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The Vatican Museums Show Graphic Works From Their Collection

  • Lorenzo Viani - The Benediction of the Dead at Sea
  • Paul Klee - Town with Gothic Cathedral
December 19, 2019
Balasz Takac is alias of Vladimir Bjelicic who is actively engaged in art criticism, curatorial and artistic practice.

The Vatican City as an enclave offers rich content when it comes to the history of Catholicism but also the history of art, due to the fact the church has supported and commissioned architects and artists to decorate their temples and other venues. Alongside public sites, The Vatican has an important conglomerate of museums Founded by Pope Julius II in the early 16th century that hold outstanding collections formed by the ruling popes throughout the centuries.

In the line with other institutions that react to the contemporary moment and bring something fresh, The Vatican Museums are hosting an exciting exhibition under the title The signs of the sacred. The imprints of the real. Twentieth-century Graphic Arts in the Contemporary Art Collection of the Vatican Museums.

Left Edvard Munch - Old Man Praying Right Sigfrido Bartolini - Via Crucis
Left: Edvard Munch – Old Man Praying (The Father Praying), 1902. Woodcut / Right: Sigfrido Bartolini – Via Crucis – Sation XII: Jesus Dies on the Cross, 1962. Woodcut

The Collection

The collection of the twentieth-century graphics was formed in 1973 and is a result of Pope Paul VI’s initiative to revitalize the historical connection between the Church and contemporary culture. After Pope Montini died, the increment of the collection was formatted according to different criteria and the acquisitions were undertaken to fill the historical gaps and establish a continuity with the initial idea of nurturing contemporary spirituality.

The current exhibition organized by Francesca Boschetti, curator of the Department of Nineteenth and Contemporary Art of The Vatican Museums, aims to show the richness of the collection by making it more accessible.

Barbara Jatta, the Director of The Vatican Museums, stated that the exhibition “casts light on an artistic genre that is perhaps less well-known, less spectacular and less disruptive than painting and sculpture. An intimate art, but which perhaps precisely for this reason arrives more directly at the heart of people, at their soul.”

Ernst Ludwig Kirchner - Munsterplatz in Bern
Ernst Ludwig Kirchner – Münsterplatz in Bern, c.1935. Woodcut

The Installment

Around one hundred graphic works, mostly unpublished, was drawn from The Vatican Museum’s vast collection of nineteenth and twentieth-century prints, engravings, drawings, and photographs.

The visitors have a unique chance to see some of the most representative examples of graphic art made by the renowned masters such as Edvard Munch, Paul Klee, Otto Dix, Oskar Kokoschka, Umberto Boccioni, Giorgio Morandi, Piero Dorazio, and others, as well as drawings, paintings, and sculptures of their own or by the other artists by whose approaches resonate to prints iconographically or chronologically.

Left Maurice Denis - Angels Right Duilio Cambellotti - The Semoni
Left: Maurice Denis – Angels, 1901. Preparatory sketch for the Chaple of the Virgin in the Church of Sainte-Marguerite in Vesinet. Sanguine and lead white on paper / Right: Duilio Cambellotti – The Semoni I, for the Sowing, 1950. From the series Roman Legends. Woodcut

The Prints From The Vatican Museums Collection

The exhibition brings a little piece of art history with a specific focus on the development of this medium throughout the 20th century, and it is accompanied by an extensive catalog produced by Edizioni Musei Vaticani.

The signs of the sacred. The imprints of the real. Twentieth-century Graphic Arts in the Contemporary Art Collection of the Vatican Museums will be on display in the Berninian spaces of the Braccio di Carlo Magno in Saint Peter’s Square in Rome until 29 February 2020.

Featured images: Lorenzo Viani – The Benediction of the Dead at Sea, from the Portfolio The Martyrdom, Viareggio, 1915. Woodcut; Paul Klee – Town with Gothic Cathedral, 1925. Traced drawing in oil and watercolor on paper. All images courtesy of the Vatican Museums.