaux, is enveloped in an aura of mystery; the Uffizi’s Warrior with Equerry, attributed
to Giorgione, is perhaps a portrait of
the 15th-century soldier of fortune
Gattamelata in a meditative pose,
with a faraway expression; Perseus
Freeing Andromeda by Piero di Cosimo, again from the Uffizi, may be
the source of the episode in which
Ruggiero saves Angelica from the dragon’s clutches (Ariosto viewed the
works of this visionary Renaissance
painter during his stays in Florence);
from Andrea Mantegna’s busy Minerva Expelling the Vices from the
Garden of Virtue, seen by Ariosto in
Isabella d’Este’s camerino, may have
come the poet’s inspiration for the
parade of monstrous creatures met
by Ruggiero in Alcina’s kingdom.
Ariosto never ceased working on
his poem: he had it reprinted in Ferrara in 1521, with slight alterations,
and again, after a major revision, a
few months before his death in 1532.
The years between the first and third
versions saw radical upsets on the political scene, beginning with Francesco I’s defeat at the Battle of Pavia
(1525) which pulled the Po valley
3
courts into the political and cultural
orbit of Charles V’s Spain; the figurative arts saw the rise of what Vasari
called the ‘modern manner’, that
broad-ranging artistic language whose
highest representatives were Raphael
and Michelangelo.
Ariosto had the opportunity to take
personal note of the evolution of pictorial language: he viewed the paintings by Michelangelo and Raphael
that Alfonso I d’Este, Lord of Ferrara,
admired and attempted to purchase,
and he was directly involved in selection of the subjects of the works painted for Alfonso by such artists as Dosso
and Titian, such as the latter’s Bacchanal of the Andrians. This masterpiece from Alfonso’s camerino delle
pitture is back in Italy from Madrid’s Museo del Prado, on occasion of
the exhibition, almost five hundred
years after its creation.
The painting must have been a source
for the poet: while Botticelli’s idealised Venus would seem to inspire the
figure of Angelica, described in the
1516 edition ‘With long and knotted tresses; to the eye / Not yellow
gold with brighter lustre glow’, the
verses that illustrate the sensual figure of Olimpia in the 1532 edition find pictorial correspondence in
the nude Ariadne reclining in the foreground of Titian’s Bacchanal , which
concludes the exhibition tour.
In forty cantos, Orlando Furioso is a
strange and wonderful fresco, the
theatre of Ariosto’s song ‘of loves and
ladies, knights and arms, . . . / of courtesies, and many a daring feat’; of a
remote and fabulous world – and the
poem was an instant, resounding success.
Among the documents on show bearing witness to the vast echo aroused
from the top, clockwise
Piero di Cosimo:
Perseus Freeing
Andromeda - Florence,
Galleria degli Uffizi
Paolo Uccello:
Saint George
and the Dragon
Paris, Musée
Jacquemart-André
Dosso Dossi: Melissa
Rome, Galleria Borghese
by the poem is a letter in which, in
1517 – just a year after the first edition – Niccolò Machiavelli complains
of the fact that Ariosto, in a poem so
‘beautiful and in many parts marvellous’ , should have omitted naming
him.
Painted in 1518, Dosso Dossi’s Melissa is the first example of a pictorial
representation of a character from
Orlando: the court painter to Alfonso
I d’Este depicts the sorceress Melissa
inside the magic circle with the book
and flame, the instruments used by
that ‘same enchantress, still benign
and wise’ to lift the spell cast by Alcina that had transformed the knights
into flowers, trees and animals.
Orlando is set in the 8th century and
narrate the conflicts between Charlemagne’s empire and the Saracens
who had invaded Spain. Ariosto’s interest in the Arab world is highlighted
by several of the items on exhibit, da-
pag. 4
ting to the same era as the poem, such
as the sword of Boabdil – the last sultan of Granada, defeated by the forces of Isabella of Castile – and the first
book printed in Arabic characters in
Fano in 1514.
One peculiar aspect of the fantastic
world created by Ariosto is the poem’s imaginary geography. Italo Calvino wrote that Orlando Furioso is
‘an immense game of chess played on
the map of the world’. And in Ferrara we find the monumental Carta
del Cantino, a fixture in the Estense
family’s collections from 1502: an
enormous Portuguese planisphere
that takes its name from Alberto Cantino, the Duke of Ferrara’s agent who
successfully smuggled it to Italy. This
world map illustrates several of the
sites mentioned in Orlando, such
as the Mountains of the Moon whence
Astolfo commences his adventurous
journey to recover Orlando’s lost wits.
federico poletti